29 Mar 2019

St. Maarten’s documentary heritage inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme International Register

0 Comment

May 29, 2018 marked the anniversary of an historic event that took place: 170 years ago. Monday, May 29, 1848, the day after slavery was abolished in the French territories, 26 slaves residing on the Dutch-side Diamond Estate Plantation took a brave decision and made a dash for freedom across the border to the French side.

This important aspect of St Maarten’s documentary heritage was inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme international register on October 30, 2017. The inscription is entitled: Route/Root to Freedom: A case study of how the enslaved Africans gained their freedom on the dual national island of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin outlines how the enslaved from the Diamond Estate walked/ran to freedom along a track across the international border between the two nations, Holland and France.
The nomination consists of correspondences between the Dutch Commander, dated May 31, 1848, informing him of the escape, and the response from the French commander dated June 20, 1848, which was published in the book Abolition de L’esclavage a la Guadeloupe. Quatre moise de Gouvernement, Dans cette Colonie by Adolphe Ambroise Alexandre Gatine.

The response from the French commander stated that all enslaved persons who set foot on French soil whether via vessels, coasters, or other means would be considered free persons.  Department of Records and Information Management archive specialist Alfonso Blijden and UNESCO local Secretary-General Marcellia Henry thanked Daniella Jeffry, Elsje Bosch, Elizabeth Watson and Victoria O’Flaherty for their assistance in preparing, translating, editing and making the nomination ready for submission to UNESCO.