Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott
by Geoff Wilson
April 1992
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Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, since 1987, when she became the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. Abbott has served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, taking a particular interest in human rights. Since 2000 she has been a representative for equality and women's issues in the Mayor of London's Cabinet.

One of the most moving moments of my life was visiting the five hundred old Elmina Castle on the coast of Ghana. Hundreds of thousands of Africans passed through the dungeons of Elmina Castle before being shipped, like commodities, to the Americas and Caribbean. Standing in those dungeons, and looking out through the door that my ancestors would have passed through before going on to the slave ships, brought home to me the horror of the slave trade.

The 200th anniversary commemorations should not just be a celebration of white paternalism or long dead white members of parliament. We also need to remember the sheer brutality of the trade and that it lasted for over three hundred years. And that the, almost unimaginable, cruelty of the slave trade was possible because society believed that black people were less than human. It is a legacy we live with to this day.

In fighting against slavery and human trafficking today we could do worse than remember the plaque by the door of the dungeons of Elmina:

'In Everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors. May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We, the living, vow to uphold this.'

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