News Americas, LONDON, England, Mon. April 24, 2023: A new group of people called “Heirs of Slavery” is calling on the British government to begin long-requested talks on reconciliation and reparative justice for the descendants of the 3.1 million enslaved African people transported across the Atlantic by Britain to the Caribbean.
The group includes authors, journalists, business people, and a direct descendant of the Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone. They have set up this group to support campaigns to address “the ongoing consequences of this crime against humanity.”
One of the members of the group, journalist Alex Renton, said, “British slavery was legal, industrialized and based entirely on race. Britain has never apologized for it, and its after-effects still harm people’s lives in Britain as well as in the Caribbean countries where our ancestors made money.”
The group acknowledges that their ancestors’ wealth was partly derived from plantations worked by enslaved Africans, and slave-owners received compensation at British slavery’s abolition in the 1830s. For example, Rosemary Harrison’s ancestor was a slave owner and Attorney General in Jamaica in the late 18th century.
“We encourage the hundreds of thousands of people in Britain with similar family histories to explore and acknowledge them. Until the painful legacy of slavery is recognized by the descendants of those who profited from it, there can never be healing,” said author and publisher Richard Atkinson.
The group and their families have all made private donations to tackle poverty, poor education, and other issues affecting the descendants of the enslaved in the UK and Caribbean countries. “This group wants to move beyond personal donations, which can never be enough,” said Harrison.
In addition to supporting campaigns for institutional and national reparative justice, the group is also in conversation with British people descended from the enslaved of the Caribbean countries, and who experience racism, poverty, and inequality that derives from it.
“I would like to listen and learn from the descendants of the enslaved to find out what would best help them in their lives today. Please tell us how apology and repair, led by the British nation, should work,” said retired schoolteacher Robin Wedderburn.
The group also supports the CARICOM 10 Point Plan and is encouraging the UK government and other former colonial powers to open a dialogue with CARICOM concerning the plan.
“We welcome the Dutch Government’s recent apology for the Netherlands’ historic role in slavery and note its establishment of a reparations fund to tackle the legacy of slavery in the Netherlands and its former colonies. We cannot change the past. But we can change the consequences,” the group said.
The movement for reparative justice for descendants of enslaved Africans is gaining momentum in Europe. “Whether it’s the Dutch Government, the Church of England, or the British Royal Family, the enduring and painful legacy of slavery is finally starting to be acknowledged by those who benefited from it,” said Laura Trevelyan, a former BBC correspondent.
The Heirs of Slavery group is hoping to continue to lend their voices as heirs of those involved in the business of slavery to support campaigns for institutional and national reparative justice.
Former BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan has also apologized and offered a reparation fund to be managed by The UWI.