Protester disrupts slave trade service
Virginia lawmakers express 'profound regret' for slavery
an Associated Press report 02/26/07
RICHMOND, Va. - Meeting on the grounds of the former Confederate Capitol, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously
Saturday to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery.
Sponsors of the resolution say they know of no other state that has apologized for slavery, although Missouri lawmakers are
considering such a measure. The resolution does not carry the weight of law but sends an important symbolic message,
However, the apology was not without controversy.
Submitted by ljmitchell on Sun, 02/25/2007 - 3:43pm.
Shall we make apologies for every unfortunate event in history?
How about Ghengis Khan's Regimes and conquests through eastern asia?
I'm sure he should have much about which to make amends.
Or how about The British House of Lords who, after having promised the Governor of Jerusalem in 1919
to create Palestinian homeland gave that same land to the newly emergent Zionists? I think Tony Blair should,
on national television apologize to my family in particular, a family displaced because of the building of the Wall
in Israel. Doesn't that seem only right? Or is it because blacks think they can weasle some more public
assistance and unearned benefits out of this whole fiasco.
"This session will be remembered for a lot of things, but 20 years hence I suspect one of those things will be the fact that we
came together and passed this resolution," said Delegate A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who sponsored it in the House of Delegates.
The resolution passed the House 96-0 and cleared the 40-member Senate on a unanimous voice vote. It does not require Gov.
Timothy M. Kaine's approval.
Slavery & the “we are all guilty myth”!
British National Party Chairman, Nick Griffin, demolishes the much put about myth that somehow we (ordinary working British men and women) should shoulder our share of “responsibility for the slave trade" because today’s Britain - from which we all benefit - "was built upon slavery”! Well that’s the BBC’s and certain sections of the Labour Party's poisonous line anyway!
However our Gloucestershire correspondent begs to differ and suggests that the following piece, by Nick Griffin, helps to set the record straight. He adds: "it may well be true that some BBC types, Tory Grandeees or Labour/Lib-Dem big-wigs owe their present wealth to the slave trade but the fact remains that the ancestors of the vast majority of ordinary British working people were treated as badly and exploited as much, as any plantation slaves."
Africans voice anger, mark abolition of slave trade
Ghana held a ceremony on Sunday to mark the 200th anniversary at a white-washed former slave fort in Elmina, a port that dispatched hundreds of thousands of Africans to a life of subjugation in the New World.
More than 10 million Africans – some estimates say up to 60 million – were sent on slave ships. Many perished on the voyage or on disease-infested plantations.
“We have seen the manipulation, the impoverishment of Africa ... That is testament to the effects of slavery,” South African jazz icon Hugh Masekela told a news conference. “There is no price, no price for what has been done.”
Portugal built sub-Saharan Africa’s first permanent slave trading post at Elmina in 1492.
It passed into English hands and by the 18th century shipped tens of thousands of Africans a year through “the door of no return” on to squalid slave ships bound for the Americas. “It was so bad the way they maltreated our forefathers, the way they chained them and imprisoned them for so many years,” said Anthony Kinful, 38, a storekeeper near the Elmina fort. “If I see white people now, I think badly of them.” After years of campaigning by anti-slavery activists like politician William Wilberforce, Britain banned the trade in slaves from Africa on March 25, 1807.
Britain did not outlaw slavery until 1833. The transatlantic trade continued under foreign flags for many years. A senior Church of England cleric called for British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday to make a formal apology.
“A nation of this quality should have the sense of saying we are very sorry and we have to put the record straight,” Archbishop of York John Sentamu told the BBC.
When Ghana’s President John Kufuor visited London this month, Blair said Britain was sorry for the slave trade. But many Africans want more, including reparations.
The anniversary has raised awareness of modern-day forms of bondage, from illegal chattel slavery still practised in some nations in Africa’s dry Sahel belt, to mafias which traffic African girls as prostitutes to the West.
“The traffic in human beings is clearly not over,” said Ghanaian poet Kofi Anyi Doho. “There are no boats to anchor next to a slave fort but people are being forced into ... a form of enslavement all over the world.”
In neighbouring Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries originally founded as a haven for freed slaves, journalist Samuel Beckley said Africa was still suffering. “Slavery took away our strong men,” Beckley said at a church founded in 1808 by exiled Jamaican Maroons – slaves who revolted against British rule. “The economic potential of Africa was put in reverse gear ... The only way to make amends is reparations.”
