Aristocratic British Family Will Make History By Traveling To Grenada To Apologize For Owning Slaves

Photo Credit: British Library


According to The Guardian, an aristocratic British family whose ancestors owned over 1,000 enslaved Africans in Grenada has announced that it will travel to the Caribbean to apologize for its involvement in slavery.

In addition to the apology, the Trevelyan family announced financial reparations for Grenada. The family is said to have been in the sugar business and to have owned six plantations in the Caribbean country.

Family members held an online meeting and agreed to sign a letter apologizing for enslaving Africans who had been captured. Over 40 family members have already signed the letter. More relatives are expected to sign the letter.

Slavery was abolished by Britain in 1807 through the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, as previously reported by How Africa. The dark practice, however, persisted in British colonies until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 put an end to it.

However, according to the act, slave owners were compensated financially for the loss of people they had enslaved because they were considered their “property,” according to Express. To ensure that slave owners were properly compensated, the British government borrowed £20 million (approximately £300 billion /$400 billion) to facilitate the initiative. The amount was said to be one of the largest loans ever made. The sum was also 40% of the British Treasury’s annual income at the time. That debt was only recently settled by the Treasury.

In 1835, the Trevelyan family was compensated with £26,898 (approximately £2.7m or $3m in today’s money). Laura Trevelyan, a BBC correspondent in New York, has donated £100,000 to the people of Grenada as reparations. The gift will go toward the creation of a Reparations Research Fund at the University of the West Indies. According to The Guardian, the project will investigate the economic effects of enslavement, particularly on development in Grenada and the eastern Caribbean.

“It’s incredible to be witnessing history being made. “It takes a leap of faith for a family to say,’my forefathers did something horribly wrong, and I think we should take some responsibility for it,'” said Nicole Phillip-Dowe, vice-chair of Grenada’s National Reparations Commission. “It is commendable that the Trevelyan family has taken this step, and I hope that others will follow.”

A family member, John Dower, said he discovered their ancestors’ involvement in slavery when he and another family member searched the Trevelyan name in the University College London slavery database. That happened in 2016.

“What I read shocked me as it listed the ownership of 1,004 slaves over six estates shared by six of my ancestors,” Dower said. “I had no idea. It became apparent that no one living in the family knew about it. It had been expunged from the family history,” Dower continued.

“I was more than shocked, I was badly shaken. I was under the impression that I came from a benevolent, public service facing family.”

Laura Trevelyan also said that “If anyone had ‘white privilege’, it was surely me, a descendant of Caribbean slave owners.” “My own social and professional standing nearly 200 years after the abolition of slavery had to be related to my slave-owning ancestors, who used the profits from sugar sales to accumulate wealth and climb up the social ladder,” she added.

Dower stated that an unqualified apology is the first step in the Caricom [Caribbean Community] 10-point reparation action plan, as reported by The Guardian. “We, the undersigned, write to apologize for our ancestors’ actions in keeping your ancestors in slavery,” the family apologizes.

“Slavery was and is unacceptable and repugnant. Its damaging effects continue to the present day. We repudiate our ancestors’ involvement in it.”

The family also demanded that the British government apologize. “We urge the British government to engage in meaningful negotiations with Caribbean governments in order to make appropriate reparations through Caricom and bodies such as the Grenada National Reparations Commission,” the family said.

The family is also “working to identify other projects that can support communities in Grenada with the help of the Grenada National Reparations Commission, among others,” according to the letter.


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