“Slavery – an insult to mankind”
That France abolished slavery in 1848 is to a large extent down to Victor Schoelcher. To honour his legacy, the village of Fessenheim in Alsace has now reopened a museum.
Fessenheim – that is nuclear power. However, the village in Alsace (with just over 2’200 inhabitants) would also like to be known for something else. For that reason, it has joined the museum Victor Schoelcher, son œuvre (Victor Schoelcher, his work) and the very popular media library of the same name. The opening of this new museum takes place on 6 June.
Strictly speaking Victor Schoelcher (born in Paris in 1804) was just the son of a Fessenheimer. His father Marc Schoelcher (*1766) – whose original name was Marc Schelcher – had moved to the French capital just before the revolution. As many in Paris had trouble pronouncing his name correctly, he just added an “o”.
Victor Schoelcher had his first experience with slavery in 1828. Exploring the market for china produced by his father’s company, he travelled to the USA, Mexico and Cuba. As undersecretary of state for France’s navy and its colonies he fought against slavery – successfully: it was finally abolished in France by decree on 27 April 1848.
In fact, during his whole political life Victor Schoelcher, who later became deputy of Martinique and representative of Guadeloupe in the legislative assembly, was heavily involved in the campaign for human rights. He campaigned for the creation of republican structures in France, he was an advocate for universal suffrage, he fought for the abolishment of capital punishment, he strongly supported recognition of women’s civil rights and the introduction of children’s rights.
We may never be allowed to stop telling ourselves and our children that, as long as even one slave is living on this earth, this man’s subjection is a perpetual insult to mankind.” (Victor Schoelcher, 1848)
Fessenheim as hometown of the Schoelcher family, regarded it as duty to establish a museum dedicated to this great humanist. During a tour of the gallery, with over 150 illustrations, original works, contemporary objects and porcelain – with all information pertaining to it in German, French and English – the visitor will discover the history of Victor Schoelcher. Touchpads, audio-visual animations, as well as an interactive library will complement the tour that has been divided into six sections:
- Victor Schoelcher’s journeys
- The Schoelcher porcelain company
- Victor Schoelcher: a life, a century
- A dedicated man
- His fight to end slavery
- His other battles
The new museum “Victor Schoelcher, his life’s work” in Fessenheim is one of five attractions in Eastern France along “The Road of Human Rights and the Abolishment of Slavery” founded in 2004. This road is part of a major international project, supported by the UN, called “The Road of Slavery.”
(Text: Musée Victor Schoelcher & TBJ, picture: Musée Victor Schoelcher)