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Last updated: Tuesday 6 Jun 2006
Slavery: time to say sorry?
Bristol has never said sorry for its massive role in slavery. So should the city apologise for something that happened hundreds of years ago?
Only Liverpool had more ships set sail as part of the trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Now a public meeting's been held in Bristol to discuss the issue that is splitting local opinion.

France has just held its first ever day of commemoration for the slave trade. Should the UK do the same? 
Should Bristol say sorry? Would you agree with a day of remembrance? Or is the slave trade too far in the past? Could it stir up bad feeling between communities?
Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed. A selection of your emails is published below.

Stephan Smith
The idea that Britain should not apologies for its role in the slave trade because ‘it was a long time ago’ or that ‘it will have to apologies for other wrongs’ is irrelevant. This is still a highly relevant and passionate subject and not as some have suggested opening old wounds.

The fact is many people still feel burden by the legacy of the slave trade, turning a blind eye or attempting to sweep it under the carpet is not going to solve this problem. It is unlikely that an apology will solve the problem either but at least out of respect for the estimated 100 million lives ruined by one of the worse acts ever inflicted by humanity, one should be given. Refusing to give an apology is denying responsibility as a nation and serves to re-enforce racial divisions. During the First World War Britain made Germany subject to a war guilt clause but is unwilling to see it guilt in an act spanning centuries.

People history is not static, and the slave trade is not a fairy tale - this happened to real people. It is a lesson to be learned for ALL people and should never be forgotten.

Its too late to say sorry. It's gone way too far. The time now is for action. For those in positions of power to actively change and introduce policies which do more than just enforce political correctness. Policies that actually recognize the underlying cause for our rapidly deteriorating "society".

POVERTY causes the need for escapism and in turn leads to drugs and crime. Most Black people that are in poverty are in this position due to slavery. It still directly affects us as all as the youth of today.

My Great Grandmother is mixed race. Her Dad was a plantation slaveholder and raped then killed her Mum. I will never be able to trace my family history further than that. The repurcussions run deep and regardless of who sold who, the fact remains that there are nations of angry youths growing up determined to change things by any means necessary.

Who's gonna apologise for somthing no one alive today was even involved in? Humankind should grieve that things got so bad. But surely apologising for slavery should mean that all germans must apologise for Holocaust? It's stupid, it just invokes racism.

Things were bad in the past, can't we accept that now we're living in the golden age and things can't get any better?

There is no doubt there should be an apology for slavery but it will only appear to be an empty guesture until much of the inequality in the world is gone.

I think the issue of appologies is less important than the issue of human rights. I think there are two types of people who say we shouldn't forget what happend and that we should be properly educated about the atrocities of slavery and colonialism. There are those who genuinely want to change the world and make it a fairer better place. And there are those who make the suffering of others into such a major part that they wouldn't no what to do with them selves if they couldn't take part in some heroic struggle against an oppressor who is easily identified by skin colour. Untill we live in fairer world the appologies will be relatively empty guesture. People need to be treated decently regardless of wether their ancestors had it good or bad.

melissa johnson
even though it would bring up bad memories sorry would be nice. matter a fact a day should be made for african americans and im not talking about black history month a day we all come together a have a moment of silence for the generation of slaves

The British Government had an opportunity to apologise for it's role in the slave trade in 1999, but REFUSED to, the reason being that if it did apologise, it would be an official admission of guilt, thus meaning they could be sued for damages. Perhaps Bristol fears the same thing. We can only wonder what Du Bois & Booker T. Washington would think of such a reason for not apologising! Nevertheless, since Liverpool City Council apologised (and it had far more to do with the slave trade than Bristol did) not a single lawsuit has been filed, so maybe the worries are only academic...

