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CXC Chairman, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. (Internet photo)
CXC Chairman, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. (Internet photo)
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A leading Caribbean intellectual Tuesday night presented a compelling argument of why Britain should pay to former colonies in the Caribbean reparations for slavery and native genocide.

CARICOM leaders have unanimously decided to seek reparations from Britain for slavery and native genocide.

“… we are focusing on Britain because Britain was the largest owners of slaves at Emancipation in the 1830s. The British made the most money out of slavery and the slave trade — they got the lion share. And, importantly, they knew how to convert slave profits into industrial profits,” Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies said in Kingstown.

He was speaking at a lecture on the title of his latest book, “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide”.

The Barbadian educator detailed how the British government and British citizens used slavery to enrich themselves.

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He further noted that while at Emancipation reparations were paid to former slave owners, the slaves got nothing.

The reparations monies stimulated the British economy for half a century after Emancipation, Professor Beckles said.

“Here in the Caribbean, the islands were descended into poverty after Emancipation. And in Britain, 50 years of growth because the compensation money was reinvested in the British economy and stimulated the economic development of the company,” Professor Beckles said.

“… The British government built this system (slavery), they creative fiscal policies to manage it, they created financial systems, they legislated slavery, they administrated slavery, the government owned the slaves, and, importantly, the British government is the custodian of the wealth of the nation.

“We believe that we now have to repair the damage and this is the final point. This is why now repartitions is important.”

Beckles said that Caribbean governments today are spending up to 80 per cent of their expenditure on education and health.

“After 300 hundred years of taking their labour, exploiting their labour and enriching themselves to build themselves into the most powerful nation on earth, they have left Caribbean peoples illiterate and unhealthy, which means that the governments today have to clean up illiteracy and clean up the ill-health do not have the resources to do it,” he further explained.

He said that the British are good at keeping records and hence the wealth derived from slavery is traceable.

Professor Beckles further rebutted some of the arguments likely to be advanced by Britain as it resists paying reparations to the region.

He further added that the British have launched a campaign to discredit the reparations movement, but stated that British citizens are increasingly seeing the need for — and are calling on their government to make — amends.

Professor Beckles spoke of a case in which a slave trader, faced with decreasing ration aboard a slave ship and no tail winds, decided to throw his slave “cargo” overboard and return to Britain to claim insurance.

The British judiciary ruled that it was a simple case of property insurance rather than murder –since slaves were not considered human beings.

“Therein lies the British court, … the judiciary of great Britain, ruling in its own legal structure that black people are not human beings.

“Therein lies the charge of reparations, because to deny a people their human identity is a crime against humanity and that is the case that the British judiciary, on behalf of the British state, established the principle that once and for all, that African peoples are not human.”

Professor Beckles spoke of how the exploitation of the region under slavery resulted in the underdevelopment of the region’s human resource, infrastructure, and economy.

He noted that after 300 years of colonisation, when the British left Jamaica at Independence in 1962, 80 per cent of the Caribbean nation’s people were functionally illiterate

Professor Beckles also spoke of the impact on the family, and mentioned the high rates of diabetes and hypertension in the region and the ways in which black people in the Caribbean and Africa respond to medicine for these conditions.

These are the kinds of things we speak about when we speak about reparations,” Professor Beckles said in reference to the vestiges of slavery and colonisation.

“The British government has to come to the Caribbean and sit with us and help us deal with all of these. We have a legal and moral right,” Professor Beckles said.

He lauded the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who has convinced his CARICOM colleagues to support the reparations movement.

“We need to take them forward. All of us need to take them forward,” Professor Beckles said of the issues relating to reparations.

“And if we do not, this region is going to regress and regress very rapidly. And it is not about confrontation, it is not about conflict, it is about a 21st century state of sophisticated diplomacy. 21st century diplomacy is required, a 21st century international relations is required. The time has come now in this second phase of nation building for us to go forward. I feel this is where we are at,” he said.

He noted, however, that reparation is not about handing over money to either individuals or governments.

