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Barbados May Seek Slavery Reparations from Marvel’s Doctor Strange Actor Benedict Cumberbatch After It Is Revealed His Family Owned a Sugar Cane Plantation

Benedict Cumberbatch and his family’s ties to the slave trade in Barbados have become a hot topic as talks of seeking reparations grow louder. As the new year kicked off, so did headlines about the Caribbean country eyeing the actor’s fortune.

According to The Telegraph, the Oscar nominee’s family owned a sugar plantation in Barbados during the 18th and 19th centuries. His seventh great-grandfather purchased the land that housed 250 slaves. The business ran for roughly 100 years and aided the Cumberbatch family in building its wealth. When slavery was abolished in 1834, the family was forced to close their business and was compensated roughly $1 million in today’s money.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 03: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is seen filming “Doctor Strange” on April 3, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/GC Images)

Now, the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration is leading the charge in efforts to obtain reparations from the wealthy descendants of slave trade benefactors. “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family,” David Penny, general secretary of the movement, told the publication. 

The actor famously portrayed slave trade abolitionist William Pitt the Younger in 2006’s “Amazing Grace.” He also played plantation owner Ford in the Academy-acclaimed film “12 Years a Slave.” Cumberbatch is rumored to have chosen the former project because “he felt sorry for the fact that his ancestors were involved in the slave trade.” His own mother reportedly also suggested he steer clear of using his real surname due to its ties to slavery, though it is evident he ultimately chose to stick with the name. He is estimated to be worth $40 million.

Barbados’ Deputy Chairman David Comissiong added that they are still in the early stages of seeking reparations. “We are just beginning,” Comissiong said. “A lot of this history is only really now coming to light. The money should be used to turn the local clinic into a hospital, support local schools, and improve infrastructure and housing.”

Barbados was under the thumb of Great Britain and its slave trade for roughly 200 years and saw upwards of half a million Africans and their descendants work the sugar cane fields. The country has been described as one of the most brutalized and colonized lands during those times. However, Cumberbatch is not the only target of reparations for the country that has since established its sovereignty from the British monarch. Richard Drax, a Conservative MP, is facing mounting pressure to return hundreds of acres of land once used as a sugar plantation. In its place, the country’s government hopes to build a monument honoring the nation’s slave ancestors.

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