Our contry is such a mess..! How can we say sorry when we can't even get our current affairs right..! Yes I think we should apologise but we also shoudn't dwell on the matter, whats done is done lets learn from it and move on..! As a contry we spend to much time and money on dwelling on the past - why can't we all move on and embrass a brighter future! :)

I'm a 19 year old black man, as a nation the UK need to apologise for a lot, including slavery, but as soon as that's done everyone needs to move on with their lives. Yes, slavery hurt our ancestors, but we all need to move forward and stop allowing it to hold us back or be used as an excuse for underachieving.


Well an apology isn't the word i'd use because it implies that these people are apologizing for their own actions- this is not the case.. it's not fair to create a 'they' to put the blame on and an 'us' who are the victims today...we should all be united against this occurrence... so, a remembrance day is a positive thing and i don't think it will breed hostility-yeah old wounds will be torn open-but in a positive light...we, as a community, can show that we are uniting AGAINST slavery...we are celebrating the diversity of our country and addressing past mistakes so that they are not made again..that in itself is a positive thing.

Why say sorry, did the people of today commit these acts. NO, Just get on with it and stop bringing up the past.

Of course Britain should apologise. An apology isnt enough to compensate for all the murders, rape and opression of thousands and thousands of Black people but it is undoubtably way over due. The horrific Sikh Massacre in the early 1900's was conducted by the British General Dyer. Thousands of Innocent Sikhs were fired at with thousands of random bullets for no reason. Early this Year Queen Elizabeth went to the Punjab and Apologised to the Sikhs on behalf of Britain officials who conducted the un human act back in early 1900's. An apology for the Slave trade is WELL OVER DUE. They best get to steppin.

Geofrey Mwijage
All countries that were involved in this terrible business have to apologies. We are still filling the impact of what happen to our fore parents in today’s life. Their apology will be appreciated and accepted with our both hand, as we are still civilised regardless of what they have done to us.

DeAndre Carroll
As an African American, I would like to commend the particular cities in the UK and the UK in general for even bringing an issue like this to the table.

I think that many citizens of first world countries often forget that it was not only the hard work of its citizens that created the living conditions that they enjoy today. High levels of achievement can only be met by building a suitable economic foundation on which to move forward. This was accomplished in many Western countries by using slave labor, thus allowing tasks to be accomplished before other solutions could be created in the industrial period that followed.

People say other countries, in addition to Africa, contributed labor to the development of the West under duress.But an apology to Africa doesn’t exclude apologies to other countries.

Any living descendants of slaves have not forgotten that slavery existed. The point of remembrance is the hope of moving forward to a better future. There is still racial, social, and economic division in the world today. Even if not an apology, a formal acknowledgement goes a long way to start a process building trust and respect.

i hope every country that has had slavetrade will give recognition to the people that build their wealth and died 4 it! Without black african people we wouldn't even be here! Every tree needs roots! and we all know how the black worldwide community gave and gives the world more than it gets back 4 it! respect your roots!!

no apoplogy is going to do anything!!!! it wont mean nothing and it wont do nothing. the world continues to be racist

It'z never 2 late 2 say sorry...

there should be no apology because the people who were wronged are not around to be apologised to and the wrong doers are not around to apologise. all we can do is learn from history and use what we have learned to supress and eradicate racial intolerance. instead of living in the past, create a better future.

I have read with interest what people have had to say on this message board. I think the important thing to remember is that, yes, slavery happened a long time ago, but we are still feeling the after affects centuries later. I believe it is naive of 'Tarique' to state that he “hate(s) the way a lot of African black youths I know go on like the white man is bad because he once sold the black man” because we are still feeling the repercussions of these actions today! Recognition that slavery took place with a day of remembrance, I believe, will aid in the future healing of the negativity that is unfortunately plays a role in today’s UK black culture.

