jeudi 25 février 2016

Slave Trade in the French ports [Black History month on MKB]

Black History Month is celebrated in several countries. France is not one of those countries, but  I would love for it to do so. Modern and contemporary French History is heavily connected to the rest of the world, especially the African continent. If the French government has "apologized" for crimes that have been done throught History, looking at our past deeds - goods and bads - are still avoided on many topics. Researchers and historians make great work of explaining what happened and how it went. And museums expose their foundings to enable the visitors a better understanding.

I will talk a bit in this post of one point in History that is explained in a museum in Nantes: the Slave Trade in French ports, in the Memorial de l'abolition de l'esclavage - Nantes.


Americas, after the first explorators and conquistadors traveled to these lands, have been seen as properties of European monarchies. Their ressources had to be harvested and as the native population was 1/ not willing to accept ownership and 2/ killed by imported illnesses and violence, new ways had to be found. Moldabled, cheap and "hard-working" people were sent there to help the tenants of the lands. First, it was prisonners or poor people hoping they could gain some richness as indentured servants. Religiously persecuted groups came too, however they were not controlled by the different governements in the same manner as the other "migrants".

Quickly, the new tenants started to use slaves they brought from Africa. If the slave trade knew its peak in the 18th century, Africans have arrived first in 1619 in what will be later the USA. They were then seen as indentured servants and freed after the term of their working contract. At the end of the 17th century, it had changed drasticaly and the Africans were all slaves and property of their owner/master.
In South America and Caraïbean islands the first slaves from Africa came in the 15th century from razzias made by the Spanishs. With the treaty of Tordesillas, Spain lost his "right" to send ships to Africa and had to let Portugal, Dutchland and later Great-Britain and France deal with local slave markets on the West coasts of Africa.


The French, with their colonies in the Caribbean, took part in the slave trade only in the second half of the 17th century, when Louis XIV took the monopole of the tobacco production and forced the colons in the Antilles and Caraibean islands to start the production of the sugar cane. This production needs more workers and so slaves started to be imported. The triangular trade route it induced, opened some new possibilities for the French ports. [see here for more infos in French]

The redaction of the Code Noir in 1685 (a series of decrees) helped the colonies and the traders in their acquisition and management of slaves. The slaves in the French colonies had rights (to marry, to be fed, to not be separated from their family, etc) that many others in spanish and english colonies never had. Many were literate and owned businesses. They had to be educated in the catholic faith, meaning that they were human beings with a soul, something that have been denied in other territories.

17 ports in France participated in the slave trade, with 41,3% for the sole port of Nantes (and it was only between 1707 and 1830). Three other ports - Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Le Havre - made together 33,5% of the ships expeditions. France organized more than 3300 transatlantic slave trade expeditions, with a total of 4220 ships.

Par AnneauxMemoire — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0
During the 18th century ( the big moment in France for slave trade), only 500 families armed around 2800 ships to Africa. These people were not only interested in the slave trade (10 to 33% of the naval long-term trade) but also in the more common trades such as wheat, coton, wine, textiles, salt; fishing ships, insurances... In 1786, 60,8% of the imported products in the port of Nantes was the brown sugar from the Antilles -22 605 000 livres in total!- that came through the triangular trade but mostly from the direct trade. We have this high number an example of why slaves were so important for the colons.

Vue du port de Nantes prise de l'île Gloriette au xviiie siècle, attribuée à Nicolas Ozanne.

With the benefits they made on the triangular trade, these families invested in industries and manufactures. In Nantes, in 1775, 17 manufactures were listed: textile with the production of indiennes and linen, cords, nails, hats, amidon, bottles of glass, breweries, sugar refinery. The port became also one of the biggest shipyard.

The Memorial in Nantes:

In 2012 was opened in Nantes a Memorial for the abolition of slavery. The past of the city as slave trade port had been "forgotten" for many decennies but in the 90', the historical part of the city was shown in an exhibit and since then, the city has tried its best to research its past. The memorial talks about the abolition of slavery and the city museum (in the castle of the Dukes of Britain) explains what happened in Nantes during 150 years.

A virtual tour is available here. And pedagogic documents can be downloaded for the teachers, in French. I like the list of museums that have exhibits about slavery (old or modern). You can see if you have one near where you live. A pdf document has been translated into English and you can read it here.

The French magazine L'Histoire dedicaced one of their issue to the topic France and its slaves. Some articles in french can be found online.


Today's population in North, Middle and South America are a mix of Native Americans, Europeans colons or migrants, Asian migrants and descendants from African slaves. For many people in this continent, their family history is marred with blood and tears. It is important, essential that historians keep researching about the past of those who came as slaves. Important for those descendants, but also for the countries they live in now, the African countries who have brothers and sisters in Americas and for the world as a whole.

I love History, but what I prefer the most is Love. Those studies, those heart-wrenching discoveries historians and genealogists are founding and showing to the public, this is a work of Love. May we understand better the dark part of the world history to overcome our actual struggles and lead a brighter path, without slavery, deshumanisation, or cruelty.

