'We have told ourselves a story' - Norwich MP calls for debate on slavery reparations in new podcast

  • Watch Clive Lewis MP talk about his slavery roots and collaboration on a new podcast looking at the issue of reparations.

A Labour MP is calling for a national conversation about reparations for descendants of Caribbean slaves after discovering his own family's history.

Clive Lewis, who represents Norwich South, is calling for UK society to work out how to make amends with its history of slavery after joining forces with former BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan, who paid £100,000 last year to Grenada in reparations.

Mr Lewis discovered his descendants from Africa were slaves on a sugar cane plantation owned by Ms Trevelyan's ancestors on the Caribbean island around 200 years ago.

He told GMB he had wanted to raise the issue "for quite a while, but it's difficult".

"It's a difficult conversation for this country to have because we have told ourselves a story about being one of the first countries to abolish slavery and then stopping others from doing it.

"But there's a whole other side to the story which we don't talk about: the actual enslavement itself, the brutal treatment and what happened after emancipation.

"We took so much from them. We left them with literally nothing after hundreds of years of exploitation.

"This is a conversation of how we rectify that. It tells us some things about ourselves. I think as a country going into the 21st century it feels like we need to work it out."

He added it was an "emotional rollercoaster" teaming up with the former BBC journalist to look into the slave trade in the Caribbean which culminated in them meeting at the former sugar cane plantation and elegant plantation house in Grenada.

Mr Lewis, who said he felt anger and sadness during his exploration of his family history with Ms Trevelyan, described the slavery story as "complex".

The pair have spoken of the experience on podcast Heirs of Enslavement.

The way Britain has dealt with slavery has come to the forefront over the past three years.

A statue of slave trader Edward Colston, a merchant and trans-Atlantic slave trader was torn down in Bristol in June 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest.

It was retrieved from the harbour and will feature in an exhibition based on the theme of protest next year at Bristol's M Shed Museum.

In June 2021 Oxford University lecturers boycotted giving lectures at Oriel College after the university decided not to remove a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes from the college's building.

Ms Trevelyan, who is now based in the US, described the meeting outside the Grenada plantation as "chilling" and told GMB: "This is a huge bit of Britain's history which isn't properly told and isn't acknowledged.

"My hope is that Britain can lead the way now on this debate on reparations within Europe and answer the Caribbean's call that maybe this government or another government will sit down with the Caribbean and talk about their 10 point plan for reparations which has existed for more than a decade."

She said she and her family made the £100,000 offering to Grenada because she felt a sense of responsibility, adding: "Although that wealth from slavery isn't with our family anymore after nearly 200 years after abolition, the social standing is and the social privilege is there.

"I felt like I was in a position to set an example and look at the debate that has been generated. It's an essential bit of history that isn't properly confronted.

"It begins with an apology."

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