History - Written on the Walls

10 Sep 2013 | Christine Fischer

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One can wander around much of Holland and forget they are in a place adorned in visual history; including the history of the African Diaspora. One can review the archives for the statistics of the era but neither charts nor graphs can capture the full magnitude of the traumatic events of that time; thus, narratives are crucial as they inform the public of personal, familial, local, national, and international meanings associated with the historical numbers logged into books.


One narrative worth listening to is the one shared on Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours. BHAT, a canal tour, delves into the history and narratives of the African Diaspora that have been absent from most historical tours in general in Amsterdam.

History written on the walls

As one glides along the Amsterdam canals one will see the visual representations on buildings of sugar and tobacco and the people who cultivated these staples; such a visceral exploration creates a deeper understanding; it invokes a connection that history is still present around us, etched into the very buildings themselves.

The tour guide, Ms. Jennifer Tosch, has created an agenda that covers an astounding amount of information regarding the African Diaspora narrative as it relates to Dutch society from the 16th century to the present. She is continually adding information to the program as new discoveries come to light. Each week another historical fact makes itself know, in a headstone, on a relief on a building, on a stained glass window.  

You can enjoy the experience as a lone traveler interested in history or as a person interested in diversity, but such an experience would be valuable to schools and universities due to its well-research historical content. In fact, any individual or group that is interested in the Black Heritage that is part of the Netherland's history will enjoy the attention to detail. The tour is well informed. And thankfully this tour doesn’t bore you with the usual automated audio recording; this canal trip has an actual tour guide. Questions are welcomed and encouraged.

If you wish to do some historical exploration check out Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours. In general most tours are in English, BHAT caters to an international audience, but translations in Dutch occur on the tour as needed. Their upcoming events include:

  • Sunday, 15 September at 11:30: "Hoe Duur Was De Suiker in Amsterdam' - (Filmed by 'TV Progamma 'Eenvaandag'')
  • Sunday, 22 September at 13:00: 'Slavery and its Representations - UVA Bizondere Colleties'
  • Saturday, 28 September at 13:00: Slavery and It's Representations During The Golden Age
  • Sunday, 6 October at 13:00: The 400-Year 'Hidden History' of the Amsterdam Canals
  • Sunday, 13 October at 13:00: "Black Kings & Queens...in Amsterdam'

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