Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
Latin America & Caribbean
Middle East
South Asia
Last updated: 18 December, 2006 - Published 16:23 GMT
Email a friend Printable version
The 'slavery apology' forum
William Wilberforce led the campaign in the British parliament to abolish the slave trade
Read and post your comments in our 'slavery apology' debate
Should Britain make an outright apology for its involvement in the slave trade?
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has recently issued a statement of 'deep sorrow'.
What do you think? Should Britain unequivocally apologise for its involvement in the slave trade?
Are the descendants of slaves owed more than an apology?

This is a moderated debate.
The BBC reserves the right of editorial oversight


I'm truly appalled by some of the opinions expressed here. As a Caribbean person, I can say that, despite how long ago slavery ended, it was a tragic period in human history, the effects of which have certainly not been eradicated. Some people try to make it into a blame game, saying Europeans were to blame or Arabs, or Africans. This is pointless: it is a human tragedy; there were Europeans to blame, Arabs, and Africans, among others. There was no one person or race to blame; it was crooked philosophy of the era. HOWEVER, I'd be among the first to say that I can’t see what good an apology would do some hundred plus years later. That's like uncovering a scab from a wound. What makes more sense to me is that real efforts be made by EVERYONE to assist those countries most affected negatively by the legacy of slavery.

 I'm truly appalled by some of the opinions expressed here.

A Cooper
Port of Spain, Trinidad

In my opinion an apology needs to made to God, by the whites who enslaved the Africans, by the Africans who sold out their own and by the population of Europeans who supported this evil system. Unless that apology is made I don’t see how these mentioned groups can gain salvation.
H Joseph
Washington DC, USA

I believe apologies of this kind are futile. We should apologise for our own actions. Furthermore, if we are to apologise, then so should the slave-sending nations of West Africa.
There is a need for more objectivity in the debate about the growth of Britain. My research suggests that the Industrial Revolution was based mainly on the hard work of British workers, seeking to buy more consumer goods, so as to enjoy a better lifestyle for themselves. It was not merely a matter of enjoying the fruits of slave labour.
I am not arguing that the British economy was not tainted by slavery at least until its abolition, only that it was a far less significant factor than some people seem to be arguing.
Dr P King
Stourbridge, England

Most definitely an apology is in order from Britain and by extension Europe for their involvement in the slave trade. In addition compensation should also be rendered to the descendents of those slaves who were brought to the New World. But to limit it to Europe alone would be to neglect the role Africa played in the trade. Thus the African people must acknowledge and repent also for its role in the Triangular Trade Saga. Too often Europe alone is blamed while Africa bears no fault. I will further add that Africa too should compensate Africans in the Diaspora for the part it played.
A Black
Cashew Hill, Antigua

An apology should involve all the European nations that initiated, sustained and grew wealthy on the the African slave trade, plantation labour and the subsequent brutalization and death of countless Africans. Compensation is also in order as Africans on the continent and in the diaspora, continue to suffer the consequences of racist exploitation and marginalization via colonialism.
The levers of power continue to be in the hands of the oppressors who assume their leadership and privilege are inalienable rights.
N Creft
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

If you look into the history of Slavery, slavery was a result of ethnic differences in Africa. The ethnic groups or tribes captured the slaves as part of their bounty in battles. The rest of the world transported and sold the slaves. So who is really responsible?
T Greeley
Venice, USA

People get real. The blacks sold out their own people. Let them apologise to their own people. Let them pay their own people.

 It was business as usual, nothing personal.

It was business as usual, nothing personal.
Get over it.
I Khan
Florida, USA

First to all (mainly A.Krausen) who think that Jews should be FIRST deserving reconcilement. Keep dreaming! African's have been & continue to be exploited today! To say slavery happen a long long time ago, check your history. Slavery was in my family only 5 generations ago. That’s the early 1900's! My great grandparents still remember slavery! So yes an apology is needed! It shouldn't be debated but given, considering the conditions Africans still face in the world today.
Japan has gotten it apology for dropped nukes, Jews given their apology, now it time for all states to give the Africans their APOLOGY!
Philadelphia, USA

Having family in the West Indies, (I think) Britain should do more to help the people. Just like the U.S. The U.K’s wealth was made by the works of the slaves.
V Russell

