On the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The uprising was finally successful at establishing Haiti’s independence from the French in 1804 and was the only slave uprising to give rise to a state ruled by former slaves. On this day we remember the power of the human spirit to rise up and struggle for freedom, even in the most oppressive circumstances. Slaves endured the horrors of the “middle passage” across the Atlantic, with many people dying on the way. Slavery robbed them of their cultures, their countries, their families and even their names. Abuse, poor nutrition, over work and poor living conditions robbed slaves of their strength and health. Yet, in spite of their suffering, those enslaved lived and struggled for freedom and dignity. Finally, in 1888, Brazil became the last state in the Americas to outlaw slavery. Racial discrimination continues as a legacy of slavery in the Americas. The modern-day slavery of human trafficking continues to oppress people for the enrichment of others. This day reminds us that although abolished over 130 years ago, we have much work to do to overcome and abolish systems of oppression that continue to this day. Let us rededicate ourselves to ending all forms of slavery so that all people can live in freedom and dignity.
Holy One, bless in a special way those who suffer due to modern-day slavery and those who suffer from systemic racism that continues to enslave ancestors of former slaves. Fill us all with resolve to address racism in our own hearts as well as in societal institutions. Help each of us to work together for the common good so that each person can live with respect, dignity and freedom.