In what is being represented as a major victory in the fight to make Europe pay reparations to the Caribbean for the brutal transatlantic slave trade, the umbrella University of the West Indies is reporting that the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom has agreed to begin making reparations payments in the near future after talks with a regional commission.
Dr. Hilary Beckles, the UWI vice chancellor, this week reported that agreement had been reached with the U.K. school to pay the value of Sterling 200 million for its part in the English slave trade to the Caribbean.
The announcement comes as regional governments continue to press governments in England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and others to attend a summit to discuss reparation payments to the 15-nation Caribbean Community and to decide whether the region should take the case to court to force those who benefited from the slave trade to compensate today’s descendants.
“The University of Glasgow has recognized that Jamaican slave owners had adopted the University of Glasgow as their university of choice and that £200 million of value was extracted from Jamaica and the Caribbean,” Beckles said in an announcement on Jamaica News Network program, “Insight,” as the workweek began. Beckles is the chairperson of the umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission, which has been mandated by regional governments to force Britain and other European slave traders to own up and pay up for their role in genocide.
Governments had sent demand letters to European governments in the past year, urging them to sit down and talk about the past. Britain and France were among the most strident in their refusal to cooperate in any meaningful way with the commission. Critics say the move by the university will certainly undermine its position because the school is now acknowledging its role in the slave trade.
Beckles said the school had recently delved into its records only to find that there was “a massive influx of grants and endowments from Jamaica.” The two schools are now drafting a memorandum of understanding that will govern the reparation payments and relations going forward. The term “reparatory justice” is expected to be included.
“We are not on the street corners asking for handouts,” said Beckles. “We are looking for partnerships and development.”
The money will come in cash and kind, scholarships, exchange programs and other activities. “They are looking at the possibility of partnering with us and having a massive institute for chronic disease research that is going to prevent the proliferation of these diseases in the future,” said Beckles.
In browsing through its records, researchers found that the university had benefited directly from the Caribbean slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, equivalent to Sterling 200 million at today’s value. Researchers had worked for approximately two years on the project.
In a previous discussion on universities and the slave trade, Beckles named North Carolina and Georgetown University in the Washington, D.C. area as those whose trails lead back to the Caribbean.
“The people who owned Dukes plantation in Barbados had split their money between Barbados and North Carolina and founded Duke University, the owners of which recently donated land to UWI for a major agricultural project,” said Beckles. “Meanwhile, when Georgetown University was going through bankruptcy in the 19th century, it sold 200 of the more than 400 slaves it owned in order to get back on its feet.”
He added, “A slave trader who originally lived in Antigua fled after a slave revolt there and moved to Boston and provided the initial funding for the Harvard Law School.”