Posts Tagged ‘slave trade’

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds – the three protests I photographed in London on Friday 1st August 2014 were all related to world trade – the Atlantic Slave Trade and current devastation caused by mining industry and the diamond trade that funds Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.


Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade – Windrush Square, Brixton

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

On August 1st 1834 the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act came into force, ending slavery across the British Empire. But although the slave owners received compensation of £20 millions the freed slaves got none. They were not even freed, but converted to ‘apprentices’ who were expected to continue to work without wages for up to six years until 1838 and were unable to own land.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The payment to the former slave owners was huge – around 40% of the National Budget of the UK, and the Treasury who took out a loan to enable them to pay it. British tax payers – including many descendants of former slaves – were still paying off the debt until 2015, as a rapidly deleted tweet from the UK Treasury confirmed in February 2018.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The Act abolishing slavery was designed largely to ensure that Britain’s hugely profitable sugar industry based on slavery continued after emancipation, and Britain also continued to import cotton grown by slavery in the southern states of the USA as well as sugar from slave plantations in Brazil and Cuba.

August 1st became widely celebrated as ‘Emancipation Day’ and it was the date chosen by Marcus Garvey to found the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914, and for a meeting six years later in Madison Square Gardens in New York attended by 25,000 of UNIA’s claimed membership of 4 million.

Demands for reparations to be made to the descendants of slaves have so far been met by only token measures, such as the renaming of streets and buildings and official apologies, with some legislation requiring companies to provide information about their involvement in the trade and insurance of slaves.

But since the 1990s there has been a growing movement demanding financial reparations both for slavery, particularly following the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations convened by the Organisation of African Unity and the Nigerian government and held in Abuja, Nigeria in 1993.

In the UK the movement was led by Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham until his death in 2000. Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 expressed “deep sorrow” for Britain’s role in the slave trade, saying it been “profoundly shameful”, though as Wikipedia notes this was criticised as lacking any measures of reparation. A further public apology for London’s role in the slave trade came from then London Mayor Ken Livingstone during the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the 1807 Slave Trade Act.

A case was for compensation was brought against Lloyds of London in 2004, but failed. The same year a Jamaican Rastafari call for European countries, particularly the UK to support the resettlement of 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa in a scheme costed at £72.5 billion was rejected. Other claims have been lodged by in 2007 by Guyana, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.

On 1st August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Garvey’s setting up of the UNIA. a large group of mainly people of African and Afro-Caribbean descent gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton for several hours of speeches, celebration, drumming and dancing before they were to march to Parliament to make their demand for reparations. The march has become an annual event in London, but I had to leave shortly before it began.

Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade


Vedanta told ‘end your killing’ – Lincoln Inn’s Fields

I joined the protest outside the building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where the FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company Vedanta Resources was holding its AGM. Here and at other protests in Zambia and Odisha and Delhi in India.

Vedanta is a huge company which protesters say is “guilty of thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and contentious companies in the world.

Their activities, particularly their attempt to destroy the sacred Nyamgiri mountain in India for its aluminium ore, have led to protests around the world, and an Indian Supreme Court decision that, at least for the moment have halted the mining there.

Another setback for Vedanta was the research by activist group Foil Vedanta into their subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, accused of poisoning thousands and causing ongoing birth deformities by major pollution spills in 2006 and 2010. The research showed the company which was claiming it was making a loss and so unable to pay its fines and tax bill was actually making around $500 million a year.

Labour MP John McDonnell was among those who had become a shareholder to attend the AGM

Vedanta’s problems being made public resulted in a dramatic crash in its share price and the previous December it dropped out of the FTSE100. Billionaire owner Anil Agarwal responded by buying large numbers of the shares and was now said to own over two thirds of the company. But there were other shareholders going into the AGM, including a few activists who had bought a share to entitle them to attend and ask questions.

The activities of these activists, both inside and outside the AGM every year, were eventually were an important part in the decision four years later by Agarwal to make Vedanta a private company.

