Heirs of Slavery launched in UK to make amends for past wrongs
The descendants of some of Britain’s wealthiest families, who profited from and supported transatlantic slavery, have gathered together and launched a group, Heirs of Slavery, which seeks to apologise for the past and give financial reparations.
Co-founded by Laura Trevelyan, the descendants of some of the most prominent names in the history of British slavery have called on the British government to begin long-requested talks on reconciliation and reparative justice for the descendants of the 3.1 million enslaved Africans transported across the Atlantic by Britain.
The Heirs of Slavery have also called on King Charles to apologise for slavery. The king’s response so far has been to welcome scholars to dig into the royal archives to uncover the connections between the royals and slave-generated wealth. They’ve already discovered that Edward Colston, an English merchant and member of the Royal African Company–slave traders–gave £1000-worth of shares to King William III.
According to Trevelyan, the group is campaigning to address “the ongoing consequences of this crime against humanity.”
“British slavery was legal, industrialised and based entirely on race,” said Alex Renton, a member of the group. “Britain has never apologised 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.”
Members of the group have publicly acknowledged that their ancestors’ wealth was in part derived from plantations worked by enslaved Africans, and for whom the slave-owners received compensation at British slavery’s abolition in the 1830s.
“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 recognised by the descendants of those who profited from it, there can never be healing,” said Richard Atkinson.
“I joined this group in an attempt to begin to address the appalling ills visited on so many people by my ancestor John Gladstone,” said Charles Gladstone.
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 Britain and Caribbean countries.
“This group wants to move beyond personal donations, which can never be enough,” said Rosemary Harrison.
“After so long, the reparatory justice movement 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.