Reparations“I don’t say that giving us money would make it all right,” Willie Thompson, the 78 year old Jamaican told The Telegraph, “What’s happened has happened already. But I think it is on the side of justice that we deserve something. I am an African descendant, [and my grandmother] came here with the chains on her feet, on a slave trade ship [over 180 years ago]”.

It’s not only that Africans arrived to the Americas centuries ago, but how they arrived, and of course, the horrific mental, psychological and physical circumstances their descendents endured ever since. The reparations debate thrives in the United States, and now a coalition of 14 Caribbean states, including Jamaica, are campaigning for reparations from Britain behind their massive role in the African Slave Trade.

The group is represented by a regional organization called CARICOM, who’s gearing up to take their case to the courts. Leigh Day, the London law firm that won £20 million for Kenyans tortured by the British during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s, has been hired to assure their victory. This month it will unveil a list of 10 demands for Britain, France and Holland, including funds likely to total billions, an apology, and assurances slavery will never be repeated, The Telegraph reports.

It’s common knowledge that individuals in the US, UK, and other countries amassed obscene amounts of wealth during the centuries the inhuman institution of slavery was carried out. I’ll even speculate that the United States of America would be nothing but a mediocre, mildly prosperous land (if that) filled with descendents of British criminals and indentured servants were it not for centuries of the blood sweat and tears of enslaved Africans. It may be true that there’s no dollar amount that can make up for the horrors our ancestors endured, but participating nations were built, and thoroughly prospered during that soul-crushing era of insanity. Pro-reparations activists argue that financial reparations are more than a reasonable expectation; it’s a bona fide right.

The Telegraph reports that chairman of Jamaica’s reparations committee, Professor Verene Shepherd, said British colonizers had “disfigured the Caribbean,” and it’s time their descendants pay up. “If you commit a crime against humanity, you are bound to make amends. The planters were given compensation, but not one cent went to the freed Jamaicans”.

From the mid-18th century, British merchants shipped more than three million people from West Africa to the Americas, taking the lead in an Atlantic slave trade pioneered by the Dutch and Portuguese, the report continues. About £4 trillion (that’s A LOT of $$) was extracted from the region in unpaid labor alone, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham (which ultimately constructed the modern UK as we know it).

The article explains that in 1833, when Parliament voted to abolish slavery in Britain’s colonies, Earl Grey’s government was supposed to pay out compensation that would come to about £2 billion today. After building an entire empire on selfish and viciously perverted ethics, it’s no surprise that promise was made with fingers crossed behind the back (remember 40 acres and a mule?).

When Jamaica gained its independence in 1962, the island nation was populated by thousands of poverty stricken citizens, 80% of whom were functionally illiterate. Male literacy remains more than four points below the international average, The Telegraph states. To this day, the grossly unjust institution of slavery continues to plague Jamaicans, and millions more descendants of enslaved Africans across the Americas.

Countering arguments that Britain is no longer in a financial position to provide compensation, Professor Shepard declares, “You can’t have it both ways. Your society was developed. You are enjoying a lifestyle because of the blood, sweat and tears of people in the past.”

The coalition is leaning in particularly hard on UK Prime Minister David Cameron, whose ancestors profited royally from being enslavers.

Lord Gifford, a British attorney and reparations supporter urges the committee to stand firm, saying that the slave trade “breached the natural law that man is free”, the report continues. “There is no statute of limitations on a crime against humanity. The claim is soundly based in law.” Resistance persists of course; the opposition insists that the slave trade was legal under British law until 1833.

“It is a question of priorities,” Lord Gifford asserts. “And this needs to be added to the list of priorities.” He called upon Mr. Cameron to be motivated by the horrendous actions of his own ancestors to honor CARICOM’s demands.

Reflecting on a lifetime of toil and history of cultural dispossession, Mr. Thompson told The Telegraph, “The English made a lot of money back then. A lot of money. I think it is fair we to get a bit of compensation for what all our people been through.” Makes sense, given that countless individuals continue to profit from the suffering of the enslaved to this very day.



  • LN

    I am proud of my people.

  • Tiffy

    I want this to happen sooooooooo bad but I just feel like this case will be in court forever with no resolution if not tossed no matter how excellent the law firms are.Racism is alive and well and they will never pay us our money or lift a finger to correct all their wrongs. If they pay the Carribean countries reparations America will have to pay us here also, then Latin America will have to be paid too it will create a domino effect and they cant let that happen…

  • nadira

    this is long over due!

  • Lynne

    Reparations is a gloriously just concept in theory. In practice, well, I have concerns….

    Black Jamaicans are the majority in their country. I could be wrong about this, but the fallout from reparations may not be felt as acutely for black Jamaicans as it would be in other countries.

    Case in point: the United States. Blacks make up less than 15 percent of the total population. I can’t imagine the hell that would break loose if reparations came to pass here, and black Americans would be at the mercy of some of the most ignorant and backward thinking people on the planet.

