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Amsterdam tour on black heritage offers the other side of history

On Sunday, Joop.nl reported that the constitution of the Netherlands celebrated its 200-year existence. After Dutch troops had driven out French forces, the independent state of the Netherlands, established itself as a principality. By composing a constitution, the Netherlands took its first steps towards a constitutional monarchy. This form of government allows for a nonpolitical monarch to act as head of state, with the stipulation that they operate within the boundaries of the constitution.In 1983, revisions were made to the constitution, which allowed for specific civil rights to be added.

Jennifer Tosch is the founder of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours.
Jennifer Tosch is the founder of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours.
Kevin P. Roberson
Amsterdam tour on black heritage offers the other side of history
Kevin P. Roberson

"Between 1612 and 1872, the Dutch operated from some 10 fortresses along the Gold Coast (now Ghana), from which enslaved were shipped across the Atlantic." African Studies Center, Leiden.

While the Netherlands was gaining its independence, another history was also being written, a history that had been hidden, even though it was in plan site. Throughout the city of Amsterdam you will find dozens of depictions of Moor heads. The Moors were seen as the Medieval Muslims, inhabiting Morocco, western Algeria, Western Sahara, Mauritania, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta. In 1492, the Moors and Jews were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, forcing both groups to re-settle in Northern Europe.

"I want us to take a journey back in time, looking at the sketches of the future and seeing ourselves together. My hope is that at the end of this journey, we will have created a new vision of the future. A part of that vision is that we have a shared story," said Jennifer Tosh, founder of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours.

During a Black Heritage Amsterdam tour guests are taken back into time. Jennifer shows how the past is connected with the present, providing tourists and locals with physical evidence. The Netherlands has an ethnically diverse population due to the countries colonial past. The Dutch colonized Suriname, Caribbean islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Eustatius and Saba. Suriname played an important role because of the immense amounts of revenue it generated for the Kingdom. Large amounts of Suriname sugarcane were shipped to the Netherlands, where it was processed and sold.

The Dutch officially abolished slavery on July 1st, 1863, after receiving immense pressure from the international community. After legally abolishing slavery, the enslaved were forced to stay on the plantations. Owners and shareholders weren't going to release them, until they received compensation for the workforce that they were losing. Historical documents explain that the owners believed that the enslaved needed time to adapt to being free. Only in 1873 were the enslaved allowed to leave the plantations.

Ellen-Rose Kambel is the director of the Rutu Foundation. The Rutu Foundation is currently working on a project in Suriname. They have been asked, by different indigenous communities, too develop bi-lingual curriculum. "At this time, all of the curriculum is based on European ideologies and city life...aspects of society that not all [indigenous] children can relate too," said Kambel. Suriname was a former colony of the Netherlands, Dutch culture is still a part of everyday life.

The tour is designed to reveal the presence of Blacks and their 'hidden history' still visible on Amsterdam's architectural edifices, national monuments, and art, from the 17th Century forward. These national monuments wouldn't have been possible without the contribution of the African Diaspora.