In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a call overseas for some of London’s oldest financial institutions to pay reparations to descendants of slaves.
London companies played a major part in the business of slaves, organizing and funding the trans-Atlantic passage of African slaves, while the directors of the companies made fortunes, per the Wall Street Journal. The British government abolished slavery in the 1830s, paying out £20 million, billions by today’s standards, to compensate slave owners who were “deemed to have lost property.” Now it’s time for descendants of slaves to see the same kind of compensation.
The Bank of England, Barclays PLC, and Lloyd’s of London insurance market have all apologized or acknowledged links to slavery. Now, Caribbean governments and Black British campaigners descended from slaves are asking them to pay their fair share.
“Britain was the most efficient and profitable slave trader in terms of return on capital largely because of the role of the City of London in providing cheaper finance, better insurance rates, better reinsurance rates and, critically, funding the construction of the shipping industry,” Hilary Beckles, chairman of a reparations commission representing Jamaica, Barbados, and ten other Caribbean nations, said to the Wall Street Journal.
So far, companies are resisting reaching into their pockets and instead focusing on improving workplace diversity. According to the WSJ, A Barclays spokesman said the bank is “committed to do more to further foster our culture of inclusiveness, equality, and diversity, for our colleagues, and the customers and clients we serve.” Lloyd’s of London has apologized for their role in the slave trade, while the Bank of England said it wasn’t directly involved.
London isn’t the only place where people are calling for reparations— in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers, talks of the government paying out reparations have been renewed and are picking up steam in the U.S.