Historic England says that between 1640 and 1807 Britain enslaved 3.1 million Africans and transported them to colonies around the world. According to the National Archives, many of these individuals were taken to the Caribbean for work on sugar plantations, which made their owners very wealthy by exporting sugar, molasses and rum.
When colonial slavery was abolished in 1833, the British government paid 20 20 million (25 million) to compensate slave owners, and slaves received nothing. In today’s terms, according to Historic England, the compensation is equivalent to about .5 16.5 billion ($ 20.6 billion).
In recent weeks, Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in the United Kingdom, with demonstrators calling for the dismantling of the statue of seventeenth-century slaveholder Edward Colston and the removal of other monuments.
“Slave-owners have sent the fruits of slavery to Metropolitan Britain in a very important way,” says University College London.
The university’s database shows that many former governors and directors of the Bank of England hold slaves. These people were compensated by the UK government when slavery was abolished, and in some cases received several thousand pounds to free their slaves.
A spokesman for the Bank of England said in a statement Friday that the eighteenth and nineteenth-century slave trade was “unacceptable” in English history and apologized for the role played by former governors and directors. The spokesman said the pictures of former governors and directors involved in the slave trade would be removed if they were displayed anywhere in the Central Bank.
There are also churches and cathedrals Becky Clark, director of the Church of England Cathedrals and Church Buildings, said in a statement that they are considering how to address issues raised by Black Lives Matter when it comes to memorials. This may include a modification of the removal of monuments, but it must be done “safely and legally.”
“Slavery and exploitation have no place in society,” a spokesman for the Church of England said. “While we recognize clergy and active members of the Church of England’s pivotal role in eradicating slavery, it is a shame that others in the church actively and profited from slavery,” the spokesman said.
Major companies in the world are trying to figure out how to fix racial injustice. British companies acknowledged their ties to the slave trade earlier this week at Lloyds of London, the world’s oldest insurance market and pub chain Green King.
– Clare Duffy Contributing to Reporting.