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Legacies of British Slave-ownership #462249
04/12/13 11:29 AM
04/12/13 11:29 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,133
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Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Legacies of British Slave-ownership is the umbrella for two projects based at UCLtracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain: theESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project, now complete, and the ESRC and AHRC-funded Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave-ownership 1763-1833, running from 2013-2015.

Colonial slavery shaped modern Britain and we all still live with its legacies. The slave-owners were one very important means by which the fruits of slavery were transmitted to metropolitan Britain. We believe that research and analysis of this group are key to understanding the extent and the limits of slavery's role in shaping British history and leaving lasting legacies that reach into the present. The stories of enslaved men and women, however, are no less important than those of slave-owners, and we hope that the encyclopaedia produced in the first phase of the project, while at present primarily a resource for studying slave-owners, will also provide information of value to those researching enslaved people.

CLICK HERE for their website, and to search their database by name

Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #462250
04/12/13 11:31 AM
04/12/13 11:31 AM
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Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
The case for compensating the Caribbean

By Sir Ronald Sanders
Caribbean News Now

In 1838, British slave owners in the English-speaking Caribbean received £11.6 billion (US$17.8 billion) in today’s value as compensation for the emancipation of their “property” – 655,780 human beings of African descent that they had enslaved, brutalised and exploited. The freed slaves, by comparison, received nothing in recompense for their dehumanisation, their cruel treatment, the abuse of their labour and the plain injustice of their enslavement.

The monies paid to slaves owners have been studied and assembled by a team of Academics from University College London, including Dr Nick Draper, who spent three years pulling together 46,000 records which they have now launched as an internet database. The website is: <a href=""></a>.

The benefits of those monies still exist in Britain today. For example, they are the foundations of Barclays Bank, Lloyds Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland. But they are also the basis of wealth for many leading British and Scottish families among them the Hogg family – two of whom became Lord Chancellors in British governments.

Dr Draper is reported as saying of the Hogg family: “To have two Lord Chancellors in Britain in the 20th century bearing the name of a slave-owner from British Guiana (now Guyana), who went penniless to British Guiana, came back a very wealthy man and contributed to the formation of this political dynasty, which incorporated his name into their children in recognition – it seems to me to be an illuminating story and a potent example."

The Hogg family was not unique. The wealth and political good fortune of 19th Century British Prime Minister William Gladstone had its origins in the £83 million (US$127.6 million), at today’s value, of “compensation” given to his father, John Gladstone, for slaves he owned in British Guiana and Jamaica.

But it was not individual families alone that helped to create African slavery and that benefitted from it; it was the British state as whole – its successive governments that provided subsidies for the trade; that adopted legislation that facilitated it; and that were complicit with the governments of their colonies in adopting laws that designated African slaves as “real estate” – people stripped of human identity, including life, and, therefore, to be treated like land, houses and buildings.

Remarkably, it was also the British State, including the British people, who paid “compensation” to the slave owners while completely disregarding any obligation whatsoever to 655,780 people, who were enslaved and cruelly exploited. To do so, the British government borrowed £20 million which is £76 billion (US$117 billion), at today’s value, from the Rothschild Banking Empire. The sum amounted to about 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product at the time. As Caribbean economic historian, Sir Hilary Beckles points out: “They all recognised that British citizens were socially empowered by the white supremacy culture so effectively institutionalized on a global scale by slave owners.”

British exploitation of people in the Caribbean did not start, or end, with the enslavement of Africans. In a new book entitled, ‘Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide’, Beckles, records the systematic “elimination” of the Kalinagos – the original people of the Eastern Caribbean islands. It was the first act of genocide in the Western Hemisphere, and it was executed with the full knowledge and approval of the British authorities.

African slavery was followed in some Caribbean countries – Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname in particular -- by indentured servitude of people from India bonded to an estate and its owners, deprived of normal liberties, subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. It was what the respected British historian, Hugh Tinker, described as “another kind of slavery”.