Vedanta told ‘end your killing’


Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds – De Beers, Piccadilly

Finally I made my way to Piccadilly where pro-Palestinian campaigners were protesting in front of De Beers jewellery shop, calling on people to boycott diamonds cut and polished in Israel.

Although there are no diamonds mined in Israel, according to Wikipedia, almost a quarter of Israel’s total exports come from the sales of diamonds cut and polished in the country and they account for almost one eighth of the total world production.

Israel claims that all these diamonds are covered by the ‘Kimberley Process’ which aims to prevent diamonds mined in conflict areas and sold to finance war and insurgency coming to the market. But campaigners say that this defines blood diamonds too narrowly, enabling Israel’s diamond-cutting industry to avoid attention, and the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, among others, has called for diamonds processed in Israel to be considered conflict diamonds.”

Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds


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West India – North Dock 1988

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

The Ledger Building,  Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52-positive_2400
The Ledger Building, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52

The Offices of the West India Docks an Hertsmere Rd at the west corner of what was the Import Dock of the West India Docks and were Grade I listed in 1950 together with the adjoining warehouses. They were built in 1803 , architect George Gwilt and converted to hold the dock ledgers by John Rennie, who added the portico in 1827.

In 2000 it was converted into a Wetherspoon pub, the Ledger Office and can be visited during normal opening hours and displays some information about the history of the docks which can be read while drinking a cheap pint.

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53

These listed warehouses are now converted for various uses including the Museum of London Docklands which has both permanent and temporary displays on the history of the River Thames, the growth of Port of London and the docks historical link to the Atlantic slave trade, in which this building, a sugar warehouse, played an important role. Temporary exhibitions there have included some of my pictures including in the show ‘Estuary‘ celebrating the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2013

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55

The area has been opened up by the removal of the dockside sheds and is now a popular tourist venue, though it has lost most of its previous allure. But it’s still an interesting area, both for the old and the new buildings.

Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44-positive_2400
Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44

Two dockside cranes remain on the side of the dock, close to West India Quay DLR station, perhaps left there to divert attention from a rather hideous hotel building to their north.

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400

This picture taken I think from more or less underneath the DLR which goes across the North (Import) Dock gives some impression of the scale of the West India Docks , which I think when constructed in 1800-1806 were I think the largest enclosed high-security docks in the world – and a model for later docks elsewhere.

This dock now looks considerably smaller, with around half of its width taken up by a strange building on top of a new Crossrail station, looking to me rather like a woodlouse. Nothing in this picture remains except the listed dock wall at bottom left (and possibly the bollard on it.)

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400

I think this bridge, built from what looks suspiciously like Meccano, was the Great Wharf Road Bridge, later replaced by what was intended as a more permanent structure as the Upper Bank Street Bridge. I can find no information about it on-line, but it appears to have a central lifting section with heavy counterweights in those four towers. That more permanent bridge was removed for the construction of the Crossrail station in 2012 and a new, much shorter bridge was built in five sections in Belgium by Hollandia and welded together in situ in, opening in 2020.

Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32-positive_2400
Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32

It was time to leave Docklands for home, and together with my two young assistants we got on the DLR, sitting right at the front of the train. This view from the front window as the train had just left Poplar Station and about to cross Aspen Way shows dockland cranes at left and St Anne’s Limehouse at right. Then DLR trains were single two-carriage units like the Stratford service in this picture.

This is the final part of posts here about my pictures from my walk around the docks on the Isle of Dogs in June 1988.

Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the album. The pictures there are largely ordered by my negative reference numbers, which do not in detail reflect the order in which the pictures were taken used in the posts here.


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Afrikan Emancipation Day Call for Reparations

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

2014

Seven years ago on August 1st 2014, the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, I photographed Rastafarians meeting in Windrush Square for speeches and ceremonies before a march to Parliament demanding reparations for the descendants of those taken from Africa by the Atlantic Slave Trade.

