The apology by family of William Gladstone comes as many Guyanese descendants of African slaves have sought reparations.
The family of former British Prime Minister William Gladstone apologised for their family’s slave-owning past in Guyana on Friday, as descendants of slaves have sought reparations.
William’s father, John, was one of the largest slaveholders in the parts of the Caribbean colonised by Britain. He is also believed to have owned two ships that transported thousands of Asians from India and elsewhere to work as indentured labourers after the abolition of slavery in 1834.
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“Slavery was a crime against humanity and its damaging impact continues to be felt across the world today,” Charles Gladstone, William’s great-great grandson, said at a launch for the University of Guyana’s International Centre for the Study of Migration and Diaspora.
“It is with deep shame and regret that we acknowledge our ancestor’s involvement in this crime and with heartfelt sincerity that we apologise to the descendants of the enslaved in Guyana,” he added.
“We also urge other descendants of those who benefited from slavery to open conversations about their ancestors’ crimes and what they might be able to do to build a better future.”
The Gladstones also apologised for their role in indentureship – which bound workers with their employers.
But his words were met with a strong rebuke by several Guyanese descendants of African slaves present at the university lecture hall.
“It is not accepted,” one of them shouted.
The protesters held placards that read: “Your guilt is real Charlie. Move quickly to reparations now”, and “The Gladstones are murderers.”
Afro-Guyanese activist Nicole Cole, who was among the protesters, said the apology was insufficient.