During the transatlantic slave trade, an estimated five million enslaved Africans were sent to the Caribbean, and the demand for sugar in Europe was at an all-time high.
Enslaved Africans who survived the long and perilous journey were forced to work on huge plantations in unsafe conditions, while their masters profited from their labor. The Drax family of Britain was one of the benefactors, and some are demanding that they pay restitution for their slavery history.
The 621-acre Drax Hall – a still-functioning sugar plantation – is known as the “killing field” for alleged atrocities committed against enslaved Africans who worked there. It was built around 1650. According to the Sunday Mirror, thousands of enslaved Africans died on that plantation, and the Drax Hall employed up to 327 enslaved persons for 200 years.
Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caribbean Community Reparations Commission, stated, “Black life mattered solely to make billionaires out of English enslavers, and the Drax family did it longer than any other elite family.”
Drax Hall is the oldest residence in the Western Hemisphere, and it was here that Barbados’ first sugarcane was grown. Current plantation employees bemoaned their bad working conditions to the news source in the name of family descendent and Tory Member of Parliament Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.
Drax, who is worth an estimated £150 million ($200,850,000) and inherited the plantation from his late father, continues to profit from it. According to reports, farmworkers are paid as little as £24 ($32) per day. In the Caribbean, the average wage is double that.
“They used to offer retired individuals a little something extra. But nothing has happened in the last few years. I don’t have anything. “I don’t think the rest of the retirees are getting anything either,” a former employee stated.
“People in agriculture endure low compensation and undertake the hardest work,” a current employee noted. It’s a lot of labor, and it’s not easy. When it rains, you go to work, and when it’s hot, you go to work.”
The plantation had to part ways with 189 enslaved laborers once slavery was abolished in 1836. The UK government, on the other hand, compensated the Drax family with a current rate of $3 million (4,017,000).
Drax distanced himself from his family’s background in an interview with the Sunday Mirror after his election in 2010, saying, “I can’t be held responsible for something that happened 300 or 400 years ago.” They’re bringing up the issue of class, but that’s not what this election is about, and it’s not what I stand for, so I’m ignoring it.”
Sir Hilary, on the other hand, disagrees and believes that the MP should make amends for his wealthy family’s background. He claims that the Drax family’s involvement in the slave trade led to the deaths of 30,000 enslaved people in Jamaica and Barbados.
“When I go through Drax Hall land, I get the impression that I’m driving through a big slaughter field with unmarked graves. “Sugar and the Black Death were inseparable,” he explained. “When he is the owner and inheritor, Richard Drax can’t argue it has nothing to do with him. They should make amends.”
David Comissiong, the Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, added, “This was a crime against humanity, and we put a moral duty on him and his family to contribute to the effort to repair the harm.”
“You can’t just walk away from the crime scene.” They now have an obligation to assist in the repair of the damage.”
Apart from calls for Drax to pay compensation, the Sunday Mirror claimed that despite registering the firm in his name this year, he has yet to reveal the property in the MPs’ register of interests. MPs must register lands that have “a value of more than £100,000; or forms part of a total property portfolio with a value of more than £100,000; and/or delivers rental income of more than £10,000 in a calendar year,” according to parliamentary rules.
“I refute the accusation that I failed to register any Barbados property assets originally owned by my father, as these are going through the probate procedure and have not yet been transferred to my name,” the millionaire MP told the news source.
“Of course, after that process is over, I will register it in compliance with the rules. I’m very aware of the slave trade, and the part my distant family played in it is deeply regrettable.
“However, no one today can be held accountable for events that occurred hundreds of years ago.
“This is an aspect of our country’s past that we must all learn from.”