PARIS — French President Francois Hollande is to honor the memory of millions of enslaved Africans in an inaugural visit Sunday to a memorial in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where Black men and women were sold to work on sugar cane plantations from the 17th to 19th centuries.
The visit has revived the debate over the consequences of France’s slave trade in the region. Some voices are pushing for France to pay reparations, an issue that Hollande has thus far avoided.
The Caribbean Center for the Expression and Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery, known as the Memorial ACTe, is to be inaugurated in the city of Pointe-a-Pitre in the presence of Caribbean officials and the heads of state of Senegal, Mali and Benin — all former French African colonies.
The 77,000 square-foot (7,153 square-meter) complex is worth 83 million euros ($93 million) and has a symbolic Black facade, representing the millions of victims of slavery. The permanent exhibition, which is due to open to the public in July, illustrates the history of enslaved Africans through hundreds of documents and objects.
Local authorities expect some 150,000 visitors per year to the memorial, which is meant to “contribute toward healing wounds of the past” according to the president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, Victorin Lurel.
However, a local organization which began the museum project in 1998 has decided not to attend the inauguration to protest against Hollande’s refusal to discuss the issue of financial reparations.
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