An apology is necessary from Britain and all other countries involved in the Slave Trade.
However, before an apology can be accepted, the British Commonwealth should be disbanded. We should stop accepting knighthoods from Britain and stop allowing Britain to define who we are as a people.
We need to rid ourselves from the neo-colonist mentality. Stop wanting to be "like them". Only then will an apology be meaningful. If not an apology could only be patronizing.
Half hearted statements; like Tony Blair's "deep sorrow" are unacceptable.
However, an apology is only a first step in this process.
Reparations is the next step. Britain became even more powerful as a result of the slave trade.
Let us calculate the cost of the raping of the colonies over 400 years and then calculate the amount each slave should receive in reparations. Britain should pay this amount to all their former "colonies".
M Chuck
New York City, USA

I think that United Kingdom as the mother of slavery should do more that say sorry. They should use some of the stored up wealth and pay off the debt of the Caribbean countries. After all they can trace that wealth back to the plantation era.
Another way to be sorry is to send aid to the Caribbean when ever a hurricane hits. In fact they owe the people of the Caribbean a fiduciary duty to ensure always that they have their basic needs met.
So I had a dog chained up now I let him loose what is he to do??? Hurray for the Slavery Abolition Act, Hurray I don’t have to be a slave and work on a banana plantation, but years later the United Kingdom is rich and the Caribbean is still poor.
M Glory
Toronto, Canada

I can’t believe some of the comments on this page. Yes there was a trade of people in Africa, but it wasn’t a slave trade: they were servants who in time could marry the children of their masters and had the same rights as any average person of the land.

 I can’t believe some of the comments on this page.

Europeans and Arabs started the slave trade, where all human rights were taken away and people were branded by hot iron to which country they were going to and treated like cattle. The major powerful countries of the world are powerful now because of the slave trade, and the countries where the salves were taken from are now poor. Do you think that happened by accident? Yes, we deserve and should get and apology.
J Daniel
Coventry, England

An apology and reparations to the ancestors of Africans enslaved in the Caribbean are inevitable, because it is the only decent thing left for the British government to do to heal the economic, social psychological, and mental scars of the most hideous crime against humanity.
The collective wealth of a people is in a large part resources generated from their ancestry via labour or investment.
We should remember that those who profited from the enslavement of our ancestors have passed down their wealth through generations.
On the other hand, we have been robbed of that accumulated wealth from the labour of our ancestors for over 400 years.
On the issue of equality, if the planters could have got compensation to the tune of 20 million pounds when slavery was abolished, why is it that our freed ancestor did not get compensation for their years of unpaid labour? Think about it. The new generation of Caribbean thinkers and leaders will.
S Andrew
Grenville, Grenada

First consider the nature of 'apology'. It should come from a sense of morality and is not to be debased as a legalistic mechanism. As humans we all share a sense of morality (try accusing your kids of something they haven't done and you'll feel the heat). I believe true responsibility can reside only within the individual, not within the collective. You or I cannot be responsible, even if we want to be, for the good or evil doings of people we haven't met or don't know. If we were to think like this we would be able to shift blame onto groups of other people for things they individually hadn't done. There are still people who think the Jews are evil because 'they' are somehow responsible for killing Jesus. This mindset where moral blame can be traded like a commodity, has caused and still does cause the worst horrors imaginable. It is the kind of thinking that was used to justify slave-taking in the first place. It is a good and healthy thing to declare that a thing was wrong and should not have happened, but a dishonest act indeed to assume the moral ownership of wrongs we did not commit ourselves. I think a statement of regret or sorrow may be useful in a sense of drawing a line under one aspect of history, but to make an 'apology' would open a very negative can of worms.

 To make an 'apology' would open a very negative can of worms.

