Slavery 'to blame' for social unrest amongst British African population
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Communities , Local Government
Monday 18th August 2008 - 3:55pm
Slavery 'to blame' for social unrest amongst British African population
All the social unrest in the British African population can be attributed to 200 years of slavery, a direct descendent of William Wilberforce claimed today.
Lady (Kate) Davson, the great-great-great granddaughter of the anti-slavery campaigner, made the comments at the unveiling by London Mayor Boris Johnson of a maquette of a planned slavery memorial in the capital.
She said: "The white population of Great Britain has got to be on its knees to make things right. The apology should be visible to show we accept that we effected the most awful wounds on a huge number of people."
As her husband's ancestors owned sugar estates in Guyana, she said that they "really have to grovel".
Britain's key role in both implementing and benefiting from the slave trade meant that the country must lead the way in apologising, she added.
Mr Johnson, who has claimed to be directly descended from slaves himself, said it was "vital" never to forget the role Britain played in slavery, when he unveiled the model of the planned memorial sculpture at City Hall in London.
He said: "It's vital that our children have a reminder of man's inhumanity to man."
He is supporting the campaign by voluntary group Memorial 2007 (named after the bi-centenary of the British parliamentary abolition of the slave trade), which wants to establish the first permanent national memorial in Britain to remember enslaved Africans and their descendants.
The model of the memorial sculpture, which it is hoped will be installed in the Rose Garden in London's Hyde Park by 2011, shows six human figures representing different aspects of the slave trade, standing atop a round plinth.
Sculptor Les Johnson, who created the model after winning a competition to design the memorial, said: "The important thing was to understand the brief and what the committee was aiming to commemorate with this memorial."
The maquette of his design will be exhibited at City Hall from today until December 1 to mark International Slavery Memorial Day on August 23.
Memorial 2007 said it needed to raise £1.5 million to fund the installation of the full-sized statue in Hyde Park, and is appealing for donations. A permanent site in the park, of about 1,080 square metres, has been negotiated with Government support.
Oku Ekpenyon, a Memorial 2007 organiser, said: "There is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the history of Africa, the repercussion of slavery and what it meant for Britain.
"This memorial will be an educational resource as the focus of curriculum-based and life-long learning.
"It will also serve within a broader context to highlight in a national and public setting the centrality of the experience of enslaved Africans and their descendants in the history of Britain. This in turn will function as a focus for family and local history researchers."
She said the statue would be the first permanent memorial in any capital city in the world that was involved in the slave trade.
The Mayor said: "Hyde Park is a fitting site for a permanent memorial to the millions who lost their lives and the courageous people who fought to end the brutal transatlantic slave trade."
Boris Johnson said in March that his great-great-grandmother was a Circassian slave (from a region in southern Russia), sold to his great-great-grandfather. He claimed that she was only set free when they married.
However, when the BBC studied Johnson's story for an edition of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? in which celebrities trace their family trees, it was unable to find proof.
Slavery was good for the black man
Saturday, August 09, 2008
As we celebrate emancipation and independence, we are being reminded of the horrors of slavery. According to our leaders, academics and others, slavery was the worst institution ever created. However, while it is popular for most to agree with this claim, I beg to disagree. Indeed, contrary to the belief that slavery was bad for us blacks, I believe that slavery was good for us.
Have we ever stopped to consider where we black people, especially those of us in the West, would be right now if it weren't for the Atlantic Slave Trade? What state do you think black Africa would be in today? Do you think that we would have been better off without slavery? I don't think so!
When the Europeans went to Africa to buy slaves, what did they find? They found a society and people vastly inferior to theirs. While the Europeans had emerged from their feudal practices, our ancestors in Africa, for the most part, had not developed for many centuries. We did not understand the concept of nation or government. Science and technology (and innovations in these areas) were non-existent in black Africa of the 15th and 16th centuries. Indeed, as a people, we had no sense of self-identity. In many respects, we were uncivilised.
Slavery was our most important contact with modernity. It is through this "most heinous system ever created" that we blacks were able to understand some of the principles of global trade. Our ancestors were introduced to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade between Europe, Africa and the West Indies. Black Africa's part in the trade was the importation of European technology and the export of slaves. The importation of European technology was important - even though the Africans did not appreciate this importance at first. The export of slaves was also very important, especially for us in the West.
As time went on, we blacks, both in Africa and especially in the Caribbean were, in many ways, being Europeanised and thus civilised. We adopted several aspects of their culture - their systems of government, their technologies, their sense of order and their languages. In doing this, we discarded those aspects of our culture that clearly placed us at a disadvantage - like our lack of sense of self, loyalty to the tribe and our non-participation in modern technology.
Although not a believer in any god myself, the Christianity that came with slavery and European control would be of immense value to us black people. Back in Africa, we were preoccupied with the worship of animals, trees, spirits of the dead - even stones. These primitive religions that we were practising ensured that our ancestors in Africa were backward. The relatively superior Christianity, with its greater sense of order and responsibility would help, in many ways, to pull the black man out of the Stone Age. This could only have happened with slavery.
Our relatively stable societies today, especially in the West, are testaments to the benefits of slavery. While it is true that black Africa has, for the most part, squandered the opportunities that slavery offered in the past, the positive influence of European civilisation cannot be denied. The black nation states of Africa and the Caribbean have given black people a sense of nation, a sense of identity, a sense of order and a sense of purpose - things we never had before.
While we continue to demonstrate our inferiority in the areas of science and technology, through centuries of being exposed to Europe on account of slavery, we blacks are now aware of the need for us to start excelling in these areas.
Those of us who continue to see the millions of blacks who died crossing the Atlantic and the displacement of what we had in Africa as proof that slavery was a bad institution don't understand the mechanics of human development and evolution. Similar processes had to be endured by countless peoples thoughout history. The development of the human race has always involved the need for change. Slavery was one such means, and like it or not, we blacks are the beneficiaries. It is not for us today to judge the means through which societies have changed in the past.
We blacks were changed, for the better, I might add, on account of slavery. We are a better race today because our ancestors went though slavery. The millions of lives lost were not lost in vain. The Europeans proclaimed the need for us to be civilised through slavery and though this may be hard to understand, they were right. Indeed, based on what is happening in black Africa today - slavery for us in the West was, in many respects, our salvation.
Michael Dingwall is a freelance writer.