An aristocratic British family, whose ancestors owned over 1,000 enslaved Africans in Grenada, has announced it will be traveling to the Caribbean to render an apology for its involvement in slavery, The Guardian reported.
Besides the apology, the Trevelyan family also announced a financial reparations package for Grenada. The family is said to have been involved in the sugar business, and it owned six plantations in the Caribbean nation.
Family members had an online meeting and agreed to append their signatures to a letter rendering an apology for enslaving Africans who had been captured. The letter has so far been signed by over 40 family members. It is expected that more relatives will sign the letter.
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, slavery was abolished by Britain in 1807 through the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. However, the dark practice persisted in British colonies until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 brought an end to it.
But per the act, slave owners were given financial compensation for losing people they had enslaved as they were deemed as their “property”, Express reported. And to ensure the slave owners were duly compensated, the British government borrowed £20 million (currently £300 billion /$400 billion) to facilitate the initiative. The amount was said to be one of the biggest loans to have ever been taken. At the time, the amount also constituted 40% of the annual income of the British Treasury. That debt was settled by the Treasury just as recently as 2015.
The Trevelyan family was paid £26,898 (around £2.7m or $3m in today’s money) in 1835 as compensation. Laura Trevelyan, who is a BBC correspondent in New York, has donated £100,000 as reparations to the people of Grenada. The donation will help fund the establishment of a Reparations Research Fund at the University of the West Indies. The project will examine the economic impacts of enslavement – particularly on development in Grenada and the eastern Caribbean, The Guardian reported.
“It’s absolutely fascinating that I am seeing 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’,” Nicole Phillip-Dowe, vice-chair of the Grenada National Reparations Commission, said. “It is commendable that the Trevelyan family has taken this step and I hope it will be followed by others.”
John Dower, who is a family member, said he became aware of their ancestors’ involvement in slavery when he and another family member accessed the University College London slavery database to search the Trevelyan name. That was 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.
According to Dower, an unqualified apology is the initial step in the Caricom [Caribbean Community] 10-point reparation action plan, The Guardian reported. “We, the undersigned, write to apologize for the actions of our ancestors in holding your ancestors in slavery,” the family’s apology states.
“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 called on the British government to apologize. “We urge the British government to enter into meaningful negotiations with the governments of the Caribbean in order to make appropriate reparations through Caricom and bodies such as the Grenada National Reparations Commission,” the family stated.
The letter also stated that the family is “working to identify other projects that can support communities in Grenada with the help of the Grenada National Reparations Commission among others.”