Each of these episodes of subjugation, exploitation and brutalisation of human beings was justified on the racial supremacy of the white race. And while Britain was the principal beneficiary, other European nations – France, Spain and Portugal especially – shared in the spoils of human degradation.

Except for the blindest and unrelenting apologists for the acts of genocide and enslavement, it is impossible to discard Beckles’ assertion that these were “crimes against humanity”. As he says: “The wealth of the (British) Empire required the abandonment of all known laws, conventions, moral parameters, political practices and legal frameworks and the creation of a new and unprecedented labour system.”

When the vast majority of the original people of the Caribbean were extinguished forcing the brutalised handful who remained into submission; when slavery was abolished with no recompense to the Africans for the deprivation of their liberty, the people of the Caribbean were left destitute, deprived and disadvantaged. In Beckles’ words: “They got nothing by way of cash reparations to carry them into freedom. No land grants were provided. No promissory notes were posted.”

That today the people of the Caribbean have built modern societies despite the conditions they were handed at slavery’s abolition, is a tribute to the resilience, capabilities and high quality of human beings that European states considered ‘chattel and real estate’. That they have produced Nobel Prize winners, great athletes and fine intellectual thinkers who have commanded high positions in the international community in business, medicine, the law, and technology is testimony to the wrongness of the “white” supremacist doctrine.

Their achievement reinforces the position that their enslavement, their servitude and the infamous acts of violence against them were wrong, and it cannot be right that those who were the principal perpetrators of those wrongs benefitted while they were left as nothing more than a human catastrophe.

The Caribbean would today have been much further along the road of social and economic development if even half of the “compensation” given to slave owners had been given to slavery’s victims 175 years ago.

There is a compelling case for reparations to the nations of the Caribbean on behalf of the people who were the victims of slavery. Nick Draper and the team and University College London, and Hilary Beckles in his new book have provided the basis for, at the very least, a reparations dialogue.

Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #462298
04/13/13 04:50 AM
04/13/13 04:50 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,133
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

The Zong

A graphic reminder of the atrocious conditions endured in the Transatlantic Slave Trade arrived in London. A replica of the 18th Century slave ship The Zong, which played a pivotal role in the eventual abolition of the trade. Photo Cecily Wilson.


The Zong was owned by William Gregson and George Case, well-known merchants in the City of Liverpool. Both were former Mayors of that City.

The Zong sailed from the west coast of Africa on 6 September 1781 with 442 slaves aboard. She was grossly overloaded and did not have sufficient provisions for such a large number. The voyage took nearly 2 months by which time most of the slaves were malnourished and succumbing to sickness and disease. The ship was under the command of Captain Collingwood who lost his way in the Caribbean Sea which added to the length of the journey.

Many of the slaves had already died and Collingwood knew that those who survived would not fetch a high price on the slave market. He decided to use a shortage of fresh water as the pretext for recording that his 'crew were endangered'.

In this way he justified throwing overboard 133 slaves.

55 were thrown overboard on 29 November, 42 on the 30th. A heavy downfall of rain the next day provided plenty of fresh water. Despite this 26 more slaves were thrown overboard on 1 December another 10 jumped in of their own accord.

The owners claimed £30 a head from the insurers which was disputed. The case went to court in 1783 backed by the King's Bench and the insurers lost. The underwriters petitioned the Court of Exchequer and again lost.

Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, said:

'The matter left to the jury was whether it was necessary that the slaves were thrown into the sea, for they had no doubt that the case of slaves was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard.'

Stowage of 292 Slaves on a Slave Ship

(animated images)

Slave Ship

Slave Ship Cross Section

The 18th century replica slave ship due to enter the Pool of London under Royal Navy escort on 29 March 2007 will be named The Zong. This was the name of the most notorious of the slave ships. It was owned by William Gregson and George Case, well-known merchants in the City of Liverpool. Both were former Mayors of that City.

