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Jamaica to get millions in reparation funding from UK Guardian Trust

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2023 | 1:32 AM

JAMAICA AND other regions are set to benefit from millions of pounds in “substantial” restorative justice funding over the next decade after the sole shareholder in the United Kingdom, Guardian Group, apologised for the media company’s links to transatlantic slavery.

Tuesday’s apology coincided with The Guardian’s disclosure of academic research tying the newspaper’s founding financial backers to slavery.

The quantum of proposed compensation to Jamaica was not declared, but the Scott Trust said that it expects to invest more than £10 million (US$12.3 million) in restorative justice support for descendant communities in the Caribbean nation, as well as the southeastern United States’ Sea Islands/Gullah Geechee.

The research findings showed that much of the wealth of founder, journalist and cotton merchant John Edward Taylor, and other financiers, was derived from chattel slavery.

Sir George Phillips, one of 11 Guardian investors in Manchester’s cotton and textiles industry tied to slavery, co-owned a sugar plantation in the western Jamaica parish of Hanover. In 1835, Phillips unsuccessfully attempted to claim compensation from the British government for 108 people enslaved on the plantation.

British slave owners received compensation of £20 million after the abolition of slavery in 1834.

The Scott Trust yesterday acknowledged and apologised for the origins of the wealth used to fund The Guardian and expressed regret that the media company’s editorial positions, in its early decades, often supported the cotton industry and, therefore, the exploitation of enslaved Africans.

The trust also committed to deepening its coverage of the Caribbean, South America, and Africa, as well as of black communities in the UK and the US; funding journalism training for persons from under-represented backgrounds; and financing further slavery research through the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull.

The academic research was commissioned in late 2020 by the Trust and conducted by the University of Nottingham.

The Scott Trust’s restorative justice initiative will be overseen by a four-member advisory panel of experts to guide and review its programme. Consultation will be had with descendant communities in Jamaica, the US, and the UK, as well as other experts and stakeholders.

‘DEEPLY SORRY’

Ole Jacob Sunde, chair of the Scott Trust, said that the organisation was “deeply sorry” about the role of Taylor and his partners.

“We recognise that apologising and sharing these facts transparently is only the first step in addressing The Guardian’s historical links to transatlantic slavery, which was a crime against humanity,” Sunde said yesterday.

“In response to the findings, the Scott Trust is committing to fund a restorative justice programme over the next decade, which will be designed and carried out in consultation with descendant communities in the US, Jamaica, the UK and elsewhere, centred on long-term initiatives and meaningful impact.”

And Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian News & Media, said the media entity was facing up to the fact that its founder and partners sourced their wealth from “a crime against humanity”.

“As we enter our third century as a news organisation, this awful history must reinforce our determination to use our journalism to expose racism, injustice and inequality, and to hold the powerful to account,” Viner said.

The Guardian campaign will likely give wind to the advocacy of reparation advocates, who claim that Jamaica is due almost a third of £7.5 trillion in compensation for slavery.