This article by Frederick H. Lowe appeared in The Louisiana Weekly.
August 1 passed quietly, but it shouldn’t have because it is an important day in the history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and a strong reminder as to why large numbers of Blacks never got a leg up on the economic ladder.
On August 1, 1834, England, the world’s biggest slave trader, ended 250 years of a “national crime” against Africans, but slaveholders and slave traders were paid millions of British pounds in reparations for the loss of their property, as enslaved Africans were considered.
The British government paid the slaveholders and others who benefited from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade £20 million or about $200 billion in today’s currency, according to the book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, by Sir Hilary McD. Beckles, chair of social and economic history at the University of the West Indies in Cave Hill, Barbados. Formerly enslaved Africans received nothing.
Supporters and beneficiaries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade included members of the royal family, most members of Parliament, and the Anglican Church, which owned slaves and plantations in the Caribbean.
Banks, including Barclays PLC, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland Group, also benefited financially from the enslavement of Africans. Slavery provided the funds for England to become the world’s first industrial power.
From 1701 to 1800, England shipped 2,532,300 African slaves to Caribbean colonies and North American colonies, according to “The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis,” Journal of African History 22, no. 4 (1982): 483. The Portuguese shipped 1,796,300 million enslaved Africans, followed by the French who shipped 1,180,300 million.
Beckles’ book reports on the slave trade in the Caribbean. Fourteen Caribbean countries are now negotiating with England and other European countries for reparations for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
If negotiations fail, the next step will be the World Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. Beckles’ book is considered a blueprint for reparations in the Caribbean.
Tony Blair, England’s former prime minister, has said Britain will not apologize or pay reparations for the country’s role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.