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APOLOGY

British firms promise reparations for 'shameful' links to slave trade

A demonstrator in front of the Lloyd's building in the City of London financial district, in London, Britain, June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
A demonstrator in front of the Lloyd's building in the City of London financial district, in London, Britain, June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls REUTERS - PETER NICHOLLS
3 min

The Lloyd’s of London insurance giant and British pub chain Greene King have apologised for their roles in the 18th and 19th century trans-Atlantic slave trade, and promised to make reparations to black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

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In the biggest deportation in history, slave traders took millions of African men, women and children from their homes and transported them mainly to the Americas. This week’s apologies come after the companies’ links to the slave trade were highlighted in a University College London database.

Founded in 1688 and now the world’s leading commercial insurance market, Lloyd’s has its roots in maritime insurance – with many of the ships it insured involved in the slave trade.

“Lloyd’s has a long and rich history dating back over 330 years, but there are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of,” the firm said in a statement. 

“In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th century slave trade. This was an appalling and shameful period of British history, as well as our own.”

As well as promising financial support to charities promoting opportunity for black and ethnic minorities, the company has promised to invest in programmes to attract black and minority ethnic talent, and to review its artefacts to ensure they are not racist.

A march by several hundred Black Lives Matter activists through the British capital went ahead at lunchtime Saturday, 13 June, 2020.
A march by several hundred Black Lives Matter activists through the British capital went ahead at lunchtime Saturday, 13 June, 2020. AFP

Meanwhile the CEO of Greene King, one of the UK's largest pub chains, said it was “inexcusable” that the brewer’s founder “profited from slavery” after the database revealed that Benjamin Greene received the equivalent of £500,000 for giving up his three plantations in the West Indies.

“We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work,” Nick Mackenzie said.

Records show Benjamin Greene, who held at least 231 people in slavery, was an enthusiastic supporter of the practice and argued against its abolition.

The company, which says it employs people across the UK “of all backgrounds”, has promised what it called “substantial investment” to benefit black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The reparations come as the UK and countries around the world are rocked by Black Lives Matter protests that sprung up following the death in the US of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police. 

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