The UCL is involved in a great research project on slavery in Britain looking at how the history of slavery is entwined in Britain’s institutions, business, fabric of life. It’s been going on for a few years, and every so often I see articles or videos linked to the project.
The endeavour strikes me as an important step to facing Britain’s legacy in the slave trade (beyond the comfortable story of abolition) and reasserting narratives of Black History in the UK. And as Professor Catherine Hall puts it in the video, “The ways in which contemporary racial thought has many inflections from this long, long history”
Here is a great snippet of the researchers’ work (from 2011 but I came across it recently):
Caribbean nations are currently pressing for reparations, a topic that I used to feel quite ambivalent about, before reading Ta-nehisi Coates’ breathtaking, meticulous article on the subject. Although he is writing from a US context, his point that the issue of reparations is about far more than money is an important one, and one that is applicable for the UK and other countries. I think his call for an honest reckoning with the past would be painful, but important and a worthy goal in and of itself:
“Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate…we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.”