Over 300 years after Amsterdam played a major role in the slave trade, the city will officially apologize. During the 17th and 18th centuries, slavery made Amsterdam the richest city in the western world, and though its slave trade ended centuries ago, its new left-leaning government has vowed to issue an apology.
Now that the GreenLeft party is the largest party on the city council, pro-apology members of the council form the majority for the first time ever. Even the conservative Christian Union group is in favor of the apology, with Don Decar, its council leader, saying, “This should have happened much sooner.”
Over the course of the next year, the council will conduct extensive research on the city’s slave-owning past and then make a public apology at the annual July 1 Keti Koti festival — an event that commemorates Amsterdam’s slave trade history.
The remnants of slavery in Amsterdam can still be seen today, in the stately canal houses of the inner city. Built by Dutch merchants who drove the slave trade, the houses were intended to display their immense wealth, and indeed, many of Amsterdam’s grandest buildings have links to slavery.
“Even though slavery has been abolished since 1863,” said D66 councilor Dehlia Timman, “the traces remain visible everywhere around the city today. This vote is a historic moment. I hope it can end a period which has been very painful for the descendants of slaves, many of whom came to the Netherlands and have been instrumental in shaping our multicultural society.”