Arguments about contentious periods of history are never easy and (especially when taking place on the web) seem forever destined to be far too simplistic. The argument about what (if anything) constitutes a proper compensation or memorial for the Atlantic slave-trade is no exception.
It has always seemed to me that this trade, which was of course taking place during (and after) the European enlightenment, is one of the world’s greatest ever wrongs, that it is still not sufficiently recognized in the west, and that something meaningful and lasting should be done to mark it.
The only question is what? Reparations to whom? From whom? A monument where? A holiday when?
Most Africans who were complicit in the slave-trade will never be identified, but we know the names of many British businessmen who were involved.
Now it seems that one descendent of the traders is making his own attempt to right the wrongs according to a report in: The Gambia Observer
Mr Andrew Hawkins from Plymouth, the United Kingdom, who claims to be a direct descendant of England’s first slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, will don yokes and chains at the forthcoming Roots International Festival in The Gambia to apologise for the actions of his famous ancestor.
Hawkins is taking part in a symbolic gesture organized by the London based “Lifeline expedition” who have already walked in chains through former slave ports such as Nantes, Bordeaux, Seville, Lisbon and Charleston South Carolina and from one of whose US “penitence walks” the above picture is taken.
I honestly don’t know what to think about this. Part of me sees it as a good thing but another part cannot suppress a gleeful smile at the thought of these latter-day “Mrs. Jellybee’s” attempting to stuff their children up chimneys in Manchester just as soon as they have watched the next installment of Schama’s “History of Britain”.