A British pressure group has teamed up with the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration (CMPI) to back the CARICOM Reparation Commission’s (CRC) call for the estate where sugar was introduced in Barbados more than 350 years ago to be restored to Barbadians as an act of reparations.
Stand Up to Racism Dorset has called on wealthy Tory MP Richard Drax, who represents South Dorset, to deal urgently with the matter.
The two groups discussed the matter on Tuesday, a letter from Philip Marfleet, on behalf of Stand Up to Racism Dorset has confirmed.
In the letter to Drax, the lobby group said: “We join forces with the CRC in their demand for reparations and ask you to address this call.
“The Drax family is prominent among British beneficiaries of transatlantic slavery. Drax Hall Estate in Barbados, still held by your family after more than 350 years, bears testimony to the genocide of Africans and to the trauma, pain and suffering of generations of African slaves and their descendants all over the world.”
Drax inherited the 250-hectare Drax Hall plantation from his father, who died in 2017. He has not yet declared the land or its properties in the parliamentary register of members’ interests.
Back in December, Chairman of the reparations committee, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, made a strong case that Drax could not deny his responsibility as the inheritor of the estate.
The noted historian and UWI vice-chancellor said: “Black life mattered only to make millionaires of English enslavers and the Drax family did it longer than any other elite family.”
He added: “The Drax family has done more harm and violence to the black people of Barbados than any other family. The Draxes built and designed and structured slavery.”
Stand Up to Racism Dorset further argued that Mr Drax’s wealth, including his estate in Dorset today, is witness to this legacy of the enslavement of Africans in the Caribbean and the time had come to effect reparatory justice now.
The group said: “This would represent a significant step in truly acknowledging the harm caused by the enslavement of Africans of which you and your family are direct beneficiaries. It will also be a significant recognition of the economic inequality between the Caribbean region and Britain: a direct consequence of the enslavement of Africans for the cultivation of sugar.
“We, your constituents in South Dorset, together with elected representatives in the county, and community organisations, trade unions, political parties, faith groups and others ask you to make reparations to the people of the Caribbean region, without delay.”
CPMI General Secretary David Denny said they will continue to work with the British group to demand reparation for Barbados from Drax.
The central St George plantation has been in the Drax family since the early 1650s when it was built by Sir James and his brother, William Drax, early settlers in Jamaica.
By 1680, Colonel Henry Drax was the owner of the largest plantations on Barbados, including another in St John.
Sir Hilary has estimated that nearly 30,000 enslaved people lived and died on Drax plantations in Barbados and Jamaica over a 200-year period. By 1832, there were 275 slaves working on the plantation producing 300 tons of sugar and 140 puncheons of rum, according to a paper produced by University College London on the legacy of British slave-ownership.