Reparations for Slavery: A Just Demand, Constantly Blocked by Bourgeois Legal System

[In the systems whose wealth and power is rooted in historic plunder, enslavement, displacement and extermination, the demand for reparations (“to repair the damage”) is routinely dismissed and denounced by bourgeois media and law — as “unreasonable” or “unrealistic,” at best, or, more commonly, as “irrational” or “greedy” or even “treasonous.” — Frontlines ed.]

For the sins of the fathers:  Caribbean countries sue for slavery, but what could it mean for SA?

Rebecca Davis, World (South African publication)22 Oct 2013
Rebeccaslavery

Fourteen Caribbean nations are to sue European governments for reparations for slavery. The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is bringing lawsuits to the International Court of Justice in the Hague against Britain, France and the Netherlands for their roles in the Atlantic slave trade. They argue that the social and economic legacy of slavery continues to disadvantage them to this day. It’s an interesting case, and it might prompt some reflection about South Africa’s own reparations issues. By REBECCA DAVIS.

Regional Caribbean organisation Caricom, through its British law firm Leigh Day, will seek to make the case in the Hague that through their colonial participation in the slave-trade, Britain, France and the Netherlands essentially contributed towards the stunting of Caribbean development, and now owe 14 Caribbean nations reparations for slavery and an apology.

Exactly how much money they want, and how they think it should be disbursed, is not yet clear. The figure mentioned by several media outlets has been that Britain paid 20 million pounds in compensation to slave-owners in the Caribbean almost two decades after the abolition of slavery in 1834. (The slaves got nothing.) This figure was massive even at the time, amounting to 40% of the erstwhile government’s budget, and would now be equivalent to about 200 billion pounds. Continue reading

The Caribbean case for Reparations from Britain

Reparations: a case for settlement

A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain's Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. - AP
[A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain’s Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. – AP]

Courtenay Barnett, Guest Columnist, The Gleaner (Jamaica, West Indies), Sunday, June 30, 2013

This month, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) was required to pay 19.9 million pounds in compensation to some 5,000 elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. This case bears lessons for the Caribbean and it also has much to teach about the true nature of the British Empire.

The British imposed themselves in Kenya and confiscated land. In 1948, a quarter-million Kenyans were confined to 2,000 square miles, while 30,000 English settlers lived on 12,000 square miles of the most fertile lands in Kenya. Africans under an apartheid and colonial policy were forbidden to enter certain areas and confined away from the most arable land.

Not surprisingly, the Kenyans rebelled and started a violent campaign against the white settlers in 1952. The colonialists responded, and the Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated that 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed. There was the use of literal concentration camps as a nationwide network of detention for some 160,000 who were detained in the most appalling conditions.

TORTURED

President Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, happened to be one of those detained persons. He had pins placed into his fingernails and in his buttocks and his testicles were squeezed between metal rods. Other Kenyans were forcibly relocated in new villages. Within the camps, the British inflicted beatings, castrated, raped and performed other forms of sexual abuse and torture applying brutal interrogation techniques against the Kenyans.

It was against this background that elderly Kenyans who had suffered abuse when detained filed a claim in the English High Court. Two of the original five claimants had been castrated and an African lady who had been raped was included in the claim. Continue reading

Britain’s “regrets” for colonial torture in Kenya and the reparations debate in Caribbean

Editorial, Jamaica Observer, Friday, June 07, 2013

England’s expression yesterday of sincere regret and offer of compensation for the acts of torture that a British colonial government carried out against Kenyans fighting for liberation from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s, will, we expect, revive the reparations debate in the Caribbean.

As reported on page 29 of today’s Jamaica Observer, the simultaneous announcement in Nairobi and London sparked celebration in the Kenyan capital. Elderly Kenyans clapped and sang joyful songs of struggle during a near two-hour press conference attended by Mr Christian Turner, the British high commissioner to Kenya.

In London, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that his Government accepted that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other ill treatment.

However, what we found most significant was that Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office insisted that an “expression of deep regret” was not the same thing as an apology.

Wire service reports tell us that the compensation will see approximately US$21.5 million being paid to the 5,200 Kenyans who were found to have been tortured, or about US$4,100 per Kenyan victim. Another US$9.25 million will be used to pay costs to the Kenyans’ legal team.

Quite frankly, the payouts are low, and the British Government, we are told, has made it clear that it “doesn’t accept liability for the actions of previous colonial governments”. Continue reading

Britain’s colonial shame: Slave-owners given huge payouts after abolition

David Cameron’s ancestors were among the wealthy families who received generous reparation payments that would be worth millions of pounds in today’s money

Sanchez Manning, The Independent

Sunday 24 February 2013

The true scale of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade has been laid bare in documents revealing how the country’s wealthiest families received the modern equivalent of billions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished.

The previously unseen records show exactly who received what in payouts from the Government when slave ownership was abolished by Britain – much to the potential embarrassment of their descendants. Dr Nick Draper from University College London, who has studied the compensation papers, says as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived all or part of their fortunes from the slave economy.

As a result, there are now wealthy families all around the UK still indirectly enjoying the proceeds of slavery where it has been passed on to them. Dr Draper said: “There was a feeding frenzy around the compensation.” A John Austin, for instance, owned 415 slaves, and got compensation of £20,511, a sum worth nearly £17m today. And there were many who received far more.

Academics from UCL, led by Dr Draper, spent three years drawing together 46,000 records of compensation given to British slave-owners into an internet database to be launched for public use on Wednesday. But he emphasised that the claims set to be unveiled were not just from rich families but included many “very ordinary men and women” and covered the entire spectrum of society.

