An aristocratic British family has traveled to the Caribbean country of Grenada to publicly apologize for owning more than 1,000 African slaves and to promise £100,000 in reparations.
Laura Trevelyan, a BBC correspondent in New York who investigated her family’s link to the slave trade, donated the money to the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Speaking at a ceremony in the capital, St. George, also attended by Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell, Trevelyan said the apology was a first step in the restorative justice process.
“To the people of Grenada, we, the undersigned, write to apologize for the actions of our ancestors in holding your ancestors in slavery,” he said Monday.
John Dower, another Trevelyan family member who supported Laura’s apology, said slavery was a crime against humanity, adding that “we repudiate the involvement of our ancestors.”
The apology was signed by 104 descendants of co-owners of six Granada plantations. Seven family members attended the ceremony on Monday.
The family urged British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to negotiate compensation with Caribbean leaders for centuries of exploitation.
“We urge the UK government to enter into meaningful negotiations with Caribbean governments to make appropriate reparations through Caricom and bodies such as the Grenada National Reparations Commission,” Dower said. Caricom, or Caribbean Community, is a group of 15 countries in the region.
The Trevelyan family will make other private donations for scholarships and other educational causes.
University College London published information about Trevelyan’s legacy in 2013. In 1834, as part of the abolition of slavery, the family received the equivalent, at today’s rates, of £3 million in compensation.
Laura Trevelyan, a US citizen, said the £100,000 donation would be drawn from an outstanding pension payment from the BBC.
Professor Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies and a leading reparations lobbyist, said Trevelyan’s ancestors were “notable architects” and an “essential part of this world’s slavocracy”.
Describing slavery as systemic genocide, Beckles said that while British traders brought 3.5 million Africans to the Caribbean, only 600,000 were in the region at emancipation.
He compared the compensation given to slaveholders to offering a bank robber a reward for his crime.
“The slaveholders dominated the British Parliament. They were the legislators. So the enslavers raided the British £20 million Treasury to pay themselves off. It was the biggest expenditure ever made by the British Parliament,” Beckles said.
The professor said that the repairs should not be seen as a handout but as a recovery of the resources extracted for the development of British urban centers such as Liverpool.
He argued that UWI’s ranking of being in the top 1.5% of universities globally was proof of how far off the post-colonial lands might have been if three-quarters of the population had not been able to read and write long ago. 60 years.
Beckles struck a conciliatory, not combative, tone in his speech, asking other suspected reparations debtors to see their role as a partnership to right centuries-old wrongs.
Slaves could only contribute an average of seven to 10 years to the workforce in plantation economies due to brutal practices, Beckles said.
Reparations activists are demanding billions of pounds in compensation, with Jamaica alone reportedly owing £7.5 billion.