S Young
Brisbane, Australia

Whilst I do not want or need an apology, (I do not care what the white man thinks).It is unbelievable that there are people out there who think slavery is akin to the war in Iraq, the Holocaust, William conquering England or the Danes or other Invaders of this country. Slavery was a 400 year-plus emasculation of one particular culture. If it had stopped then fine, but it continues today in various guises. It is also incredible to note that there are people out there that do not seem to understand that Europe’s wealth was built and continues to flourish on the backs of Africans and their descendants. That shows me how far we still have to go to reach equality.
S Dellimore
London, England

Let’s not forget that the Arabs were at the forefront in slavery, followed quickly by tribal Chiefs in Africa, who, for thousands of years, used to capture neighbouring tribe as slaves. I don't see them apologising! Get off your high horse and accept what you have got -"Freedom". Stop living in the past, and if you believe you are entitled to compensation then dream on, I'm sure African countries can afford to give you "Free education" for the mistakes of their forefathers.
J Kerr
Fareham, Hants, UK

Many people who are not of African ancestry, and many Africans are still asking questions why their governments, businesses and other institutions should be responsible for the sins of their forefathers? You are the descendants of your forefathers who inherit their wealth, so you can live with plenty, because of the African people’s free labour. These questions will continue to hunt our path as long as those who wish to deny justice to a people that languished in the hells of every society and culture on this planet earth. Take the time to think and do the right things that will affect positive change for the future generations.
Solutions to the African enslavement for 400+ hundred years must be dealt with soon rather than later. The scars are still with the descendants of the enslaved as long as they live.
K Hutchinson
Toronto, Canada

I have great respect for people of all races, all nations, and all religions. I feel bad that this happened to these people a long, long time ago in the past. One question that never is brought up in these talks is about the horrors throughout history against the poor Jewish people. They were slaves to the Romans, they were Hitlers’ victims of genocide. I think before history reconciles with anyone it should be the people of Jewish religion FIRST.
A Krausen
Detroit, Michigan, USA

An apology is in order. Will it solve anything? Yes. I may have an impact on present race relations. Black people are still treated as second class citizens.

 An apology is in order.

Castries, St Lucia

Yes! An apology is in order and is well overdue. The apology should take the form of the educational development of our children, rebuilding and developing depressed areas etc. We don't want lip service and empty promises. Europeans and others are still benefiting from the products and high riches from slavery - take a look at old monies, castles, stately homes and enormous wealth that have been passed down to the descendants of those who owned slaves. The excuse is "they were not around and did not enslave anyone is (nonsense). You are still enjoying the benefits and expect your children to continue doing so.
L Paisley
Northridge, USA

I agree with most of what is being said. An apology is only the beginning. It's the aftermath of slavery - of Blacks having to prove ourselves - that still persists today. A sincere apology would be nice but would not change the fact that I have to work that much harder than a White counterpart just to be viewed in the same light. I personally don't believe reparations are necessary, but making a concerted effort to change negative stereotypes about Blacks (especially those rooted in the media) would be more beneficial than any apology, sincere or not. Or perhaps the government should take a closer look at the educational needs of Blacks and start there since education is truly the only way to better oneself and to achieve successes in life.
J Webbe
Boston, MA, USA

Of course, I call (in fact, shout) for both an immediate and unqualified apology from Prime Minister Blair and for appropriate forms of reparation/compensation (from both the State and institutions like some banks which benefited unconconscionably from the slave trade, the Afro-holocaust, the Afro-genocide or the crime against Afro-humanity). I am thinking of measures like tax breaks, interest-free loans, fair trade, generous grants (not called "hand-outs", please),land offers, affirmative action programmes in both education and employment (after all, slavery was affirmative action, plain and simple, for white people), etc. Look at me, for example (and I am not alone by any stretch of the imagination): As an African from the diaspora, I hold a Ph.D. from one of Canada's top Universities (McGill) and still I write as one who, since then, has been bruised and battered by the whole exclusionary practices (subtle and not so subtle) and contemporary forms of anti-African(Black) racism - especially here in North America at the workplace -like getting far less in salary and privileges than my white counterparts did when I had a job and now being tossed from pillar to post, being given the racist "run-around" just trying to find a job since returning from Africa! I was born in the Anglo-Caribbean (a former British colony); studied, lived and/or worked there, in the USA, here in Canada and in Africa (for fifteen years -Kenya and South Africa); and I have visited Britain several times where I have umpteen relatives whose personal stories are part and parcel of the whole Windrush story - those who got there to help re-build post-war Britain - and so I know of which I speak. Again, an unqualified apology and meaningful forms of reparation/compensation are long overdue - on both sides of the Atlantic Divide in fact! What are we waiting for? For Afro-rage to erupt like a Tsunami?
Montreal, Canada

