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Victor Schœlcher Column

Monument - Anse-Bertrand

This column pays homage to a militant abolitionist who presided over the Commission on the abolition of slavery (Decree of April 27, 1848), whose deliberations led to the emancipation of the island’s servile population. Born in Paris in 1804 to a merchant father from Alsace, France, Victor Schœlcher discovered the hard reality of slavery during many trips to the United States, Cuba, the Caribbean, and Africa. Revolted by the practice, he engaged in an unrelenting struggle to combat this injustice. The revolution of February 1848 provided him with an opportunity to act:  upon his return from Senegal, where he had gone to study the workings of the slave trade and gather information about the peoples of Africa, Schœlcher was appointed under-secretary of the Navy and the Colonies by then-prime minister François Arago. He seized the opportunity to prepare a decree for the abolition of slavery, which he caused to be issued by the provisional government on April 27, 1848. Elected to the legislative assembly representing Guadeloupe in 1849 (he would be succeeded at the Assembly by a native of the island, Louisy Mathieu), he nevertheless went into exile in London following Napoleon’s coup d’état and remained there until the fall of Napoleon III, eighteen years later. He was then elected deputy for Martinique, then senator, and never stopped fighting for freedom. He died in 1893, and was buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. On May 20, 1949, his ashes were transferred to the Pantheon.

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