Today, January 1, 2008, marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade.

The outlawing of the U.S. slave trade, along with the parallel prohibition by Great Britain (passed only weeks after the U.S. acted), was an important milestone in the history of the abolition of slavery. While enforcement efforts were mixed, and an illegal trade into the U.S. continued until the Civil War, the prohibition restricted the growth of slavery and limited its spread within the new border states, which would affect support for the North and South during the Civil War. The ban also encouraged the growing abolitionist movement, lead to the view that slave trading was a crime against all nations, and helped to make slavery itself increasingly unthinkable during the course of the 19th century.

While the U.S. Congress passed legislation two weeks ago to commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of U.S. slave trading, that legislation was stripped of its funding authorization before passage. As a result, while the U.S. will officially recognize the bicentennial, there may be no congressionally-sanctioned activity to commemorate the anniversary. And despite an excellent op-ed in the New York Times by Professor Eric Foner of Columbia, there has been little public notice of the bicentennial.

There will, of course, be some activities to recognize the occasion. The National Archives will host a public symposium on the abolition of the slave trade. Traces of the Trade, which tells the story of the D’Wolf family’s involvement in the slave trade, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Martin Luther King Day, January 21. The release of both the film and Tom DeWolf’s book, Inheriting the Trade, have been timed to coincide with the bicentennial.

One Response to “Bicentennial of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade”

  1. Inheriting the Trade | Today’s (largely ignored) 200th Anniversary (cont.) says:

    […] check out James Perry’s thoughts on this subject as well as the editorial in the December 30 New York Times by Columbia history […]

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