“Under international law, reparations are paid into a fund, which is administered under international law. … In every society, a reparations committee is established, a fund is established, and under law, those funds are placed under trustees and trustees are held responsible for the use of those funds for community development,” Professor Beckles said.

10 replies on “C’bean educator makes compelling case for reparations”

  1. Sir Hillary Beckles shoud have considered relinquishing his Knighthood before becoming one of the primary spokespersons for reparations.

  2. A leading Caribbean intellectual Tuesday night presented a compelling argument of why Britain should pay to former colonies in the Caribbean reparations for slavery and native genocide.
    No he did not he presented a flawed case that I was appalled by, appalled that such a well known man as Professor Beckles would put his name to such a lot of crap.

    “we are focusing on Britain because Britain was the largest owners of slaves at Emancipation in the 1830s. The British made the most money out of slavery and the slave trade — they got the lion share“.
    No they were not Portugal traded and used almost twice as many slaves as Britain, Portugal the country who were the culprits in starting the Atlantic slave trade when the sea Captain Antonio Gonslaves took the first 8 Africans and Prince Henry gave them to the Pope as a present. It all began there. Don’t forget the Spanish and the Portuguese had almost 200 years start on the rest of the Europeans.

    He was speaking at a lecture on the title of his latest book, “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide”.
    My fear is that Beckles may of been more on a book sales campaign than on a teaching the people program. I heard several time during the lecture reference to his new book being for sale at the back of the hall US$33 I believe was mentioned.

    Professor Beckles also spoke of the impact on the family, and mentioned the high rates of diabetes and hypertension in the region and the ways in which black people in the Caribbean and Africa respond to medicine for these conditions.
    That was one of the things that he spoke about that people in the hall clapped to. It was the biggest load of crap I have ever heard. He made an equation between slaves being fed salt fish and salt pork, the diet that they were fed damaged the West Indian man forever.. We still eat salt fish and salt pork, in great quantities, but worse than that West Indian black people have a sugar and salt intake at least 10 times that of a British or American folks, and that’s today. That what’s causing diabetes, and people are stressed, stressed by the Marxist state that we are expected to live under, with all sorts of nastiness, spite and malice, and no work and a poor diet.

    “Under international law, reparations are paid into a fund, which is administered under international law” under what international law is he talking about. The difference about slavery and what Hitler did, is that slavery was legal, legal for thousands of years. I was even put forward as the word of God and having his blessing. The Catholic church supported slavery since it was first formed, until about 1860. They rumbled on about the methods and rules, but never came outright and declared it banned. Under the law of those days the slaves were the property of those that bought them, or bred them. Perfectly legal and regarded by many of that time as perfectly proper.

    I have never heard such a lot of unscientific crap in my life, so I am writing a proper reply to all this regurgitated crap. I will post it next week.

  3. I listened to Dr Beckles last night and he indeed made a compelling case for reparations. However, I am a cynic when it comes to reparations for slavery, so it will come as no surprise, when I say this is an exercise in futility, a dream “that will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained”.

    There was an interesting dynamic that I picked up, from Dr Beckles presentation, that I have not observed before with other presentations on the issue of reparations for slavery, maybe I was not paying enough attention. I get the sense that Dr Beckles approach to this round of making a case of reparations is not one of retributive justice but restorative justice. Its similar to the approach taken by South Africa with the TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION in addressing the Apartheid system.

    Over the years various delegation involve in the fight of reparations for slavery, in the courts, have found it to be an almost impossible task…and doing so the normal channels of political brinkmanship is simply spinning top in mud. But this “soft” approach, may have a fighting chance. Such an approach is really dependent on the willingness of the aggressor, in this case Britain and other Colonial masters to acknowledge the wrongs they have committed on a people-without the burden of being in a Nuremberg-type trials. And it will also take a willingness on the part of the aggrieved, we black folks, to accept and forgive on behalf of our ancestors.

