Family Of Former Slaver Apologizes For Role In Guyanese Slave Trade
The descendants of John Gladstone, a 19th-Century British sugar and coffee planter who owned thousands of enslaved people, traveled to Guyana to issue a formal apology for their ancestors’ actions. According to the Associated Press, Charles Gladstone and five other relatives made the trip to the University of Guyana, where the family addressed a crowd.
“It is with deep shame and regret that we acknowledge our ancestors’ involvement in this crime, and with heartfelt sincerity, we apologize to the descendants of the enslaved in Guyana,” Charles Gladstone said. “In doing so, we acknowledge slavery’s continuing impact on the daily lives of many.”
The trip follows a call earlier this month from Guyanese President Irfaan Ali for Britain and other European nations to issue reparations.
Ali also was critical of the descendants of slave traders.
“The trans-Atlantic slave trade and African enslavement were an affront to humanity itself,” Ali said. “The heinousness of this crime against humanity demands that we seek to right these wrongs. The descendants of John Gladstone must now also outline their plan of action in line with the Caricom…plan for reparatory justice for slavery and indentureship.”
John Gladstone was an absentee plantation owner, but he was in charge when a rebellion occurred in 1823 in Success Village. As a result of the efforts to end the rebellion, the rebels were decapitated with their heads mounted on poles to the capital of Georgetown as a warning.
According to Charles Gladstone, there will be a partnership created between his family and the people of Guyana. “In writing this heartfelt apology, we also acknowledge Sir John Gladstone’s role in bringing indentured laborers to Guyana, and apologize for the clear and manifold injustices of this,” he said.
Outside the auditorium, a small group of protesters shouted and held up signs reading “The Gladstones are murderers” and “Stolen people, stolen dreams.” The leader of the protest, Cedric Castellow, claimed that Britain and other colonizing countries owe Guyana and the Caribbean billions of dollars.
“The British government and others benefited from the slave trade, their descendants and heirs. They owe us, and the legacy will affect future generations as well,” Castellow told the Associated Press.
After the speech, ex-BBC journalist Laura Trevelayan, whose family also apologized for their role in the slave trade in Guyana, told the Associated Press, “It seems that the momentum for the global reparations movement is being led by the Caribbean and its intellectuals.”
“People like us support the Caricom … plan, and I really hope that the British government will begin negotiations with the Caribbean in the near future,” Trevelayan added.