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How Are We to Repair the Historic Damage Done by Transatlantic Slavery? Cleo Lake and Alex Renton

Festival of Ideas
Cleo Lake and Alex Renton

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Cleo Lake and Alex Renton explore the inheritance passed to the descendants of slave owners and of the enslaved and how to make reparations for the past.

Through the story of his own family’s history as slave and plantation owners, Renton looks at how we owe it to the present to understand the legacy of the past. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 abolished slavery across parts of the British Empire. The newly liberated received no compensation but tens of thousands of enslavers were paid millions of pounds in government money. The descendants of some of those slave owners are among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Britain today.

A group of Caribbean countries is calling on ten European nations to discuss the payment of trillions of dollars for the damage done by transatlantic slavery and its continuing legacy. Cleo Lake, Green Party Councillor in Bristol, led the successful calls in Bristol City Council to lobby national government to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice which would discuss reparations for the trafficking and enslavement in African people. And Black Lives Matter and other activist groups are causing increasing numbers of white people to reflect on how this history of abuse and exploitation has benefited them. 

In conversation with Bristol Ideas director Andrew Kelly.

There is background material for this event, including links to articles and audio recordings, in the Read section of the website.

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Blook Legacy book cover

Alex Renton’s Blood Legacy is published by Canongate. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.

Cleo Lake was elected as a Councillor for Cotham (2016-2020) and was the first Green Party Lord Mayor of Bristol (2018-2019). She is a social justice activist and campaigner, particularly regarding anti-austerity and issues affecting African heritage communities. She is driven by the idea of utilising art and expanded performance to aid civic engagement and to reframe storytelling as a resilience tool to embed cultural knowledge, empathy, understanding and cohesion. Follow her on Twitter @Cleo4PCC.

alex renton

Alex Renton is a journalist who has won awards for his work as an investigator, war correspondent and food policy writer. He has also worked for Oxfam, in East Asia, Haiti and on the Iraq war. Most recently he has been a columnist on the Times and a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Follow him on Twitter @axrenton.

Image credit: Caroline Irby

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