This is somthing that happened long time ago, it was extremely bad at the time and it was a terrible thing, but the people of today are not responsible for what happend generations ago, why should the people apologise for somthing they havent done? its like asking all black people to apologise for the criminal immigrants we have on the streets right now, I wouldnt say sorry if i hadnt done anything wrong, would you?

its been too long, its not like it will happen again and the people of bristol and the rest of uk are not the ones personally resposible. And are we not spost to be multicultural? so if we said sorry wouldnt some of us be apologising to ourselves? Please, we have so much wrong with this country we should be sorting out.. and apologising for somink that we didnt do is not one of them.

definately, it may be a start towards more positive racial relationships

By right the UK must apologise for slavery to black people but they never will because they too arrogant to accept responsibility for their actions. Unlike the French who are able to support their colonies, UK will continue to deny any support or involvement with these countries unless of course they've got oil or nuclear technology.

ATL 1X Fan (nick)
I don't think it's a matter of saying sorry that should be questioned, but the manner in which blacks are treated not just in UK or the USA but around the world. Is it a problem of opening old wounds or the fact that old wounds haven't had a chance to heal?

It's all about symbolism & the need to feel appeased. WWII will never be forgotten, the holocaust will never be forgotten, we even remember what happened in biblical times, so why should we forget about slavery? An apology may seem like an empty gesture, but to me, it's about public acknowledgement that what their ancestors did was wrong!!

Chidi Muoghalu
Slavery is still going on just like racism, war, killing. In some part of world it has mordenised and in the other parts it hasn't. History always repeat itself in mordern ways and human beings never learn.

I know that Liverpool council officially apologised. The fact people were not born did not come into it. Most people in Liverpool have families who came to the city from Ireland and other places( including Africa) in Victorian times. However black people were not the only people who were exploited and treated badly - the wealth of this city was made on the backs of peasants from Ireland labouring in the docks of starvation wages, who lived worse than animals in the slums around the docks. The point is where do you draw the line with apologies?

if the english people start saying sorry now for the role they played in the slave trade, they will have to do a hell of a lot of apologizing for all that went down during colonial times. they mucked up by deviding india, they created the terrible trouble zone in israel, not to mention northern island and what not.

so many brutal acts are left on the paths of the powerful or evil countries in the past. who is to say what was bad enough to have to say sorry? however, to keep stumm about england's role in the slave trade does not improve things. admittedly, talking about it will surely at first tear open old wounds. but where old wounds can still be torn open, there definitely is a problem that needs addressing.

a day of rememberence would only be symbolic, but it would show the world, that england is willing and capable of facing its past mistakes. after hundreds of years of slavery and the consequent impact it has had on society and racism to this very day, i believe it is the least england can do!

I think European countries and the USA should have to reimburse all the countries they colonised for the thousands of things they took from them, and compensate them for the slaves that were taken. With a few hundred years of interest, that should easily cancel third world debt and actually help places like Africa, and the descendants of slaves still living in poverty in America.

Its so old now who is actualy going to appologise? No one that was actualy involed in the slavery trade will be able to do so. Why should some one have to represent those that were involved?

And why is it you only bring up the slavery trade in Africa as if its white people who were behind it. Slavery was happening all over the world blacks would sell off blacks etc. I hate the way alot of African black youths I know go on like the white man is bad becuase he once sold the black man. Shame they dont know there own history then they would realise that their own people sold them.

hagar smith
Saying sorry for slavery while people still relive racism because of their black skin doesn't really help. Most black youth don't know the full details of their history bringing it all up again,will just awaken sentiments

I can see the point of sayng sorry although why should they? It wasn't the people that are running Bristol now, and who will they be saying sorry to? It's to far gone now they shoulda done it ages ago! People like Martin lurther king and other black leaders have tought us to live and let live and don't dwell on the past or every bad word against our race. I feel that if they do this now it will make life much harder. Bad feelings will come out and their cold be all sorts of thngs happening, we live in a comunity where black, white, asian and other communities are welcome and excepted now why ruin it by bringing up the past. My family always remember the blacks who were held slaves and say prayers in every day life for what they went through yes it may be nice to have a rememberance day but i think that that day will only bring bad news. We should always remember them not on just one day!!! RIP

What is the point of saying sorry because it is just going to bring back old wounds and what is the point of them saying sorry when they don't really understand what Black people have gone through, thanks

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