France’s Hollande inaugurates slavery museum in Guadeloupe

France’s Francois Hollande visits French Caribbean department of Guadeloupe to inaugurate museum that honors victims of slavery, and shows no willingness to pay out reparations.

POINT-A-PITRE, GUADELOUPE (MAY 10, 2015) (POOL) – French President Francois Hollande touched down in France’s overseas Caribbean department of Guadeloupe Sunday (May 10) to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the memory of slaves and their sacrifice.

The Caribbean Center for the Expression and Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery, or the Memorial ACTe as the the site is known, is located in a former sugar factory and displays a host of items from the slavery era, including chains and whips to honor the enslaved.

The project cost 85 million Euros ($95 million USD), a price tag that has come under fire in a region in which more than half of young people are without work. The memorial features a black exterior to honor the victims of the slave trade.

“France as a whole is committed to recognizing its role (during slavery), beyond the difference of opinions and of philosophies. France is able to look at its own history because France is a great nation that is afraid of nothing, especially not afraid of itself,” Hollande said during the official inauguration.

It was only 14 years ago that Paris officially affirmed slavery was a crime against humanity, and to date, the French government hasn’t exhibited any willingness to engage the contentious issue of reparations.

“The only debt that needs to be honored is to further the cause of humanity. That is what this memorial is here to remind us,” Hollande said during the ceremony in Point-a-Pitre.

Slaves of African descent worked mostly on sugar cane plantations in Guadeloupe from the 17th to the 19th centuries until France banned slavery in 1848.

This latest memorial is part of a global movement to recognize the crimes committed during the era of slavery.

The current French Minister, Manuel Valls, for instance, paid a visit two years ago to the House of Slaves, which is located on the Goree Island off the coast of Senegal and honors the victims of the Atlantic slave trade. At the time, Valls was France’s interior minister.

The House of Slaves was used until captured Africans were shipped across the Atlantic and sold into slavery.

The permanent exhibit at the Memorial ACTe will open to the public in July. It is expected to attract anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 attendees a year.