News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Aug. 25, 2023: In a historic move towards reparative justice, President Dr Irfaan Ali of Guyana has called for a full apology from the Gladstone family for their involvement in the African enslavement that took place in the country. This call follows an apology recently offered by the descendants of Sir John Gladstone, acknowledging their family’s role in the cruel nature of African enslavement and indentureship in Guyana.
President Ali welcomed the apology as a crucial step in the process of reparative justice, emphasizing that acknowledgment and contrition are essential for paving the way towards justice for the historical injustices inflicted upon innocent individuals. He commended the Gladstone family for their willingness to confront their family’s dark past and expressed that the apology should not stop at mere acknowledgment.
The President proposed that the intended apology should also encompass issues of compensation, reparative justice, and the posthumous charging of those involved for crimes against humanity. He emphasized that reparations are not meant to shame or guilt, but rather to right historical wrongs and address the lasting legacy of slavery and indentureship in the Caribbean.
John Gladstone, the patriarch of the Gladstone family, was an absentee owner of plantations in Guyana and Jamaica, benefiting from the African enslavement and indentureship on these plantations. He played a significant role in defending the interests of West Indian plantation owners and was a staunch champion of the institution of slavery. His investments and acquisitions in various plantations reflected his commitment to the slave trade.
President Ali stressed that while acknowledging and apologizing for historical atrocities is a significant step, it is only the beginning of the journey towards comprehensive reparative justice. He called on the Gladstone family to align their actions with the Caricom ten-point plan for Reparatory Justice, which includes measures for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and cultural revitalization to address the multifaceted legacy of slavery.
As the demand for reparations intensifies in the Caribbean, President Ali’s call for a full apology from the Gladstone family marks a significant development in the ongoing pursuit of justice and recognition for the atrocities of the past.
John Gladstone owned or held mortgages over 2,508 enslaved Africans in Guyana and Jamaica. After emancipation he was paid nearly £106,000, a huge sum at the time.
The Demerara rebellion in August 1823 began on one of his plantations. It was led by Jack Gladstone, an enslaved man forced to take his owner’s name, and his father, Quamina, who had been transported from Africa as a child.
About 13,000 Africans rose up in Demerara, a British colony that later became part of Guyana. Conditions for the enslaved were particularly brutal there. The plantations were the most profitable in the British empire, with an enslaved person in Demerara worth twice that of one in Jamaica.
More than 250 enslaved Africans were killed and a further 51 sentenced to death when the uprising was crushed. Many of the convicted were tortured, decapitated and had their heads impaled on poles as a warning to others. Quamina’s body was hung in chains outside one of John Gladstone’s plantations.
Gladstone’s son became one of Britain’s PM. The education and career of William Gladstone, the 19th-century politician known for his liberal and reforming governments, were funded by enslaved Africans working on his father’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
The Gladstone family plans to apologize at the launch of the University of Guyana’s International Institute for Migration and Diaspora Studies, which they are helping to fund with a grant of £100,000.