I have studied History in College. And I like to live by this sentence: 
"Know your past to understand your present and forge a better future".

Welcome to our third annual Black History Month series and giveaway! Follow along all month long as we explore the rich history and cultures of Africa and African-Americans. Be sure to enter our giveaway below and link up your own posts at the bottom of the page.
You can also follow our Black History board on Pinterest:

February 4
Mama Smiles
February 5
Kid World Citizen
February 9
A Crafty Arab
February 15
Mother in the Mix
February 22
Crafty Moms Share
February 24
La Cité des Vents
February 26
February 29
Hispanic Mama

Enter the Giveaway!

Grand Prize Black Heritage Month Giveaway 2016 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Grand Prize

From Heritage Box, a starter pack:
Masaai box, journal, postcard album, book, surprise toy, and activity and game sheet US Shipping Only
From Mixed Up Clothing: a Jambo (Swahili) Kids T-shirt US Shipping Only
1st Prize Black History Month Giveaway 2016 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

1st Prize

From Candlewick Press: Willow and Africa Is My Home US Shipping Only
From Little Proud Kid: Harriet Tubman Puzzle US Shipping Only
2nd Prize Black History Month Giveaway 2016 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

2nd Prize

From Candlewick Press: Granddaddy's Turn and Jump Back, Paul US Shipping Only
From Rachel Garlinghouse: Homeschooling Your Young Black Child

dimanche 21 février 2016

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop - February 2016

Welcome to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop
for February 2016!

The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids. We can't wait to see what you share this time! Created by Frances of Discovering the World through My Son's Eyes, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.

This month our co-hosts are:

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place for you to share your creative kids culture posts. It's very easy, and simple to participate!
Just follow these simple guidelines:
  • Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. Please let us know you're following us, and we will be sure to follow you back.
  • Link up any creative kids culture posts, such as language, culture, books, travel, food, crafts, playdates, activities, heritage, and holidays, etc. Please, link directly to your specific post, and no giveaways, shops, stores, etc.
Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop
  • Please grab the button code above and put it on your blog or the post you’re linking up. You can also add a text link back to this hop on your blog post. Note: By sharing your link up on this blog hop you are giving us permission to feature your blog post with pictures, and to pin your link up in our Creative Kids Culture Feature board on Pinterest.
  • Don't be a stranger, and share some comment love! Visit the other links, and comment. Everyone loves comments!
  • The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop will go live on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It will run for three weeks. The following blog hop we will feature a previous link up post, and if you're featured, don't forget to grab the button below:
Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

Here's my favorite from last time: Hatshepsut of Egypt, a book review from Crafty Moms Share that threw me back in my Antiquity period when I was a teen. The best thing with this book collection is that it talks about historical feminin figures. They were tough, and some even portrayed as "monsters" but in a men's world they certainly had to be...

Thank you for linking-up, and we can't wait to see what you've been up to!

samedi 20 février 2016

Changing school: it can be hard but very helpful! [IMLD]

As I have hinted in my New Year's wishes and my absence from blogging, we had a few challenges in our family these past weeks. One of them was my son's schooling.

My son was so happy that day.
When we moved to Germany in September 2013, we had chosen to enroll our children in the German school system. Gabriel went to a German kindergarten as soon as we moved here and then had his "Einschulung" in our neighborhood school, and Sophie started in a kindergarten a week later, last September.

We thought that French at home and German at school would be great for them. Guess it was not to be. We knew that Gabriel could be a handful in class and were a tad worried about behavioral issues. In fact, his teacher told us he was loud and (too) energetic. Yeah, we know. We work on that at home too. However, she also told us to help him with his German vocabulary and I tried to repeat with him all the new words he encountered in his school books. The Logopädistin (ortophonist) he sees every week helps him too with vocabulary and how to pronounce some sounds (the sch, tch, ch, r, etc). This professional was optimistic and said he made real efforts.

Then, four days before the Christmas holidays came a letter from the school director. About the fact the children and the teachers had great difficulties to understand him. With his grammar, his vocabulary: in short, everything.

We were in shock. So was my son. He cried: "No one told me they couldn't understand me!" Huge meltdown during the week-end for him, and parental crisis for my husband and I.

In the letter, the director ordered us (because asked is not strong enough to translate how he phrased it) to bring our son after the holidays to a free helping class provided by the land of Hessen. 4 times a week, 45 minutes each time. That would have been a good help. If it wasn't in another school (it's easy with the U-bahn he said), during lunch time (yeah, cold sandwichs each time for the whole family), and with around 20 kids in a computer room playing educative games (we discovered that when we tried it)...

I went there once after the holidays, as ordered to do, with the two girls in tow, and if my son liked to play on a computer (no, really? huge surprise for me... tss), I was NOT thrilled to consider doing it four days in a row and know that my son will not learn much in such a big group without proper human interaction. If "everyone" couldn't understand him in German, how a computer would help him in the talking aspect? The ortophonist was also very sceptical because of my son's personality. Gabriel needs more a small group, or even better a one-on-one, approach to make him progress.