Slavery in Africa is not dead, it has mutated
Wednesday, 28th March, 2007
SINCE the beginning of this month there have been all kinds of memoriam, lectures, prayer meetings and other kinds of public activities commemorating 200 years of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Britain.
In a year in which Ghana celebrates 50 years of Independence and is guaranteed to be partying throughout the year, the anti-slavery commemorations have become another value added in a state- sponsored 素eel good・ hysteria.
Ghana is not the only country from where slaves were captured and forcibly bounded
onto ships, in chains, huddled together to the plantations in the Caribbean and North America, the other Americas and Europe. East and central Africa and southern Africa and other parts of West Africa, including present-day Senegal and Nigeria were part of this shameful trade that went on for 400 years!
Why are so many Africans and African leaders not interested in this barbaric experience whose impact continues to reveal itself in the continuing negative image of Africa and Africans in relation to the rest of the world?
Slavery was followed by colonialism which in many ways was a legal distinction without a practical difference in terms of the negative impact on the lives of our peoples. In a sense, slavery formally ended in Europe but continued in the colonies.
Maybe one of the reasons Africans are not excited is that slavery reminds us in too painful ways our subjugation, the indignities inflicted on us made more unbearable by the fact that the existence of many of our peoples today whether in Africa or the diaspora bear too much resemblance to slavery!
So, for many, regardless of the history and legal finesse slavery is not dead, it has mutated into other forms of exploitation and domination in which we still remain bottom of the pile on most indices of human progress. Like chiefs and emperors, kings and other slave dealers of old, our presidents and prime ministers preside over a system of power that continues to make our peoples 蘇ewers of wood and drawers of water・
In the meantime, the riches of this continent continue to be siphoned off by others while they are content to play junior partners for as long as their grotesque and gratuitous consumption lifestyles and those of their families and hangers-on can be guaranteed. They will sell anything having already battered their souls. So, if they are sleep-walking through all the remembrances of slavery, it is because the past is still weighing too heavily on the present and they may be afraid that such events may draw uncomfortable parallels to their collaboration in keeping their peoples in modern slavery in the name of free market, privatisation and globalisation.
The slaves were captured in wars, slave raids and forcibly sold but today we are willingly financing our own slavery. Just go in front of any western embassy across this continent and see the hordes of our people (mostly young) willing to do anything to get the visa to go abroad. Anywhere will do as long as it is outside Africa even if former slave countries of Europe and America remain favourite destinations!
Look at the risks many take travelling, hitch-hiking, facing all kinds of abuse, exploitation, indignities to smuggle themselves through the straights of Gibraltar into Spain from North African countries.
Even at the height of slavery millions of our peoples resisted, several died in what is euphemistically called the Middle Passage. Many died as a result of being thrown overboard due to illness or because they were 租ifficult to handle・and many also dived into the sea preferring to be eaten by sharks, crocodiles and other sea predators than be taken into plantations.
On the plantations, resistance was rampant in all forms through culture, the rise of the African churches, music, drums, etc, the most decisive being the successful slave revolt in Haiti. It is important to remember these struggles because what we are getting through Western media and the shameful 祖ut and paste・uncritical coverage in our tech-dependent and intellectually lazy media is
that the Anti-Slavery Society in the UK, the church and missionaries and good people in Europe and America helped to bring slavery to an end.
How come their conscience only woke up after four centuries? And that same conscience did not prevent them from supporting so-called legitimate trade (between unequal peoples which echo what we still face today) for another century and colonialism after that!
Africans need to be aware of their own history to understand how and why we are where we are in order to be able to fashion the best strategy to lift us up and fulfil the aspirations of our peoples to be rid of poverty, disease, want and shameful misery in the midst of plenty.
That was the point that the young man, Toyin, from the African Campaigning Group, LIGALI, was making when he 疎llegedly・disrupted the service last Sunday at the Westminister Cathedral to which all the great and mighty of that slaving nation whose greatness has always been built on iniquities were gathered. They included the Queen, her arrogant but thankfully expiring premier, 腺-Lair・and the ruling class of Britain, all of them including the church, heirs to slavery and beneficiaries of its illegal and immoral earnings up to now.
The Anglican Archbishop, Rowan Williams, is a sincere and frank man who is a pain in the side of the powers that be. He was open in expressing remorse and confronting the painful past and the complicity of the British establishment. But the British prime minister can only express regret and cannot find it in him to say 壮orry・ But his sorry is meaningless since he has been exposed to be a compulsive serial liar.