I think Britain should realy apologyse to the people they help to put in slavery in the West Indies and give monetery compensation to descendants of Slaves.
C Black

If we are not going to apologise for Iraq why would we apologise for some thing that happened before we were born
S Paton

I am a British European by birth. I have the greatest respect for the people of the Caribbean. I do NOT regard them as second class citizens. I have visited various Caribbean islands and keep going back for more. I have seen several Liberation Day parades and fully understand their pain. The slave trade was wrong. These outrages were perpetrated by our forefathers against the Caribbean people's ancestors. They should not have happened. They were wrong. I regard today's modern Caribbean people as our very good friends and I would like them to stay our friends. Therefore I feel an official apology would not be a bad thing. Go for it Tony.

 I feel an official apology would not be a bad thing.

Black people are treated far worse than any other "race" of group of people on the face of this earth. It is very sad. I don't feel an apology from Tony Blair wouldn't do any good. Some justice is in order. Other groups have received their own. Since their forefathers were forced to work without pay for 400 years the descendants should be allowed to work without being taxed for 400 years!
R Benjamin
New York, USA

If we are not going to apologise for Iraq why would we apologise for some thing that happened before we were born
S Paton

Yes, Britain as a mother of the slave trade should lead the way and apologise.
F Roberts
London, UK

I don’t think the apology, whether sincere or not, would do anything to change the deprivation, suffering and mental hurt caused by slavery. We should remember who were the perpetrators of this brutality. But we should move on in our respective societies by taking advantage of all the opportunities available to advance the cause of our people.
Lake Worth, Florida, USA

Yes they should. If the Canadian government can do the right thing "apologise" to the Japanese for 1945 rounding up and locked away of local citizens, I see no reason why Britain and the other countries (can’t). I believe an apology will cost nothing, help a little, and fixes nothing. I know I don’t need to hear it
M Morris
Manitoba, Canada

Present day British and other Europeans do not owe members of the African Diaspora an apology. They didn't participate in the slave trade. However, present day Europeans do owe present day members of the African Diaspora some form of reparations. Be it money, land, the construction of schools, homes, quality health care etc. Why? Because ALL of them are benefitting from their ancestors’ mistakes and brown people are suffering today from it. Racism and discrimination still exists and their ancestors are not around for them to blame! White people KNOW that they benefit from being white and would never for a million $ trade to be brown.
D Bellinger
Washington, D.C., USA

We need to let go of the past. The wrong can not be undone. It is how we are treated today that is important. Let us try to love and care for each other as God would have us to do.
O Weekes
Croydon, UK

 The wrong can not be undone.

We can’t even honestly say that we are free in our homeland. We've been plagued, invaded by foreign influence. And we pick up every style and fashion and that just doesn’t make sense. We've been programmed to believe that everything that is foreign is good. We've been brainwashed into a mental slavery attitude.
It is simple. To this day Europeans are apologizing and compensating the Jews for the 'holocaust'. Ask yourself the question: What about us Africans?
E Salamat
London, UK

It’s not so much slavery, but the after effects it created on a race of people confined to proving itself as equal to the other man.
After slavery the degradation of the black race continued until say 40 years ago. Blacks were not allowed to own land, not allowed to be educated. Surely this must have had the desired effect on the present generation. The great civil rights movement in the USA helped, but there is still a long way to go. The truth is too many people are happy and satisfied that at least a certain race is behind, caused not only by slavery, but its after effects. Change will come as it is happening today, but not enough in any of the readers’ lifetime for a complete reversal.
Apology? What is needed is an act of more substance. Start by re-investing the profits of our ancestors labour, ensuring every slave ancestor has a free education, remove unfair trade barriers … just like every owner of slaves were compensated.
Leeds, UK

* optional
Your opinion
Should the UK apologise?
01 December, 2006 | News
More comments on slavery debate
06 December, 2006 | News
Slavery apology debate continues
07 December, 2006 | News
Should Britian apologise
11 December, 2006 | News
Email a friend Printable version
^^ Back to top
  BBC News >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | BBC World Service >> | BBC Languages >>