‘Reparative Justice Project’: Bristol to Spend £290,000 in Taxpayer Money to Atone for the Slave Trade

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: The Edward Colston statue plinth with a sign saying "Black Lives Matter" on June 16, 2020 in Bristol, England. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of an …
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The left-wing city council of Bristol in conjunction with the University of Bristol will embark on a taxpayer-funded, £290,000 “reparative justice project” to atone for the city’s involvement in the historical slave trade centuries ago.

Bristol University’s ‘History of Slavery’ Professor Olivette Otel alongside Dr Richard Stone of the history department will be tasked with examining records following the abolition of slavery in Bristol as well as records from plantations in the Caribbean to determine who profited off the slave trade and the identities of the slaves.

The £290,000 project, which received financial backing from the government’s UK Research and Innovation, will look to add plaques and other physical monuments to the city in order to contextualise how Bristol benefitted economically from slave labour, according to The Times.

Dr Stone said that the Black Lives Matter movement was critical in spurring on the initiative and that he hoped other cities, such as Liverpool, will follow Bristol’s lead. Last summer, BLM activists famously ripped down a historical statue of British philanthropist and slave trader Sir Edward Colston, before dumping it in the harbour as police stood by.

“We talk a lot about how Bristol has benefited from slavery but we don’t really have a concrete sense of how much and where. So, the aim of this project is for a team of Bristol researchers to use their skills, both existing and new, to provide some answers to these questions,” Stone said.

The history professor continued: “More importantly, we hope to address the problem of the invisibility of the enslaved in Bristol. So now, when looking at a grand Victorian building, you will also be able to see the names of the enslaved people whose labours generated the wealth that built it.

“It’s really important because a city like Bristol doesn’t look like it’s built on slavery. You walk around the city and just see grand Georgian and Victorian buildings — you don’t make that connection. Enslaved people are a very important part of the city’s history, but because it all happened out of sight, out of mind, they’re not present and they’re not present in the city’s consciousness of its history, so it’s really important to me that we can tell those stories and, although their lives may be hard to piece together, at least put them back in the picture.”

The project will also work in collaboration with the Global Majority Teachers’ Network and Bristol city council’s education and skills directorate to study how the legacy of slavery has supposedly resulted in racism against ethnic minorities in the education sector.

Olivette Otele, who was installed as the school’s first history of slavery professor in 2019, said: “Bristol’s economic, social and cultural life, and the lived experience of its citizens have been shaped by transatlantic slavery, with the city struggling to address the legacies of this past.

“Recent events in Bristol, such as the toppling of the Edward Colston statue, have brought into sharp focus the inequalities that still exist and a strong feeling that the history of the city, how it is represented and taught, still remains unresolved.”

Bristol has become a central location for left-wing activist in Britain, with some even likening the city to the Antifa hotbed of Portland in the United States. In a notable example, far-left activists in the city attempted to create a Bristol Autonomous Zone (BAZ) in March, similar to the infamous Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in the United States.

Earlier that month, the Bristol city council approved a motion for reparations for slavery as an act of “atonement” and called on the national government to do the same.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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