But the bigger shame is that some African leaders, the few leading Black tokens in Blair痴 government like Baroness Amos (she was in Elmina castle in Ghana) and all she could say was that the slaves, definitely including her ancestors, travelled in 租ifficult
circumstances・think that it is not necessary.
Blair thinks (wrongly again) that he is being smart by stopping short of apology because of implication of guilt and subsequent legal obligation to compensate for his ancestors: reparations to the victims.
But the issue will not go away even if they are ignoring it now. When Africa becomes united and more assertive it will no longer be possible to ignore our demands.
For me, the challenge is to put our house in order first then reparations will become mainstream issue. Then issues of debt cancellation, aid and reform of the modern slavery economic system forced on humanity by IMF/World Bank /WTO will not be favours to us but part of the reparations.
The Reparations Movement should not despair.
200 Years after Slavery Abolition
Not A Whimper Here
The Horizon By Kayode 03.28.2007
It is also true that very often a captive was sold and resold as he made his way from the interior to the port of embarkation ・and that too was a form of trade. However, on the whole, the process by which captives were obtained on African soil was not trade at all. It was through warfare, trickery, banditry and kidnapping. When one tries to measure the effect of European slave trading on the African continent, it is very essential to realise that one is measuring the effect of social violence rather than trade in any normal sense of the word.
Walter Rodney in his classic, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
This year has been that of various forms reflection on slavery, a terrible crime against humanity. And Africans were the victims. Only three days ago, the bicentenary of the Act of Parliament that abolished the Trans- Atlantic slave trade was marked with some activities in Britain. Among others, there was a Walk of Witness led by the Church of England. The Bishops, who took part in the walk, called on the British government to apologise for the crime. After all, slave trade was sanctioned by the British state. The Queen hosted some guests as part of the commemoration.
In Ghana, a ceremony was held at Elmina Castle under the theme: "Africa 2007 Reflections・ It was put together by the British Council, the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat and the Edina Traditional Council. Significantly, the Sunday event attracted a good number of Africans from the Diaspora. It was, reportedly, an emotionally touching occasion for these Africans in Diaspora who came on a pilgrimage to the site where their ancestors began the journey to the new world where they suffered immense inhumanity. According to President John Agyekum Kufuor, who spoke on the occasion, there should be genuine remorse to atone for the pain and heinous crimes of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Even in retrospect, the human dignity of the victims of this crime should still be appreciated. In his view, that would represent a way forward. Incidentally, the bicentenary coincides with the Golden Jubilee of Ghana痴 independence.
However, quite inexplicably not much been heard from Nigeria, the territory where the largest concentration of black people live on earth. The slaves that we are talking about were blacks. Just like Ghana and Senegal, there were also slave depots in Nigeria. In fact, various estimates put it that a significant number of the slaves shipped into the Caribbean were actually from West Africa.
Perhaps, if Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola were to be alive his campaign for reparation could possibly have sensitised us in this season of commemoration on both sides of the Atlantic. In the late 1980s and early 1990s (before he got engrossed with his presidential campaigns), Abiola, as a private individual, galvanised African and indeed the world attention to support the demand for reparation. This, he argued with facts and logic, should be paid for centuries of slavery followed by more centuries of colonialism. He addressed a summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Abuja on the subject. Reflecting on the triangular nature of the evil trade, Abiola took his campaigns to Europe and the Americas. He waved the continental flag and picked the bill of the efforts personally. It is a huge irony that nine years after his demise the commemoration of the abolition of slavery would take place and there would be silence from Nigeria. Nigeria appears to be simply be unconcerned, at the least at the official level.
Well, the levity with which the bicentenary reflection on the abolition of slavery has been treated is only symptomatic of the general level of disorientation in the society. This is sometimes celebrated as part of the neo-liberal reform agenda. What do you make of a nation that has relegated the study of history in schools, all the in the name of focussing on technological growth? This fractured view of holistic education was dramatised the other day when the President reportedly dismissed degrees in sociology and mass communication as useless. He would rather students graduate in computer science and acquire skills 塗otly・in demand by the telecommunication industry.