The Zong sailed from the west coast of Africa on 6 September 1781 with 442 slaves aboard. She was grossly overloaded and did not have sufficient provisions for such a large number. The slaves were chained two by two, right leg and left leg, right hand and left hand, each of them was said to have less room than a man in a coffin.

The voyage took nearly 2 months by which time most of the slaves were malnourished and succumbing to sickness and disease. The ship was under the command of Captain Collingwood who lost his way in the Caribbean Sea which added to the length of the journey.

Many of the slaves had already died and Collingwood knew that those who survived would not fetch a high price on the slave market. He decided to use a shortage of fresh water as the pretext for recording that his 'crew were endangered'. He thus justified his action of throwing overboard 133 slaves. 55 were thrown overboard on 29 November, 42 the next day and despite a heavy downfall of rain which alleviate the shortage of water 26 more slaves were thrown overboard on 1 December while another 10 jumped in of their own accord.

The owners claimed £30 a head from the insurers which was disputed. The case then went to court in 1783 backed by the King's Bench, whereupon the underwriters petitioned the Court of Exchequer. After the case, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, stated, 'The matter left to the jury was whether it was necessary that the slaves were thrown into the sea, for they had no doubt that the case of slaves was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard.'

The barrister for the owners argued, 'So far from a charge of murder lying against those people, there is not the least imputation....even of impropriety.'

The law at that time is stated, 'The insurer takes upon him the risk of the loss, capture, and death of slaves, or any other unavoidable accident to them: but natural death is always understood to be excepted: by natural death is meant, not only when it happens by disease or sickness, but also when the captive destroys himself through despair, which often happens: but when slaves are killed, or thrown into thrown into the sea in order to quell an insurrection on their part, then the insurers must answer.'

Granville Sharp, the intrepid Abolitionist, took up the case and used it in his campaign. He visited every bishop in the country most of whom joined the abolition cause as a result of this case and he spoke at public meetings throughout the land. The story of The Zong became a national talking point. The fact that throwing 133 Africans overboard was not regarded as murder but simply as the lawful disposal of 'merchandise' at last stirred the national conscience. Although it took another 24 years to persuade Parliament to ban the slave trade, The Zong was the first significant turning point in the abolitionist campaign.


Zong, 1781

One of the biggest cases in the history of the Atlantic Slave trade brought out the issues of carelessness and selfish acts. The story of the slave ship Zong gives a remarkable account of how slaves were being murdered. The ship was under the command of Luke Collingwood and his crew. They left from the coast of Africa on September 6, 1781 on a voyage to Jamaica. On November 27, 1781 they arrived at an Island that they thought was Jamaica. By November 29, 1781 the ship had unfortunately claimed the lives of seven white men and sixty African slaves. (5) The crew had packed on more slaves than they had room and this caused a lot of disease and malnutrition. In Black Slaves in Britain, Shyllon states, "Chained two by two, right leg and left leg, right hand and left hand, each slave had less room than a man in a coffin." (6) It is no wonder why so many slaves were sick and had died, they were treated like animals and given hardly enough room to breathe.

Well that very day, Luke Collingwood made the decision of throwing the remaining sick Africans over the boat. He pulled his crew together and told them that if the sick slaves died a natural death, then the responsibility would be on them as the ship's crew. He then stated that if the slaves were thrown over while still alive for the safety of the ship it would be the under the responsibility of the underwriters. This seems very unjust, but at the time it was a law in Europe because slaves were seen as merchandise and a matter of insurance. The Law reads as followed:

"The insurer takes upon him the risk of the loss, capture, and death of slaves, or any other unavoidable accident to them: but natural death is always understood to be excepted: by natural death is meant, not only when it happens by disease or sickness, but also when the captive destroys himself through despair, which often happens: but when slaves are killed, or thrown into thrown into the sea in order to quell an insurrection on their part, then the insurers must answer." (7)

