- British, Brutal Masters Of Colonialism (CounterCurrents)
- Gadhafi calls for reparations for African slave trade (FCN, 09-21-1999)
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – Dr. Leonard Jeffries, professor of Africana Studies and Black Studies at the City University of New York in Harlem, says that the 192-member United Nations General Assembly’s recent commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Britain’s decision on March 25, 1807 to end its Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was just another trick to bamboozle Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.
“Fortunes were made, and financial institutions flourished on the back of human bondage,” noted Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe, the acting president of the General Assembly, delivering a message on behalf of assembly president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain. “Today’s commemoration must encourage everyone to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” added Amb. Chidyausiku.
“That all sounds great, but talk about the ending of the slave trade does not deal with the serious issue of the de-humanizing of African people; and how it was allowed to continue for 200 years past 1807,” argues Dr. Jeffries. “They don’t want us to see the slave trade for what it was,” he told The Final Call. He noted that the “tragedy” of the date 1807 should have been a “retrospect for us to understand the depth of the system, not a day to feel good about something that is a myth.”
“What we should be talking about is the road not taken. When they ceremoniously ‘ended’ the slave trade, they had already established institutions to continue our enslavement. They had established corporations to benefit from our enslavement, which did not end here allegedly until 1865. What about the 20-year set-aside from 1787 to 1808, which gave to such slavers as Thomas Jefferson, the opportunity to establish the internal North American slave system?” Dr. Jeffries said.
“Where was the documentation at the UN to explain how, after 1807, the British used the lessons learned from the slave trade to exact ‘wage slavery’ on an unsuspecting world?” he stressed.
While the UN commemoration went off in New York without a hitch, a lone dissenter stood up at Westminister Abbey in London, where Queen Elizabeth II was attending a similar event. “This is an insult to us,” shouted Toyin Agbetu, a campaigner for Ligali, an African-British human rights organization, according to a published report on Mar. 27. He condemned African Christians for taking part and told them to walk out. According to the story, Mr. Agbetu said the “Queen had to say sorry for her ancestors.”
“The monarch and the government and the church are all in there patting themselves on the back,” the man said.
While stopping short of condemning the UN event, and those who participated in it such as the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, Dr. Jeffries reminded The Final Call that “our people are still neo-colonized.”
“They participate in these events with a promise of some dollars,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group of States during the plenary was South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, Dumisani S. Kumalo, who reminded the Assembly that 200 years later, Africa was still nursing the wounds of slavery. He said that at the historic World Conference Against Racism held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, UN member states had acknowledged that “slavery and the slave trade were a crime against humanity and should always have been so.”
“All that sounds good, but did they really illustrate at the UN the real brutality of the system, who funded it and why?” argues Dr. Jeffries. “Africans must be memorialized–we understand that, there is no question about that; but, when we participate in celebrations such as what took place at the UN, it does not allow us to see the under-side of history. Yes, the British stopped their participation in the slave trade in 1807, but what about the system of European industrialization that followed? We don’t talk about that.”
Prime Minister Douglas might have raised a few eyebrows when he said the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was more than an economic practice. “It violated the basic moral laws of human interaction,” he said, noting that it was “commendable that leaders from some of the former colonial powers had expressed “deep sorrow” for the practice.” He added that he hoped that leaders would follow suit by “offering the descendants of African slaves, who had been brought to the Caribbean and the Americas, a complete and unequivocal apology.”
It was undisputed that such nations had been developed on the blood, sweat and tears of the enslaved forefathers of those peoples, and it was only right and decent to make amends and extend apologies for such inhumane practices, stated Mr. Douglas.
“No country that was engaged in the slave trade and slavery could justifiably claim support for human rights without first offering an official apology and atonement in the form of reparations,” the prime minister stressed.
Gil Noble, journalist/activist and local television personality, moderated the eminent scholars’ panel, which was held in the UN’s ECOSOC hall. Mr. Noble told The Final Call that there is “legitimate room for rage and anger” when discussing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. He said he did not feel any anger at the UN event.
“It was an honor and a privilege being called to moderate such a group, some of the best spokespersons for the ‘Middle Passage’ were assembled,” he said. “But,” he added, “I think the ‘Middle Passage’ and the slave trade cannot be adequately dealt with in one meeting.”
The panel consisted of: Franklin Knight, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History and director of the History of African Americans, John Hopkins Institutions Project; Ali Mazrui, Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) Director and Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities/Professor in Political Science, African Studies and Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture at Binghamton University in New York; Lincoln Crawford, barrister, author and member of the United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister’s National Commission on Slavery; Nana Opuku Agyeman, lecturer, Cape Coast University, Ghana; Anthony Martin, professor of African Studies, Wellesley College; and James Campbell, chairman of the Slavery Committee, Brown University.
“I was never told about this event, because if I had been invited to participate on the panel–well you can imagine what I would have said,” Dr. Jeffries stated.
“I would have talked about the 500 years of the destruction of the parents of humanity, that being our African ancestors; and how the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan–in 1995 at the Million Man March, which was the greatest contribution in re-storing that humanity–stood up to give back to us that which had been stolen in slavery,” Dr. Jeffries said.
“I would have talked about the companies that were established by the British, the Dutch and the Swedes; and of course the Jews. We need to understand this for what it really is. How, after 1875, they managed to place us back into semi-slavery.
“Africans all over the world should memorialize their ancestors; but again, the road not taken, why did it happen. I cannot repeat that too often,” Dr. Jeffries said.