    It would be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out in this process, since there is a popular notion among ordinary folks that reparations is all based on remuneration. This idea of healing the psyche and restorative justice is a process that might be hard sell to African descendants in the Caribbean but I have a sneaking suspicion, it might be the closest thing we will get to reparations.

  4. Professor Beckles your focus should not just be on Britain but also the USA, EU Nations that participated in the Slave Trade, African Nations that made it possible for Whitey to accomplish what he did. Your lecture was eloquent in repeating a history that all Black People already know. We all understand how most of our demise was brought about. The state of the Black Race is in a condition that no reparations will fix until we repair our own minds. When we speak of our governmental systems, our justice system, our education system and our economies we are usually speaking of an exact copy of the same nations from whom we seek reparations. They have perfected theirs and we will never be able to compete with them on a global scale. They have based their efforts for superiority on corruption and all kinds of criminal activities that continue to impose on us another form of slavery. Mental Slavery. We now think the way they want us to even with their religions. Mr Beckles, You are an honorable man and I am suggesting that if you are going to be in this fight that you give back the knighthood to Britain and we will replace it with KING. We are talking about 21st century diplomacy not confrontation.
    Since Independence we have had opportunities to develop our Caribbean Nations for the benefit of all of it’s citizens at home and abroad. But instead we have been saddled with a Continuous stream of corrupt Leaders who have sold our lands, entered into financial deals for their in our own benefits, allowed off-shore bankers from our former owners to operate in our countries for the sake of small payments to dumb politicians. That’s how money leaves your Country and does not return. Politicians who side with the same foreign Nations to kill whatever efforts to form a Caribbean Federation. In the face of all this. Are these corrupt, criminal people going to be the Trustees if any reparations is granted? I hope not!!! So I am suggesting that we begin now to foster the correct thinking for our youths so that they can be fully conscious and know who they are dealing with and how to handle them.
    The teachings of the Honorable Booker. T. Washington, The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, His Majesty Emperor Haile Selasie, and the Honorable Kwame Nkrumah should be mandatory studies in our Education System beginning with ” UP FROM SLAVERY” by Booker.T.Washington. I guarantee you that after these studies all of our youths will know what to do.
    Lack of Trust in all of our Leaders is my biggest problem with reparations. So our Leaders must do everything going forward to restore public Trust, otherwise the marriage is over. The other thing is that no one can tell me or anyone else How much the destruction of our Ancestors and all of the misery we have endured is worth. So if you don’t know what you are going for you will take anything.
    The Parliamentary Democracy is a shame, one only has to listen to a parliamentary session in any Caribbean Island and you will know immediately that you are dealing with a bunch of little boys and girls acting as adults. For Gods sake change your attitudes and respect your people. One Party doing everything for its supporters and pumelling the opponents into the dust.
    There is a bright light shining for us and that is Mother Africa. Most of our diplomacy should be geared toward fostering brotherly and Sisterly relationships with all of the countries of Africa. The wealth that was taken during slavery and colonialism is only a fraction of what remains. If we get our act together the slavers and colonizers will be coming again. In fact they are already there and we must not make the same mistake twice. When they come for goods we must take our reparations. Good luck to all reparationist !!!!
    Sir Lancelot
    Sorry I just knighted myself.

  5. Ms MILLS, you are spot on right, as a point of protest, if he was half the man that his mouth suggests, he should resign his Knighthood forthwith.

    All these black men who love to get there Knighthoods, love to be recognised by the old imperialists that they all hate so much.

  6. These are the official slave trade figures, its all very well throwing up figures that suit your book, but using the emancipation date as a finishing point may be seen by some as downright dishonest.

    Distribution of slaves 1519 –1867
    Destination Percentage

    Portuguese America 38.5%

    British America (minus North America) 18.4%

    Spanish Empire 17.5%

    French Americas 13.6%

    British North America 6.45%

    English Americas 3.25%

    Dutch West Indies 2.0%

    Danish West Indies 0.3%

    European African Slave Trade Totals by Destination 1500 – 1900.