Collingwood was not the actual owner of the ship. The ship actually belonged to James Gregson, and a number of others who owned a slave ship firm in Liverpool. Collingwood took it upon himself to look out for the best interest of the owners as well as himself. He used the law in his favor, but there was no reason to throw the sick Africans over the boat because the ship was not in any danger. For the next three days Collingwood and his crew threw over 133 slaves, one managing to escape and climb back onto the boat. (8) Shyllon goes on to say, " The last ten victims sprang disdainfully from the grasp of their executioners, and leaped into the sea triumphantly embracing death."(9) Once again, I think that the Africans aboard the Zong as well as any other slave ship should be considered brave for enduring the painful, inhumane conditions they had to experience. Even when it came down to the seamen throwing the captured slaves over the boat, there were still ten people who faced death with a lot of courage.

When they returned to England the owners of the ship claimed the full value of the murdered slaves from the insurers. They claimed they there was a necessity to throw the slaves over the ship because of water depletion. Well it was proven later that it was all a lie and that the captain had an opportunity for more water on December 1. By the time the Zong had arrived in Jamaica on December 22, they had 420 gallons of water to spare.(10)

Eventually the insurance company found out about the owners lying and refused to pay them for their claims. The discrepancy about the claims for the slaves became a court case and was first heard in March 1783 in London. It was Gregson v. Gilbert that helped to bring the issue of the ill treatment of slaves to light. Although the laws were not changed due to this famous court case, it brought many people to support the abolition of the slave trade. To name a few, Oloudah Equiano came out against the murder of African slaves and he went to Granville Sharp for support. It was also that same year that the Quakers presented a petition for the abolition of the slave trade. Four years later with Granville Sharp, still inspired to end the slave trade, along with many others joined together to form the Anti-Slave trade society. (11)

I felt it important to discuss this case because not only did it reveal the atrocities of the Middle Passage, it also revealed the self-seeking acts of the owners and the sea men aboard these ships. The most important issue is that not only did this case bring out the atrocities and show the selfishness, it also disclosed the fact that there were laws in England that protected the barbaric behavior and complete disregard for human life that these men lived by. The laws of England can be said to have condoned the quest for power that these men had due to their inferiority because of the way they were viewed in their own society. One other thing to point out is the fact that the case was not about seeking justice against Luke Collingwood and his crew. The case was not about the murder of 132 human beings. It was about money and power, and that also says a lot about the European culture at the time as well.

While learning about the Middle Passage and the Zong case, I developed an even more appreciation for my culture. As an African American woman, I have always studied the affects that slavery and the Middle Passage had on my culture. As I studied the Zong, I felt that the men and women aboard that ship as well all slave ships had alot of strength and were very brave to get through the experience. I couldn't imagine going through such harsh conditions.


Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #462375
04/14/13 04:47 PM
04/14/13 04:47 PM
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Marty Offline OP

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The fact that we paid to abolish slavery is a cause for pride, not shame

Was it immoral to compensate slave-owners at the time of emancipation? That is the implication of most of the media comment that has followed the publication of a study of the records by UCL, showing that several prominent British families received vast cash payments. The Independent on Sunday calls it 'Britain's colonial shame'. Trevor Philips thinks it 'the most profound injustice that probably you can identify anywhere in this country's history'.

I can't for the life of me see why. The fact that people were prepared to pay to abolish the monstrosity of slavery is surely a cause for satisfaction rather than shame. It is one thing to say, in the abstract, 'slavery is a bad idea'; quite another to say, 'slavery is so wicked that I am prepared to make a personal sacrifice to help do away with it'.

When, decades later, the United States got around to emancipation, no compensation was paid. Instead, a terrible war was fought, whose legacy of racial bitterness endured for another century and more. Yet, when Ron Paul suggested that it might have been better for everyone had the Americans adopted the British approach, buying out the slave-owners peacefully, he was pilloried.

It is true that, with a handful of exceptions, the slaves themselves received no compensation. This was a terrible wrong. But that wrong doesn't invalidate the policy of purchased manumission. Britain was not just the first major power to abolish slavery. It then poured its energies into a campaign to extirpate the trade around the world – a campaign from which it derived no gain.

