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Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott travelled to the West Indies to uncover his roots and soon discovered that Caribbean history isn't quite as 'black and white' as he'd imagined.

Ainsley thought he already knew a lot about his father's side of the family. He'd been told that his great-grandparents, on the maternal line, had come to Jamaica as indentured labourers from India. But when he began his research, he was shocked to find himself heading down a very different path in his family's history.

He had thought that the Harriott ancestry was straightforward. Ainsley knew his great-grandfather was in the colonial West India Regiment, and had assumed that they were descended from slaves.

In Barbados, he confirmed that his great-grandfather had a distinguished military career, and learnt that he had fought for the British Empire in the Sierra Leone 'Hut Tax War' – an increasingly violent protest against British tax collecting in the protectorate.

But he also encountered some extraordinary family details. He discovered how, in the time of slavery, one of his ancestors, an unmarried 'free black' woman, accumulated enough money to buy seven houses. His next discovery was even more surprising. Ainsley's great-great-grandfather, James Gordon Harriott, wasn't a black slave as he had thought, but the descendant of a long line of white slave owners.

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