Two of the UK’s biggest institutions – the Church of England and the Bank of England – have apologised for their historic links to slavery with the church calling it “a source of shame”, prompting a reaction from the Caribbean countries.
The apologies, reported on Thursday by the Telegraph newspaper in the UK, came after an analysis of figures compiled by University College London (UCL) found that individual members of both institutions profited from slavery.
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The UCL research found that nearly 100 clergymen and six governors plus four directors of the bank benefitted from slavery, the Telegraph reported.
In response, a Church of England spokesman told the newspaper: “While we recognise the leading role clergy and active members of the Church of England played in securing the abolition of slavery, it is a source of shame that others within the church actively perpetrated slavery and profited from it.”
A Bank of England spokesman said: “As an institution, the Bank was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former governors and directors and apologises for them.”
The bank added it would remove any images on display of former executives who were involved with the slave trade.
The Lloyd’s of London insurance company also apologised on Thursday for its “shameful” role in the 18th century slave trade and pledged to fund opportunities for Black and ethnic minority people.
The history of several other financial firms in the UK, including Barclays, is also under fresh scrutiny.
‘Sorry is not enough’
A regional alliance of Caribbean countries reacted to the move, saying the institutions that benefitted from slavery should go further than saying sorry and atone for their role in the slave trade by funding Caribbean development.
“It is not enough to say sorry,” said Hilary Beckles, chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission which was set up by Caribbean countries to seek reparations from former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom, France and Portugal.
“We are not asking for anything as mendicant as handing out cheques to people on street corners,” Beckles told Reuters news agency from Jamaica.
The UK’s institutions, he said, should sit down with Caribbean nations to fund development projects – or even consider a sort of “Marshall Plan” to give some of the plundered wealth back – a reference to the United States’ aid given to Europe after the destruction of World War II.