Of course, if your starting point is that Britain was an oppressive colonial power, you will find something or other to feel guilty about. The absurdity of the whole debate, though, is that we are all descended from slaves: you, me, the Queen and everyone else. From slave-owners, too, come to that. It could hardly be otherwise, human history being what it is.

Slavery was common to agrarian societies. It persisted in all the early civilizations: in Ur and Sumer, in Egypt and Persia, in the Indus Valley and in Xia Dynasty China. It survived through the classical age, and into the mediaeval period.

Slavery was endemic in African and Arab societies. Between 11 and 17 million people were taken from Africa by Muslim slavers between the seventh and nineteenth centuries. In the New World, too, slavery existed from the earliest moment of human settlement. The Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all practised it as, later, did the colonists.

Although slavery sometimes had an ethnic basis, it was no great respecter of race. Muslim slavers traded in Christians: Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and others. Christians, for their part, enslaved Moors: as late as the sixteenth century, hundreds of thousands of Muslim slaves toiled on Spanish plantations. On the eve of the American civil war, there were 3,000 black slave-owners in the United States.

We are, in other words, all in this together. Everyone on the planet is descended from the exploiters and the exploited. And that, surely, is what makes the arguments over guilt and apologies so silly. We can all agree that slavery was an abominable crime. From a contemporary perspective, it seems unbelievable that otherwise humane societies tolerated it. It is understandable that, feeling wrenched with revulsion, we want to tell someone how miserable we feel about the whole thing.

But tell whom? Anyone we choose to apologise to is statistically certain also to be descended from both owners and owned. It's simply a question of how far back you want to go.

And a Letter to the Editor that blows away those wanting compensation:

I recently watched a laughably embarrassing series (the second of its kind) on BBC 4 entitled Lost Kingdoms of Africa in which a black social historian capered around the, mainly, sub-Saharan continent making absurdly exaggerated claims about various tribal societies. The words sophisticated”, “complex” and “advanced” tripped risibly off his tongue as he described primitive, basic, and largely barbaric clan structures that had hardly changed since the early iron age.

However even this historian who seemed incapable of seeing any primitive piece of metalwork without describing it as “amazing” or “unbelievable”, had to admit that both the Asante and the Baganda “kingdoms” were largely based on the wealth they derived from the slave trade which they enthusiastically supported, supplying their fellow Africans with considerable zeal. In fact they were more than a bit put out when the British stopped the trade and they had to go back to supplying their old traditional customers, Arab slavers, instead.

What used to be known at the white man's burden has for bleeding heart, hand-wringing liberals become the white man's self-inflicted guilt trip as they masochistically crucify themselves over the wickedness of British imperialism, happy to dismiss the fact that under colonial governance and administration, on balance, most African countries enjoyed a sustained period of peace, development and progress unrivalled in the continent's previous and certainly post independence history.

Nobody should or can excuse slavery but it has been carried out for millennia and some of its most active participants were those who now try to cynically and hypocritically pretend it was only ever a case of whites exploiting blacks which is a total travesty.

In facts whites did more to stop the practice than any other single ethnic group.

There is also one other major point that is usually kept well hidden beneath the politically correct carpet as far as the American slave trade is concerned. And that can be summed up in one simple question that might be asked of the 43 million plus African Americans living in the USA.

This is: Despite the appalling sufferings experienced by your ancestors in being brought to America as slaves, how many of you wish your forebears had stayed in Africa and that you were living there now instead of in America? I would suggest that if they are brutally honest, the answer most black Americans would give to this question would be quite revealing.

Colin Harrow


Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #474312
10/07/13 04:56 AM
10/07/13 04:56 AM
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Marty  Offline OP

Belize needs to make a stand on the reparations issue for its people

By Wellington C. Ramos

Since the discussion on “reparations” started I have not heard or seen nothing in the news as to what my country’s position is on this issue. In Belize most of our ethnic groups are victims of European slavery and genocide by the British, Spanish and other European crowns.

