Jennifer Tosch’s 360 Black Heritage Amsterdam Tour allowed me to see Amsterdam in a new light. Jennifer gave historical meaning to many unmarked areas around the city. I particularly enjoyed her description of The National Monument on Dam Square. It was interesting how differently the white man and the African man were portrayed. On the right side of the statue, the African man, who represents the working class, is dynamically positioned giving the impression of motion. On the opposite side, the white man, who represents the enlightened class, is more stagnantly positioned. The white man’s austere posture reminded me of the rigid portrait paintings of the Dutch upper class. The purpose of the monument is to represent Dutch resistance, yet it is ironic that the African man is included in this because countless enslaved Africans resisted against the Dutch. Is the African man suppose to represent African resistance against the Dutch or Dutch resistance against the Germans?
It is also significant that this monument is located in the Dam Square, which was a popular trading area for spices from the East and West Indies. Jennifer talked about how people were not traded; however, the products cultivated by enslaved Africans were traded here. Because Amsterdam did not have plantations similar to those in the United States, the contributions and history of enslaved people were more easily pushed into the background. African history is not outwardly displayed in Amsterdam rather its significance is felt in small details that can only be noticed if you are looking for them. For example, the unmarked green space across from the Hortus Botanical Garden was the burial site of African people from across the world. Sadly, most passersby will not understand the sanctity of this space because it is unmarked.
Amsterdam’s Black Heritage cannot be fully honored until significant historical sites are recognized. In addition to recognizing African history, it is important that the true history is told. For instance, Jennifer mentioned that slavery was abolished in 1863, yet enslaved people were forced to remain on plantations until ten years after this date. My biggest take-away from this tour is that history is not complete until hidden history is told. Jennifer’s tour helps uncover aspects of Black Heritage that is at risk of being forgotten or ignored.