We could have forced him (and me) to go everyday to this "class", and start to speak to him in German, as "suggested" when we talked together, the director and I. We could have reduced his exposition to French and focused on him learning the "perfect German" they expected from him.

Sorry Mr Director, but NO. We love living in Germany, learning your language, discovering your culture, interacting with people... However, we are French and we are not going to forgo our culture, our language. You should have guessed, French people are known to be stubborned. Very so.

It's already difficult for a family to maintain what is seen as a "minority" or "family" language during the whole childhood and youth of the children, in a foreign country. We have many examples of people who didn't speak often their own languages (their mother tongue usually) to their children and have seen them lost contact with family members because of that. I have friends who told me how they have been rebucked by their in-laws to speak their own languages to their kids on the pretext of "you are in our country, so the children have to learn our language first"...

We did what we have the opportunity to do: we contacted the French school in Frankfurt to see if places were available for a mid-term schooling. And we asked my husband's job if they can help. It was not written in his contract that we could have a part of the kids' education payed... But we tried, and we explained my son's situation. During the holidays, he was sad, and when we talked about the French school (in fact a bilingual school) he was so happy and wanted to go there. We also prayed a lot, as did many friends and family members, to find guidance. I personaly felt relief, peace and the feeling that everything will turn for the better.

And it did. The day after my son tested the "free class", we received an answer from my husband's superiors. Our family was granted a kind of "educational fund", and now we have to pay only a part of the fees and of course, the lunch and transports. Then, the director of the French Primary school said to my husband that my son could start on the 1st of February in a CP (Cours Préparatoire = 1st Grade). We even found a nearby family who agreed with driving my son back from school.

My son turned 7 years old at the end of January and was able to have a Birthday party in his German class before transferring to his new bilingual school. I talked to his teacher on his last day and I really hope she understood that I have no ill feelings against her and that she didn't "failed" my son. She's a young teacher and these stressfull situation can damage confidence. My son liked her and he wishes to visit his "old class" during his holidays (not the same as the ones in the Hessen schools).

His start in the CP had been difficult. The French programm is more advanced than the German one on the topics of writing and reading. He hasn't the same level as the other kids in his class, but he is willing to learn and as long as he can do his beloved maths, he's happy. Well, he's struggling a bit but the teacher has lots of experiences with bilingual kids and 1st graders, so she has found a way to interest him and make him work on his writng and spelling skills. During the German class, he is in a group with a good German level. It doesn't seem that he is so "not understandable"... His French teacher has kindly given us a list of exercices we can do with him during these two weeks of holidays.

He will have to overcome a few issues to pass in CE1 next year, but -with my husband- we are more likely to be good helpers. French is our mother tongue, we are fluent in it and have a good grammar. For my son to be able to learn both his mother tongue and the majority language (German as we live in Germany), and in two years to start English, it's a great privilege, a huge blessing. We had planned differently, but the change is all for the better for my son.

On a more personal note, it's so strange for me to think that I'm in the "privilege group" now. I wasn't in my youth. So for my children to experience this multiculturality and this degree of both cultures, it's quite mind-blowing. I knew the moment we started to live in Germany that we had "more" than many of other Frenchs. Luckier in the job opportunity my husband had, more foreign knowledge and culture at my fingertips, a vision of the world more wider, more languages to speak on a daily basis, and so on.

But the Mother Tongue, the French part of our family which is so essential in our home, how were we going to live it? to pass it on the next generation? to treasure it? We tried to do it "alone" at home, but it was tough...

Lycée Français Victor Hugo (Frankfurt)

French expats are some of the most blessed people out there: with the net of French schools around the world, many of us are able to provide for our children both our French culture and the one from the country we live in. And when the parents are a mix-couple (ex: a French dad and a German mom), the two cultures can be taught to the children and both sides of the family are happy...

I'm quite proud of these schools and this network. I so wish for other countries to be able to provide such high standards of education to their own expatriated populations. I think about my polish, spanish or danish friends. They can find playgroups but rarely bilingual schools... or they are expensive (more than the French schools). Accessing the culture of our home country, our mother tongue, this is essential in the preservation of our identity and the understanding of who we are and who we can be.

Learning in our mother language shouldn't be a privilege. It should be possible along classes in the majority language(s) of the country you live in. That's why the programm of UNESCO and the International Mother Language Day are so important! 

mercredi 17 février 2016

Wordless Wednesday #11

We had some bumps in the road these last weeks, especially my o so painful experience with a panaris on my big toe...
Between several rainy days and the start of my nasty issue, I had a great Saturday. The kids were at the park with their dad, so I went for a stroll in the neighborhood with Alice in the Ergobaby. She slept and I enjoyed the sun. I didn't know it was my last walk for a while...

Crocus, a small chapel and its stained glass, the contemporary catholic church, and the Urselbach...


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