The native Maya Indian people were tortured and their land was taken away by the British and Spanish. The Garifuna people were tortured by the British, land taken away and forcefully removed to Rotan, Honduras. The Creole people were brought from the continent of Africa by the British and were enslaved for many years. The East Indian people were forcefully removed by the British to Belize and other countries to provide labour for them in their new colonies.

In Belize and several other former British colonies, there are some people who are so brainwashed that they think they are British, Spanish and other Europeans, despite the genocidal acts these countries committed against their nation and people. From time to time when I engage in conversations with these individuals, they keep trying to convince me why they are British or some European mixed. After all the explanation are given, the only evidence they keep resurfacing is the slave name that the British, Spanish and the other Europeans labeled them with. The reasons why Europeans gave names to people is because they wanted the people to rid themselves of their true identity and then identify themselves as a part of their culture. Then, they did not see the people they enslaved as human beings equivalent to them.

Like all the victims of slavery and genocide I am experiencing problems with my own true identity. My father’s last name is “Ramos”, which is Spanish, probably given to his great-grandfather in Nicaragua where my grandfather was born. My mother’s last name is “Sampson”, which is British or English, given to my great- great-grandfather by an Englishman in Belize. I have several other names that are connected to my family and they are all British, French, Spanish or European. If these names were not given to my ancestors my name would be different today and my family's true identity would be intact to make me know who I am.

I call on all the Creoles, Garifuna, Maya and East Indians to stand behind the Belize government to make sure that Spain, Britain and France pay reparations for slavery and all the genocidal acts committed against our people. If we do not take a stand on this issue, we will be giving those countries the impression that what they did to our ancestors was justified. Plus, our ancestors will be turning in their graves for the sufferings and sacrifices they made with their lives to preserve our culture.

As a Garifuna who is mixed with African and native Indian ethnicity, I am in solidarity with all the ethnic groups in our country who have suffered from European atrocities. We now need to contact the ministries of foreign affairs and culture to appoint a multi-racial ethnic reparations committee to represent us on behalf of our country in CARICOM.

I have not heard anything from the National Garifuna Council (NGC), the Maya Alliance, the Creole Organization and the East Indian Association releasing any statement on the “reparations” issue.

We do not need to wait on the government of Belize to act. The government of Belize wants us to approach them with our own plan of action. If we do not show them that we care and want some action done on this issue they might not do anything. They have already signed on to the agreement that they stand behind all the nations of CARICOM in seeking “reparations” on behalf of their people.

Let us all now go the ministries of foreign affairs and culture to get this “reparations committee” started.

Caribbean News Now

Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #487985
03/14/14 04:44 AM
03/14/14 04:44 AM
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Reparations and The Caribbean Population

AS we told you earlier this week one of the major initiatives coming out of the CARICOM Leader Summit in St. Vincent is the plan to proceed at the state level with claims of reparations for slavery against European states.

The lead proponent of this cause has been Sir Hilary Beckles and today at the at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados will hosted a Press Conference to outline's the Caribbean's case:..

The CARICOM meeting produced a ten point plan, addressing reparatory justice.

Channel 7

Re: Legacies of British Slave-ownership [Re: Marty] #488446
03/22/14 04:44 AM
03/22/14 04:44 AM
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The Caribbean’s quest for reparations expands to seek compensation for the genocide of indigenous people

The 360-foot, weather-beaten tunnel, carved out of volcanic rock and leading to the rough surf of the Atlantic, remains one of the few remnants of this eastern Caribbean island’s vexing past.

Constructed by shackled black hands in the early 19th century, it served as a pivotal route to ferry sugar to waiting ships.

But what Black Point Tunnel, 20 miles north of the capital, doesn’t reveal is the massacre, forced exile and stealing of the native Caribbean people’s lands by colonists to produce the sugar that fueled Britain’s development and wealth.