2014

August 1 was chosen as the founding date for the UNIA and for the Madison Square meeting and this protest as it was the 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire.

2014

Since then, similar events have taken place each year in Brixton each Afrikan Emancipation Day – August 1st – with the event growing in support each year. Last year the organisers changed the format of the event, as the supporters of the event felt it was having little impact and their demand to the UK Government to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice (APPCITARJ) and to commit to holistic reparations taking into consideration various proposals for reparations in accordance with the United Nations Framework on a Right to a Remedy and Reparation was being ignored.

2014

The decided to hold a series of events in Brixton, blocking local roads to do so, an Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations Rebellion Groundings event. This gained far more attention in the media and the Stop The Maangamizi Campaign and the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee have decided to hold a similar rebellion on Sunday 1st August 2021.

2019

With some help from Extinction Rebellion who have supported previous events they intend to lock-down Brixton Road for the day, and to establish a series of ‘Grounding spaces’ for public action and learning on various aspects of the struggle under the general theme of ‘Uniting to Stop the Maangamizi for Our Very Survival: Planet Repairs Now’.

2019

Maangammizi is a Swahili word annihilation, used to describe the genocide and ecocide which has taken place over centuries and is still causing huge damage across the planet. Climate change disproportionately effects Africa and the Global South.

2019

The UK Government continues to turn a deaf ear to the demand for reparations, writing in response to a petition in 2018 “we do not believe reparations are the answer” and that they “should focus on challenges that face our countries in the 21st century” rather than historic events such as the Transatlantic slave trade. Unfortunately it hasn’t been doing well on those challenges as a recent deliberately misleading report on racial disparity and our current rise in average temperatures demonstrate.

More at:
Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade
Afrikans demand reparations

Afrikans demand reparations

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Time for a little more colour on >Re:PHOTO, and looking back to warmer and sunnier weather at the start of August last year.

The Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March has been an annual event in London http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2014/08/aug.htm#rastafari since 2014, which was the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. Garvey had spent the previous two years working as a journalist and studying in London and founded the UNIA as as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into “one grand racial hierarchy.” The organisers of that first march intended it as a one-off event, but others took over insisting it should be annual. This was the first time I’d managed to cover it since 2014.

Garvey chose the date as 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire. Claims for reparations for descendants of those enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade came to the fore in 1999 when the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years, and in 2004 a case was brought and lost against Lloyds of London and Jamaican Rastafarians made a claim for £72,5bn for Europe to resettle of 500,000 Jamaicans back in Africa which was rejected. Other claims have been lodged on behalf of Guyana, Antigua, Barbuda and Barbados.

I felt a little apprehensive at photographing this event, and just a few people have shown a little hostility towards me, though many more have been welcoming. Anyone who has grown up white in the UK has obviously benefited from the historic proceeds of slavery (as so do those of any other origin living here) but I’m fairly sure that my ancestors were not among those carrying out and profiting from the trade. They will have been being exploited by that same class that was enslaving Africans; some thrown off their lands by the Highland Clearances to make way for sheep. Others will I think have been at the heart of the emancipation movement. They will have received nothing of the huge financial compensation that was paid to the enslaving class, which created a debt which members of the British public were paying off through taxation until 2015.

This year the march was divided into 9 blocs, although in practice there was a great deal of overlap. One of these was the Ubuntu – Non-Afrikan Allies Bloc which included Extinction Rebellion XR Connecting Communities.

While I think there is a firm moral case for reparations, I think the demands are unlikely to impress European or American governments, certainly not on the scale being claimed. And I wonder if the demand actually deflects from a more important need for decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean as well as other areas of the majority world, reclaiming national assets from the various multi-nationals that are now continuing the exploitation of the continent.

I left the march as it made its way through Brixton towards Parliament where there was to be another protest rally in Parliament Square.

Afrikans demand reparations


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