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Dutch King Willem-Alexander Issues Apology for Colonial Slave Trade



King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands apologized for his country’s role in colonial slave trading, amid a national reckoning over the brutal history of Dutch imperialism, whose legacy still echoes in contemporary society.

“Of all the ways in which a person can be robbed of their freedom, slavery is surely the most painful. The most degrading. The most inhuman,” said the monarch on Slavery Remembrance Day, which takes place in the Netherlands on July 1 to mark the abolition of the practice in Suriname and the former Dutch Caribbean.

“Today, as your King and as a member of the government, I make this apology myself. And I feel the weight of the words in my heart and my soul,” he said.

The Dutch colonial empire stretched from Suriname in South America, to South Africa and Indonesia in Southeast Asia. The government has acknowledged that for more than 300 years, Dutch slave traders abducted and shipped hundreds of thousands of adults and children from Africa to work on plantations as enslaved laborers. Some 75,000 did not survive the journey to the colonies, where Indigenous people there were also enslaved.

Slavery was officially abolished in Suriname and the Caribbean islands in 1863, but it did not practically end until 10 years later.

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