Posted: Friday, August 2, 2019. 5:08 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Wednesday, a day before the region-wide observation of Emancipation Day commemorating the formal end of the British slave trade, The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Glasgow (UoG) agreed on £20 million (US$24.3 million; BZ$48.9 million) in reparatory justice payments for the latter’s contribution to the trade of African slaves.
£20 million (£16.5 billion in 2013 pounds, when calculated as wage values) was the amount paid to slave owners as reparations by the British government when it abolished slavery in 1834.
A memorandum of understanding between the sides acknowledges that the University of Glasgow received, between the 1780s and 1880s, millions of pounds in grants and endowments from Scottish and English slave owners that served to enrich and physically expand the near 600-year-old university, as documented in a report presented by a research team commissioned by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, but also supported later efforts to end the trade and slavery itself.
The agreement represents the first occasion on which a slavery-enriched British or European institution has apologized for its part in slavery and committed funds to facilitate a reparations program.
Over the next two decades, the universities will strategize on the use of this historical knowledge to fashion reparatory justice tools and research for Caribbean development, particularly problem solving, through a Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research. The Centre, through reparatory-oriented policy research, will address the legacies of slavery and colonialism, such as persistent poverty and extreme inequality in economic relations, chronic disease proliferation, educational inadequacies, and related inhibiting factors adversely impacting economic growth and social justice in the region.
UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who holds an honorary doctorate from Glasgow, registered his pride in a “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.”
For the University of Glasgow, Dr. David Duncan, Chief Operating Officer, and University Secretary said that while the benefits of the trade were indirect, “From the very first we determined to be open, honest and transparent with the findings, and to produce a program of reparative justice… I am delighted that as a result of the report we are now able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Glasgow and The UWI and I look forward to the many collaborative ventures that we will jointly undertake in future.”
Another commemorative signing of the MoU is scheduled at the University of Glasgow on August 23, 2019, coinciding with UNESCO’s International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade. It will include the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honor of the enslaved.
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