    Brazil/Portuguese: 4,000,000 35.4%

    Spanish Empire: 2,500,000 22.1%

    British West Indies: 2,000,000 17.7%

    French West Indies: 1,600,00 14.1%

    British North America: 500,000 4.4%

    Dutch West Indies: 500,000 4.4%

    Danish West Indies: 28,000 0.2%

    Europe: 200,000 1.8% [excluding Britain and France]

    Total 1500-1900: 11,328,000 100.0%

  7. I totally agree with the sentiments expressed above. His last two paragraphs sum. up my thinking on what has to be done. Both NDP an ULP can join forces on this issue. It should never be used as an electionpropagranda.

  8. I am sick to death of so called academics, especially professors, who try to get attention by making dramatic statements or comments, in this case, using the slavery scenario, to attract the media to their lectures and for non academics people to purchase their published book. I will not be reading Professor Sir Beckles book. He accepted a knighthood from the same people who he is now hyprocritcally ‘attacking’ over reparations issue. He is having an academic laugh, I expect he wants to ‘rob’ the people of the caribbean even further by trying to get them to purchase his ‘GOOD bedtime read’.

    Professor Beckles should be setting a fine ‘inspiring’ academic example to the young people of the Caribbean on how to best to boost academic abilities when the whatever odds are against you.

    During my university lectures, I heard lecturing personnel with his type of titles, mentioning if you want attention from the media, you go down the following routes: race, sex and gender etc, and thats what he has done.

    Professor Hillary Beckles with due respect, education means to ‘go forward’, when i finished a higher degree, one lecturer advice to me was, ‘do not let anyone take you backwards’ – so Professor Beckles whatever personal underpinning you have for your book, is unwarranted. My advice to you is, stop basking in your academic acclaim and titles, and humbly try to help and advance your fellow Caribbean people regardless of academic background, age, sex or race. Remember Professor Sir Hillary Beckles, you are not the only educated caribbean academic – my common sense advice to you is try to eat some Humble Pie. On a biblical note, i remember reading, that ………they would become like the people who live in the city.

    The high rates of medical conditions he mentions, is due to people like him, not seeking opportunities to deter foreign investments into the caribbean islands, with their burgers and ‘rubbish’ cheap chicken parts for the people to eat – much cheaper than buying a packet of seeds to grow on their land. Why hasn’t he spoken out about passport for economic benefits?

    And he a Barbardian, most of Barbados is dominated by the same powers he is now attacking – people who are suppose to be ‘educated’ leaders have sold out the Caribbean to the same ‘slavery powered’ nationals. Grenada sold Calivigny island to rich ‘modern’ slave owners – what did Professor Sir Hillary Beckles had to say about that, I am sure nothing!

    Thank God we had, Mr Nelson Mandela , and now the Obama’s in office, good role models for the whole black race – you need to take a page out of their books Professor when you were writing your ‘pigs will fly’ books.

  9. What the heckel Dr. Beckel. You told us that the black slave population had its health damaged for all time because the plantation owner fed them on salt fish. Well they only got it free for 26 years, then the bought and paid for it because they liked it. The Spanish and the Portuguese have been eating it for centuries. The Portuguese eat more salt fish per capita than any other nation, other than the occasional nasty streak and liar syndrome in one or two that I know, they suffer no ill effect as a race of people. Beckles boy did you tell us lies about how medicine doesn’t work on Caribbean people because they were fed salt fish as slaves. I now personally believe you are a liar, prove me wrong and show us the irrefutable evidence, the scientific research, show us and save your good name. I hope you didn’t write that in your new book.

    As for your Knighthood, send it back, we are calling you to send it back, that’s the proper thing to do.

    How about this?

    From 1810: ?Salt fish was first shipped to Saint Vincent, it was shipped from Newfoundland.
    Plantation owners needed a cheap and durable source of protein for their slaves (and later their free workers), which Newfoundland salt fish provided.

  10. So should a petition be started calling on the good “Sir” to relinquish his title and become one of us in the way forward to achieving our reparations objectives?

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