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Ambassadors in Chains - France 2002

Ambassadors in Chains - France 2002

After two preparatory journeys to France in 2000 and 2001, the main expedition took place in May and June 2002. A team of 20 people from 11 nations travelled along the meridian line and visited the former slave ports of Rouen, Honfleur, St Malo, Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Also an unusual symbolic act took places as European representatives of the former slave trading nations walked silently in replica yokes and chains through the streets, while other team members handed out an apology for the role of Christians in the slave trade.

The expedition caused quite a stir both on and off the streets. There was considerable media interest including newspaper articles, radio interviews and an appearance on France Trois TV in Bordeaux. During a reception for the team in Rouen, it was discovered that the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Rafarin, was also in the town hall and he received the T-shirt with the word "Pardon" and also the literature which was given out to explain the action.

The reaction of people on the streets was predictably one of curiosity and the leaflets were read with great eagerness. Descendants of slaves living in France were also deeply moved. "Enfin!" was the most common reaction - "At last! - now we feel that white people are taking our story seriously. Thank-you! But so much more needs to be done.".

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