A BBC journalist has publicly apologised to the people of Grenada for her aristocratic ancestors’ ownership of more than 1,000 slaves – with her family donating £100,000 in reparations.
Laura Trevelyan, 54, a BBC reporter based in New York, delivered the apology at a ceremony in the capital St George’s on Monday, attended by Grenada’s prime minister.
Trevelyan said the signed public apology was the first step in reparations, and that the money the family will give to the country pales in comparison to her ancestor’s fortune derived from their slave ownership.
Trevelyan read the apology aloud with her cousin John Dower, with other members of the family signing the letter of apology on behalf of 104 family members.
‘To the people of Grenada, we, the undersigned, write to apologise for the actions of our ancestors in holding your ancestors in slavery,’ the apology read.
Laura Trevelyan (right) and John Dower delivered the apology at a ceremony in the capital St George’s on Monday
‘To the people of Grenada, we, the undersigned, write to apologise for the actions of our ancestors in holding your ancestors in slavery,’ the apology read
Trevelyan read the apology aloud with her cousin John Dower, with other members of the family signing the letter of apology on behalf of 104 family members
‘I’m so sorry about our painful, shared past and for the role of our ancestors in it,’ the journalist said.
Her cousin John Dower said ‘we repudiate our ancestors’ involvement’.
The family’s aristocratic relatives had more than 1,000 slaves across six sugar plantations on the Caribbean island in the 19th century.
In 1834, the Trevelyan family were awarded £26,898 in compensation for the release of slaves following the abolition of slavery. This money would be worth around £3 million today.
The family acknowledged that the £100,000 they were giving was far short of the compensation in 1834, but said this is what they could afford to give at this time.
The money will be put towards a community fund for economic development in the nation to be managed by the University of the West Indies.
The family said there will also be further private donations made from individual members of the family.
Dower also use the ceremony to call on the British government to enter into talks with leaders of Caribbean nations to negotiate compensation.
‘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,’ Dower said.
Sir John Trevelyan with his wife Louisa Simon (centre couple) who had more than 1,000 slaves on Grenada
Laura Trevelyan, 54, is a BBC reporter based in New York
‘I’m so sorry about our painful, shared past and for the role of our ancestors in it,’ Laura Trevelyan said
Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell accepted the family’s apology and noted this was not something they had to do.
‘I appreciate that some of our fellow citizens may see this as tokenism, as an attempt to pacify us, but I am satisfied that sometimes even tokenism is a step in the right direction. They did not have to do this,’ the prime minister said.
Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, who the Trevelyan family said they worked with to deliver the repatriation and apology, also spoke at the ceremony.
Beckles called the Trevelyan’s ancestors ‘leading architects’ and an ‘essential part of the slavocracy of this world’.
The Vice-Chancellor recounted that some 3.5 million Africans were brought to the Caribbean by the British, and only 600,000 remained at the time when slavery was abolished.
Beckles said: ‘The enslavers dominated the British parliament. They were the legislators. So the enslavers raided the British Treasury of £20m pounds to pay themselves. It was the largest ever expenditure taken by the British parliament.’
Sir Charles Trevelyan is also an ancestor of the family. He was the English official in charge of Irish famine relief when outbreaks of potato blight killed half a million people in the 1840s and 1850s
Wood engraving of a man taking the pulse of a sick Irish emigrant on board ship bound for North America during the potato famine
Arley Gill, chairman of the Grenada National Reparations Commission (GNRC) said the Trevelyans had made a ‘brave step’.
‘Today is a day of remembrance, a day to remember our ancestors and their descendants and it is finally a day of recognition of the harms of slavery and a moment of reckoning that is long overdue,’ he said.
‘This apology and financial commitment from Laura Trevelyan and her family should serve as a clarion call to other families, institutions and governments to acknowledge their wrongs, apologise and commit to repairing the harm done by their ancestors.’
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