Few in the United States have taken the opportunity to acknowledge, much less to commemorate, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade in 1808.

For this reason, I was pleased to see that Senator John McCain gave a campaign speech on Wednesday in Michigan, in which he took the importance of the British and U.S. abolition of the trade as the jumping-off point for a focus on modern sex trafficking, child pornography, and other contemporary evils:

… the achievement of both countries in terminating the international slave trade and setting into motion the titanic and bloody struggle to close a shameful chapter in the history of our country [i.e., slavery itself] should be remembered as a turning point in mankind’s long and fitful progress toward a more just world.

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The Nation has just posted an article, “Tracing Slavery’s Past,” which is centered around Traces of the Trade.

The story (web-only) is by Te-Ping Chen, who, as I’ve noted before, has previously written about Traces in the Providence Phoenix.

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H.R. 3432, “A bill to establish the Commission on the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” has now become law.

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Inheriting the TradeWednesday marked the publication of my cousin Tom’s book, Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History

The launch event was at the Olsson’s Books and Records in Penn Quarter in Washington, D.C. The event, which included an author reading and book signing, drew an overflow crowd of 75 people.

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As I’ve noted previously, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade. Thomas Jefferson’s ban on the slave trade on U.S. ships, and to U.S. ports, took effect on January 1, 1808. And Britain’s own ban, which was enacted mere weeks after Jefferson signed the U.S. prohibition into law, took effect a few months earlier.

Despite the significance of the abolition of the trade—encouraging the movement to abolish slavery itself, restricting the growth of slavery in old and new territories in the U.S., affecting the balance of the U.S. Civil War, and promoting the development of international human rights norms—this historical milestone has been widely celebrated in the U.K., while receiving far less attention here in the U.S.

I’ll be attending one event next week which commemorates the bicentennial: a symposium on “Abolition and the Road to Freedom: the 200th Anniversary of the Slave Trade Act of 1808.” This conference will be held on January 10 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (The publication of Tom DeWolf’s book, Inheriting the Trade, has been timed to coincide with the bicentennial and the launch event will take place the evening before.)

There are other events, including workshops for teachers, planned this month. And there will occasionally be other conferences and assorted events throughout the year.

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

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Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 3432, the bill to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade, by unanimous consent.

However, before the bill was passed, Sen.Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) objected to funding the commission, and so the bill’s authorization for funding was stripped out. Therefore, if the amended version is passed by the House, which passed the original legislation in October, the commission and the activities established by the bill cannot be funded.

Update: On January 22, the House agreed to the amended version of the bill, without the authorization of funds, after passionate remarks in favor of the bill by Reps. Payne, Poe, and Jackson-Lee.

The bicentennial of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade will be commemorated at a service of liberation at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City on Sunday, January 13.

Traces of the Trade, which is being released in conjunction with the bicentennial, will be represented at the service through resource materials prepared by the Diocese of New York, and Tom DeWolf, the author of Inheriting the Trade, will attend the service.

The service is being sponsored by the Episcopal dioceses of New York, Newark, Long Island, and New Jersey, as well as various Episcopal church offices and organizations.

My distant cousin, Tom, has written a book, Inheriting the Trade, about the journey we undertook in Traces of the Trade and due out in January.

Tom has now started a blog on his web site. (My blogroll has linked there for some time now, but he’s actually started posting.) Based on his initial posts, Tom is going to be every bit as insightful a blogger as he is a book author.

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H.R. 3432, which establishes a commission to commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade, passed the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon.

The bill has already been received in the Senate, where it will be referred to the judiciary committee.

This is good news for those of us who believe that the nation should be paying more attention to this milestone in our history.

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