Hilary Beckles

Hilary Beckles

After irrefutable evidence of its links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade were recently exposed, a Scottish university has stepped forward to offer Sterling 20 million, slightly over $24 million, as a first-step payment for its role in the worst crime against humanity.

The umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission last week announced a deal with the University of Glasgow to fund a program of reparative justice in the wake of revelations that the school had indeed benefited financially from donations and other monies from the slave trade from Africa to plantations in the Caribbean. The school dubbed the trade as “appalling and heinous.”

The agreement was signed in Jamaica with the University of the West Indies, which has been leading the way in researching the horrors of the slave trade as part of a massive effort by regional governments to make former European slave-trading nations pay cash and other forms of compensation for their direct or indirect participation.

Each of the 15 Caribbean Community nations has a national commission working with the CRC and the university to make the region’s case for reparations.

The two sides have signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow for the creation of Caribbean Center for Development Research at Glasgow. The school will raise the money in the coming years to ensure the existence of the facility and actual research.

David Duncan, who is the school’s chief operating officer, called both the signing and moves to begin additional slavery era research as “a historic occasion” for the two universities.

“When we commissioned our year-long study into the links the university had with historical slavery, we were conscious both of the proud part that Glasgow played in the abolitionist movement, and an awareness that we would have benefited, albeit indirectly, from that appalling and heinous trade. From the very first we determined to be open, honest and transparent with the findings, and to produce a program of reparative justice,” he said.

Speaking for the Caribbean and the mandate he has from governments to fight Europe, CRC Head Professor Hilary Beckles praised the school’s decision “to take this bold, moral, historic step in recognizing the slavery aspect of its past and to rise as an advocate of reparatory justice and an example of 21st century university enlightenment.”

In recent weeks, Bristol and Cambridge universities said they will also research their slave era past as they had indeed benefited. Other schools are expected to follow suit.

Regional governments have already sent letters of demand for payment to Britain, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and others. Recently, new evidence emerged about the role of Sweden, Russia and Denmark as well as Belgium. Britain has steadfastly refused to even entertain any serious discussion on the issue. Officials say The Netherlands remains the most open to talking. Any failure to win negotiations will result in the case being taken to the World Court for settlement. Similar pressure is being heaped on United States universities such as Harvard as more evidence emerges about how these schools and other institutions became so prosperous.

— (New York Amsterdam News)

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