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‘I Felt Ashamed’: BBC Reporter Offers Over $120K In Reparations, Formal Apology After Learning Her Family Owned Sugar Plantations

A BBC reporter is giving £100,000 or more than $120,000 to a community in Grenada after learning that her slave-owning family was compensated when slavery was abolished.

British reporter Laura Trevelyan told the BBC on Feb. 4 her family owned six sugar plantations in Grenada until slavery was abolished in 1833. Trevelyan revealed that she would donate the funds to help establish a fund for economic development in the community.

“The Trevelyan family is apologizing to the people of Grenada for the role our ancestors played in enslavement on the island, and engaging in reparations,” she wrote.

Trevelyan visited the country back in 2022 and said that she was ashamed to learn how the enslaved were treated by her ancestors. She also said she felt duty-bound to do something about it.

Laura Trevelyan
BBC Reporter Laura Trevelyan (left) visits Grenada and views various tools used on people during slavery. (Photo: BBC / YouTube)

“It was really horrific,” said Trevelyan. “When I saw for myself the plantations where slaves were punished, when I saw the instruments of torture that were used to restrain them, when I looked at the neck braces, at the manacles, at the system of dehumanization that my family had profited from as absentee slave-owners of these sugar plantations, I felt ashamed.”

“I also felt that it was my duty, you can’t repair the past — but you can acknowledge the pain and that I wanted to do something to make it better.”

Trevelyan added that seven members of her family would be going to Grenada to issue a formal public apology.

Trevelyan also revealed that her family received £34,000 or $41,000 in 1834 after slavery was abolished as reparations for their loss of “property.” The UK took out loans to pay plantation owners reparations but gave freed people nothing.

American BBC producer Koralie Barrau said that the artifacts she saw were “sickening.”

“It’s sickening. I look at these neckbraces, these handcuffs for children, these whips,” said Barrau. “And it could have been me. Five or six generations back. This is what my ancestors had to endure and it’s very chilling.”

The British Royal Family has been called on to pay reparations as well. When Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth II from her position as head of state back in 2021, King Charles III attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Dame Sandra Mason when he was still the Prince of Wales. He called slavery an “appalling atrocity” and was awarded the Order of Freedom of Barbados by Mason.

However, Columbia University anthropology professor David Scott said that apologies aren’t enough and noted the connection between the royal family and slavery. “There were slave owners and slave plantation owners in Queen Elizabeth II’s family,” said Scott. “There is a deep connection between the monarchy and slaving in the British Caribbean.”

While embarking on a Caribbean tour in April last year, The Earl and Countess of Wessex had to cancel their scheduled trip to Grenada amid opposition on the island to their visit. Prince Edward and Sophia and others in the Royal Family were met with demands for reparations and atonement for slavery on the celebratory trip.

In 2013, an intergovernmental economic union in the Caribbean called CARICOM founded a reparations commission that came up with a 10-point plan for governments in Europe to pay reparations. The plan includes literacy programs, debt forgiveness and a formal apology.

Trevelyan agrees that reparations should be paid and spoke of the decades of poverty and poor health linked to slavery. Her family will formally donate the funds on Feb. 27. One of her relatives, John Dower, called slavery “crimes against humanity” and said that the family hoped that others would also consider reparations.

Vice-chair of the Grenada National Reparations Commission Nicole Phillip-Dowe called Trevelyan’s gesture fascinating and commendable. “It’s absolutely fascinating that I am seeing history being made,” she said. “It takes a leap of faith for a family to say, ‘my forefathers did something horribly wrong and I think we should take some responsibility for it’. It is commendable that the Trevelyan family has taken this step and I hope it will be followed by others.”

“We want to lead by example,” said Dower. “In the hope that others will follow.”

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