“We were chased off our lands,” said lawyer Zoila Ellis, a descendant of St. Vincent’s native population — known as the Kalinago, Garifuna or Carib people for whom the region is named. “But it is only part of our story; we still don’t know all of it.”

Until recently, much of the focus around a plan by Caribbean leaders — many of them descendants of enslaved Africans — to pursue reparations from formerly slave-holding Europe has centered on the enduring legacy of 300 years of plantation slavery.

Little has been said about the Caribs’ resistance or the genocide that preceded the arrival of Africans who were trafficked across the Atlantic in crammed ships to work at the sugar plantations.

“The demographic research we have available to us suggests there were some three million … indigenous people before the colonial encounter,” said Hilary Beckles, the Barbadian historian who chairs the reparations task force for Caribbean governments and whose scholarly work on slavery has become the blueprint for leaders’ reparations strategy. “We [now] have less than 30,000.”

In a two-day meeting here last week, governments of the mostly English-speaking Caribbean outlined a 10-point “Reparatory Justice Program” for pursuing compensation.

Leaders not only want a “full formal apology” from Europe but assistance with getting debt cancellation from global financial institutions and money for cultural institutions, illiteracy eradication and development programs for the indigenous population.

By including indigenous people on the list of demands, regional leaders acknowledged a little-known chapter in Caribbean history, one that still reverberates in this string of islands where Carib resistance delayed Britain’s colonization efforts and turned St. Vincent’s mountainous terrain into a refuge for runaway and shipwrecked slaves. By the time Britain abolished slavery in its territories in 1833, the brutal system had been not just a late entry here, but a short-lived reality.

“The slaves knew that once they would be able to get to St. Vincent, they would be given refuge by the Caribs because the Caribs were fighting against the British, and they were escaping from the British,” said Adrian Fraser, a historian and retired head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus in St. Vincent.


But by 1797, the Caribs would lose their fight to retain control of the island.

Thousands were banished to Balliceaux, a nearby, barren island in the northern Grenadines. Those who didn’t die from malnutrition and disease were exiled to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. From there, they gave birth to the present-day Garifuna communities along the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

In an ironic twist not lost on descendants whose ancestors intermarried with runaway slaves to give rise to the Black Caribs, those who left maintained their culture and some form of the language.

“Those who remained here were isolated because they were still fearful of what the authorities would do,” Fraser said. “When they went to school, the history books were telling them they were cannibals, and that their fore-parents were primitive so that being Carib was not something they wanted to be.”

Then came the 1992 quincentenary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival, and descendants began researching their roots.

Garifuna communities, in search of their beginnings, came seeking a connection. Then the government named Carib Chief Joseph Chatoyer, who died in battle fighting the British, as the country’s sole national hero.

“Part of the legacy of colonialism is the whole myth, the negativity that has been passed down,” said Ellis, who last week joined other native descendants in a reparations discussion at a Garifuna Heritage conference in Kingstown. “There is a serious amount of work that needs to be done; we need to continue to break down the perceptions.”

Even in a post-emancipated Caribbean, the indigenous population continued to suffer, and sometimes at the hands of blacks, who accepted the history books and “developed this kind of prejudice against the Caribs,” Fraser said.

Still, opinions are divided on the question of reparations here and across the region where past efforts by activists and academics haven’t yielded much.

“Foolishness!” said Michael Chastanet, one of the most successful businessmen in nearby St. Lucia. “They will get nothing. Europe has no money to give anybody; they are broke themselves.”

For others, it’s not so black-and-white even when they share Chastanet’s doubts.

“I think they should pursue it,” said Caius Pascal, a St. Lucian taxi driver and fisherman. “But I doubt that they’re going to pay us.”

Even in St. Vincent, where hundreds come monthly to walk through Black Point Tunnel, park manager Jeffrey Hopson, 53, isn’t convinced that leaders, who also are seeking a meeting with their European counterparts while threatening litigation, are pursuing the right path.