Dr Draper added that the database’s findings may have implications for the “reparations debate”. Barbados is currently leading the way in calling for reparations from former colonial powers for the injustices suffered by slaves and their families. Continue reading

Jamaica Revives Slavery Reparations Commission

British ship in the Middle Passage of the African Slave Trade

By DAVID McFADDEN Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica November 2, 2012 (AP)

Jamaica has revived a reparations commission to research slavery’s social and economic impact and examine whether the predominantly black Caribbean island should seek compensation or a formal apology from Britain to heal old wounds, officials said Thursday.

The government-formed commission has about 2½ years to receive submissions, evaluate research and undertake public consultations in order to make recommendations for a possible reparations claim, said chairwoman Verene A. Shepherd, a historian who is director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at Jamaica’s University of the West Indies.

Shepherd said the work of the reconvened commission started Thursday. It is made up of roughly a dozen academics, lawyers, Rastafarians and students. A previous panel formed in 2009 was disbanded a year later due to financial constraints.

In the British colony of Jamaica, enslaved Africans were bought and sold at auctions

Jamaica is a former British colony where slavery was abolished on Aug. 1, 1834.

Although estimates vary, researchers say tens of millions of African men, women and children were enslaved and shipped to the Caribbean and the Americas, with millions dying in holding camps in Africa or during the trans-Atlantic voyage.

Historians say their labor alone made a vast difference to the economies of the New and Old World. In Jamaica, most slaves were forced to work under brutal conditions on sugar plantations. Continue reading

US Plantation History 101, as taught by a formerly enslaved to his former slaveowner

[An early documentation of the demand for reparations. — Frontlines ed.]

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Freed slave who penned sarcastic letter to old master after he was asked back to farm pictured for first time

By Associated Press, 16 July 2012

The photograph, scratched and undated, is captioned ‘Brother Jordan Anderson’. He is a middle-aged black man with a long beard and a righteous stare, as if he were a preacher locking eyes with a sinner, or a judge about to dispatch a thief to the gallows.

Anderson was a former slave who was freed from a Tennessee plantation by Union troops in 1864 and spent his remaining 40 years in Ohio.

He lived quietly and probably would have been forgotten, if not for a remarkable letter to his former master published in a Cincinnati newspaper shortly after the Civil War.

Jordan Anderson
This circa 1890 image provided by Dayton History shows Valentine Winters. Jordan Anderson's remarkable letter to his ex-master was reportedly dictated to Winters.
 Scathing: Former slave Jordan Anderson (left) wrote a satirical letter in 1865 to his old master after he was asked to return to work for him. He wrote the letter with the help of Valentine Winters (right)

Treasured as a social document, praised as a masterpiece of satire, Anderson’s letter has been anthologized and published all over the world.

Historians teach it, and the letter turns up occasionally on a blog or on Facebook. Humorist Andy Borowitz read the letter recently and called it, in an email to The Associated Press, ‘something Twain would have been proud to have written’.

 Addressed to one Col. Patrick Henry Anderson, who apparently wanted Jordan to come back to the plantation east of Nashville, the letter begins cheerfully, with the former slave expressing relief that ‘you had not forgotten Jordon’ (there are various spellings of the name) and were ‘promising to do better for me than anybody else can’. But, he adds, ‘I have often felt uneasy about you’.

He informs the colonel that he’s now making a respectable wage in Dayton, Ohio, and that his children are going to school.

He tallies the monetary value of his services while on Anderson’s plantation – $11,608 – then adds, ‘we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.’ Continue reading

France says NO to justice for Haiti

[After the Haitian Revolution which won independence from France and ended slavery over 200 years ago, France demanded payment from Haiti for the loss of their slave “property.”  The payments that France demanded bled the resources of Haiti into a state of perpetual and extreme poverty.  Repeated demands have been made for the return of these usurious payments which made France very rich, and Haiti very poor.  The latest exchange in this demand, with the French renunciation of its responsibility for the ongoing and worsening situation in Haiti, is detailed in this news report.-ed.]

France on Tuesday rejected a petition calling for it to pay $17 billion to help with Haiti earthquake reconstruction as a way to make amends for fees charged Haiti by the French crown 200 years ago.


In this photo taken July 1, a man pulls a cart filled with merchandise in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti. France on Tuesday rejected a petition calling for it to pay $17 billion to help with Haiti earthquake reconstruction. Alexandre Meneghini/AP

By Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor / August 17, 2010

Paris

France dismissed a call by left-leaning politicians and others for it to pay the modern equivalent of 90 million gold francs – about $17 billion – to Haiti as reparations for a 200-year-old injustice.

A petition signed by 100 artists, scholars, and EU politicians that was released Monday called on France to give Haiti $17 billion for earthquake reconstruction. The money would essentially reimburse a fee French King Charles X charged Haiti after a revolt that ended slavery there. King Charles justified the fee as compensation for the loss of slaves and other property.

Such requests are not new, authorities say, arguing that France has given substantial aid and debt relief to its former colony, and plans more.

The British Guardian and French Liberation dailies yesterday ran the open letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed by the likes of US academics Cornel West and Noam Chomsky, EU political figures Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Eva Joly, columnist Naomi Klein, and a host of US and French academics, rappers, and public figures.

Some 90 million was “extorted” by the French crown for losses in slaves and property and “illegitimately forced a people who had won their independence in a successful slave revolt, to pay again for their freedom,” the letter states.

By 1804 a Haitian revolt against colonial France made it the first independent former black slave republic. But faced with threats of a French blockade, invasion, and isolation, Haiti agreed to pay, taking until 1947 to pay-off interest on what is known as its “independence debt.” Accompanied by 14 gunships in 1825, France demanded Haiti pay for its freedom and slave value to the tune of 150 million gold francs (reduced in 1838) by borrowing from a French bank. Continue reading