Two U.K. Companies Apologize, Pledge Donations Over Slavery Legacies
Two U.K. companies — insurer Lloyd's of London and pub chain Greene King —are apologizing and pledging charity donations after research publicized how founders had benefited from the slave trade.
An academic database put together by The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership recently detailed that founders of Lloyd's and Greene King received compensation linked to slavery.
One entry shows that the British government paid Greene King founder Benjamin Greene to surrender several plantations in the Caribbean after the country abolished slavery in 1833.
The Telegraph newspaper, which first reported the story, estimates that Greene received the equivalent of £500,000 (or more than $620,000) at today's rate.
At least one founding subscriber of Lloyd's, Simon Fraser, was shown to have received an equivalent of £400,000 (or roughly $497,000) for an estate on the Caribbean island of Dominica, according to the database and Telegraph estimates.
In a statement, Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie pledged that the more than two-century-old company would substantially invest in black and minority communities and support diversity.
"It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s. While that is a part of our history, we are now focused on the present and the future," Mackenzie said in a statement sent to NPR. "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. "
Lloyd's made a similar pledge. The global insurer said it would focus on building inclusion in its markets, Lloyd's said in a statement issued last Wednesday.
"We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd's market in the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade — an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own. In acknowledging our own history, we also remain committed to focusing on the actions we can take today to shape our future into one that we can truly be proud to stand by," the statement said.
Neither company stated how much money they planned to donate.
The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership is based out of the University College London and supported by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. The database is an effort to document the reaches of British slavery and how its legacy reverberates through the present.
The apologies from Greene King and Lloyd's of London also come as anti-racist protesters, spurred on by the police killing of George Floyd, zero in on racist elements of U.K. history. Recent protests have targeted monuments to figures linked to the country's slave trade.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.