The RIAS has taken an active role in the Kennisplatform Slavernijverleden en Vrijheid Zeeland (Zeeland Platform for the History of Slavery and Freedom), a consortium of local and national institutions dedicated to promoting research, education, knowledge and a public understanding of Zeeland’s role in the history of Atlantic slavery (as well as its aftermath). The partners include Zeeuws Archief, University College Roosevelt, NiNsee and NiNZeeland, Keti Koti Zeeland, the Province of Zeeland, and the municipalities of Middelburg and Vlissingen. You can watch a report (in Dutch) about the platform from the local news here.
This partnership indeed goes back to 2019 and has been responsible for the organization of activities during Black Achievement Month during the past two years. This year, with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the national discourse on structural racism in Dutch society taking center stage, the importance of a proper recognition for the history of slavery is more pressing than ever. These developments have accelerated the Platform’s plans for developing a proper “knowledge agenda” for the history of slavery and its consequences for Zeeland society.
Zeeland has an especially specific link with Suriname—which between 1667 and 1682 was indeed a colony of Zeeland—as well as with the transatlantic slave trace (it was home of the slave trading company Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie and point of departure for slave several slave trading voyages). Slavery was of fundamental importance to the economy of Walcheren during the early modern period, as a recent study by Gerhard de Kok has demonstrated. Moreover, merchants, colonists, and emigrants from Zeeland participated in Atlantic slavery in a wide variety of ways. Indeed, even the Roosevelt family, the Province’s most famous emigrants to New Netherland and New York, held slaves. The 1741 Slave Conspiracy of New York, an uprising that resulted in much of the city being set ablaze, was initiated by one Quack, an enslaved man owned by Johannes Roosevelt.
The RIAS is uniquely positioned to play an important role in the Platform. Its archives include collections related to the history of slavery in North America and the Caribbean (including consular correspondence on the illegal slave trade around Curacao, as well as the development of slavery in the United States) and the subsequent history of civil rights. Three of its researchers—Damian Pargas (director), Marcella Schute (PhD candidate), and Christine Mertens (PhD candidate)—are specialized in the history of Atlantic slavery and a fourth—Debby Esmée de Vlugt—is specialized in the history of Black Power in the Dutch Caribbean. Its connections with the Roosevelt family and experts on slavery in Dutch New York provide avenues for further explorations. And its heavy emphasis on the Four Freedoms and transatlantic connections make it an ideal partner in activities related to the lingering history of racism and structural inequalities that directly relate to the history of slavery.
We look forward to working with our local partners in developing further public activities and a research agenda for Zeeland in the coming months!