“The set of people who should be compensated are the people of Africa, who were robbed,” Hopson said. “I can’t see myself fighting for reparations.”

But when you consider “the hard work black people did during that time,” reparations only seem right, countered park visitor and self-employed Vincentian Leroi John, 29.

“In some parts of the world, black people are still suffering from the repercussions,” John said, marveling at the craftsmanship of the tunnel, considered an engineering feat when it was built in 1815.


Beckles said reparations isn’t about standing on a street corner and handing victims a check.

It’s about the legal and moral obligations of Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, which benefited from slavery and colonization, to “return and participate in the upliftment and development of this region.”

“The governments of Europe have a responsibility to put to an end the continuing harm and suffering resulting from the genocides from the indigenous peoples, the chattel enslavement of African peoples and the apartheid which was put in place in the century after emancipation,” he said.

As an example, Beckles said, the survivors of the genocide, “are the most marginalized people in Caribbean societies. They are the most disenfranchised people in the Caribbean largely because they are seeking to rebuild their societies.”

Beckles said the reparations commissions — 14 of the 15 member countries have them, with Britain-dependent Montserrat waiting it out for now — have chosen to focus on the European governments because they “were also owners of slaves and also involved in the trading of slaves.”

“The governments were the ones who gave instructions for the actions that led to the genocidal effects upon the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean,” he said. “The Caribbean governments entering into the period of independence have inherited a legacy of slavery, colonization and apartheid that have undermined their best efforts at development.”

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office said there has been no formal request from the Caribbean to discuss the issue.

“We do not see reparations as the answer. Instead, we should concentrate on identifying ways forward with a focus on the shared global challenges that face our countries in the 21st century,” the statement said.

Fraser, the historian, says he, too, has doubts about whether regional leaders, who until recently have been reluctant to confront their past, will succeed.

Still, as a proponent of righting wrongs committed against the indigenous population in St. Vincent, Fraser sees the Caribbean’s quest as a starting point for a long-overdue conversation.

“Today, as we talk about sustainability, it isn’t they the Caribs, and us,” Fraser said, referring to historic tensions between Caribs and blacks. “It is all of us who struggled through the darkest days of colonialism.”


CARICOM is seeking a summit with leaders of former European nations engaged in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to discuss their 10 demands outlined in a “Caribbean Reparatory Justice Program.”

1. Full formal apology. Leaders want an apology and acknowledgment from Europe of crimes against humanity.

2. Repatriation. Ethiopia, Gambia, Senegal, South Africa and Ghana have all opened their doors to Caribbean people seeking to return but no formal resettlement program exists.

3. Indigenous peoples development program. Survivors of the genocide that preceded slavery are the most marginalized in Caribbean society, leaders say. Today they are about 30,000, spread out in places such as St. Vincent and Dominica, and need assistance with rebuilding their societies.

4. Cultural institutions. The region lacks museums, research and learning centers dedicated to slavery or the indigenous population history. As a result there is a lack of consciousness or awareness of the history.

5. Public health crisis. The Caribbean’s black population is one of the world’s unhealthiest, with more than 60 percent over 60 suffering from hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes or both. Leaders argue this is the result of the stress and nutritional profile associated with slavery and colonization, and assistance is needed with organized intervention and research programs.

6. Illiteracy eradication. As the English-speaking Caribbean entered a new era of independence, more than 70 percent of its population was functionally illiterate, leaders say. That legacy has crippled the region’s development.

7. African knowledge programs. Many in the region lack knowledge about their ancestral homeland and need programs encouraging school exchanges, culture tours, community and entrepreneurial and religious engagements.

8. Psychological rehabilitation. Repercussions of slavery still exist throughout the region, and leaders advocate programs to foster Caribbean integration.

9. Technology transfer. The region’s development has been hampered by the lack of technological advances, and assistance is needed to assist its rural, tourism-based economies.

10. Debt cancellation. The recent global economic crisis has not helped Caribbean nations, which have become deeply indebted to keep their economies afloat.

Miami Herald

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