    Consider this. Obama’s healthcare plan has been called “back door reparations” by some whites — most notably the Tea Party riff raff. Even though the plan was created to actually help all Americans gain access to healthcare, certain people have viewed it with great suspicion. If this is how people react to a plan that could help them, imagine what would happen if reparations — a program that would help blacks — became law.

    Also, I wouldn’t put it past some white Americans to twist this for their own gain. Watch groups like the Italians and the Irish demand their piece of the reparations pie.

  • Ask_Me

    The bigger problem here in he US would be determining who exactly would be “black” and therefore qualify for reparations. I think every tom, dick and harry would come out of the woodwork claiming to be black if reparations were announced in America.

  • http://http...// freethinker

    slavery and colonialism in the caribbean have harshly altered their chances of development.
    european nations that have dedicated themselves to colonization,genocide and slavery must provide the means to repair the legacy of their historical damage

  • freethinker

    slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean have harshly altered their chances of development. European nations that have dedicated themselves to colonization and genocide slavery must provide the means to repair the legacy of their damage

  • DAO

    The current discussions surrounding reparations in the Caribbean started making press since the fall. The fifteen heads of government that make up CARICOM met sometime in October/November 2013 to draft a letter to Prime Minister Cameron. Nowhere in any of the early press is Jamaica mentioned as leading this movement. The spin on this article is misleading and ultimately ignores the fact that the Reparations battle is being spearheaded by less well-known islands. Its a shame that it took one article in the Telegraph for this to come to the attention of Clutch.

  • eve-audrey

    this is brave initiative but i’m afraid as someone else stated it will never find a solution. i live in europe so i know they really aren’t in the mood to pay any reparation they’ll call it black people holding on to the past instead of letting it go. another thing is they’ll point out that it was africans who sold them slaves so if they must pay africans must pay also. hence my (genuine) question i am not an expert does someone know how many slaves were actually sold by africans? i don’t know if this debate is going on in aftica right now but as a direct african descendant i think it would just be fair for the african countries concerned to take their responsibilities. if that can help erasing some of the rivalry within the diaspora. i can ‘t say if my opinion shared or not

  • Yardyspice

    The reparations should be wiping the slate clean in all of the Caribbean. Without the IMF standing on their necks, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries could actually start making money.

  • Clutch

    Thanks – but we have covered this a few times. Please feel free to do a search :) Here are the results –

    Thanks for your comment.

  • Carmen

    Don’t even get me started on the IMF. My blood is already boiling

  • anaelrich

    I was going to comment on that!! I thought…Huh? No, Jamaica is not leading anything! And yes, this is kind of old news, I even reposted about it on my blog, and the article I reposted was written in July 2013. But anyway, the good news is that Clutch has finally noticed…:-)

  • Saramel

    The involvement of africans selling others for slavery was less than many think.Also slavery had a different concept in west african countries so they did not know that those they sold were used as animals not as human beings who are forced to work. Additionally, these countries were colonized themselves so what make you think that africans have the same responsibility when it comes to slavery than european countries? It is a fact that racism started due slavery as europeans enslaved africans due to their believe that they are non or semi human.This legacy is left till today and you want to ask african countries to pay reparations?

  • Vag Owner (@ProudVagOwner)

    good for them. there is honestly more recent events that they could be calling on countries even like the USA to pay up for

    i hope they win. i know countries like usa won’t give an official apology for slavery because they’re afraid it will make them liable to pay reparations, and those are only for jews and asians apparently.

  • liberianlady

    Many Jamaicans who I know whenever this subject comes up they makes it very clear that they are not african. Usually I laugh out loud simply out
    embarrassment for them

  • TR


    Whether we want to accept it or not, the large West African tribes were major players in the slave trade. Tribes like the Ashanti accumulated a lot of wealth through selling slaves to Europeans. I am not bringing this up to point fingers are take some kind of moral stand. But we can’t lie to ourselves to make ourselves feel better. Slavery was profitable on both sides of the Atlantic. And it was profitable for both Europeans and Africans.

    It was only when European countries started getting out of the slave trade that they turned their attention to colonization. The movement to colonize Africa started in the 1800′s. The Transatlantic slave trade began in the 1500′s.

    The mistake many make is paint African kingdoms as weak, dumb, and at the mercy of the more powerful Europeans. That’s completely wrong.

  • jess

    That is a great effort, although I doubt it will be fruitful. Haiti is still trying to get France to pay back the estimated $21 Billion that it paid to get France to recognize it’s independence after they fought and won. So I doubt that any of the CARICOM countries will get reparations from France, Great Britain, or the Dutch.

  • Antillia Cultura

    Being African and of African descent are entirely two different things. Jamaicans recognize their lineage but are very proud of their country and rightfully so.

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