Yet, as eminent historian, Professor Jacob Ade-Ajayi, once remarked history is to a society what the rear mirror is to a vehicle. In Nigeria, officialdom carries on as if they can drive the vehicle of the nation without a rear mirror. It is to be seen how far this vehicle would go in the complex journey of development. Doubtless, the dialectical link between the disability imposed on Africa through centuries of injustice and brutalisation continues to impinge on its present. To be sure, this is not to excuse the contemporary leadership in Africa of their crimes against the people by way of corruption, misrule, exploitation and violation of human rights. To have the whole view of the shackles of underdevelopment, the dark past cannot be obliterated from the people痴 memory. That much was brilliantly demonstrated by the Guyanese radical historian and a great son of Africa, Walter Rodney, in his important work cited above, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
It is by paying attention to the import of what happened in history that we could draw the link between industrial revolution, the springboard of development in the West, and the sweat and blood of African slaves forced to work in plantations. Young Nigerians who are oriented to marvel about modernisation and technological development in the West should also know that cities such as Liverpool and Bristol in the United Kingdom were built from sugar grown in plantations where black slaves laboured. We need to be conscious of the fact that even institutions the Church of England, Oxford and Cambridge colleges, the royal family as well as big banks all benefited from the proceeds of slavery and are, therefore, historically culpable. For instance, the Barclay brothers established their bank with the compensation from slavery. Even after the law abolishing slavery was passed, the British government continued to compensate the slavery owners for agreeing to let go their human commodities. About 20 million pounds were paid slave owners to buy freedom for the slaves. Incidentally, the Church of England synod has apologised and is being pressured to pay reparations for once being owners of plantations of black slaves. The progressive mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has also done so on behalf of the city. As it has been reported by anti-slavery activists, the first England痴 millionaire was a owner of plantation. The man, William Beckford, later became the mayor of London. Such was the entrenchment of the slave trade that many members of the British establishment were deeply involved in it.
It is only an engagement with history that would bring out the implications of 300 years of shipments of men and women of working age from this poor continent. Even by the conservative estimates made in the metropolitan countries, over 12 million slaves came from West Africa alone. It has also been estimated that about 1.25 million persons died on the way to the plantations in the Caribbean.
Now, the commemoration being suggested here is not just a matter of lazy lamentation about the past. It is proposed because of the contemporary issues deriving from this sad past. One of these emergent issues is the manner of the commemoration in Britain. The British Prime Minster, Tony Blair, has expressed 都orrow・about what happened. But his government would not offer the descendants of the victims an apology because of the financial implications of taking such a historically corrective step. To apologise is to justify the demand for reparation. More conservative views have even been expressed that, after all, no one has apologised for the enslavement of Britons by the Romans. They wonder how far in history can the thread of apology be stretched. There are those who even argue that it would be improper to apologise because African kings sold their brethren into slavery in transaction, in the first place. But as Rodney observed, was there really a trade or mere barbarism in which the buyers had superior firepower than the sellers? Of course, the African slave dealers were also guilty. Would their inheritors also apologise?
Besides, the commemoration is more of celebration of Britons such as William Wilberforce who liberated black slaves. It is left for Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora to also celebrate heroes of slave revolts. There were indeed valiant revolts in Jamaica, Barbados and St Dominique in which thousands of slaves participated. You don稚 expect the inheritors of estates built with slave blood to bring that perspective into the conversation. It is the duty of the descendants of the victims to do that.
It is estimated that about 27 million souls are currently enslaved in the world. The plight of migrant workers is only reminiscent of slavery. The increasingly unequal relationship between the north and south in the global economy is also among contemporary issues related to slavery.
All these and more should compel a national conversation on this terrible heritage. Our brethren in Diaspora should also be engaged in the process. A deep reflection on slavery would help the present generation realise the place of the black man in the world. That is why Nelson Mandela was advised to turn down an invitation to attend commemorative
Services in Bristol the other day by resident black groups. It was an expression of concern about racism and intolerance.
So, engagement with history could temper those who still believe that a western-imposed development strategy is the only way out of African misery. It would also remind our neo-liberal enthusiasts that slavery was a form of globalisation. Those whose forebears profited from such a globalisation are only ashamed of it today because it was the crudest form ever and was extremely inhuman and barbaric in scope.
Kenya: Slavery Never Ended,
It Only Changed Face And Shape
The Nation (Nairobi)
March 29, 2007
Posted to the web March 28, 2007
Two hundred years ago this week, the evil trade in human beings across the Atlantic was abolished, at least in word. Historians document that about 60 million Africans had been traded in Europe, America and Saudi Arabia, where they were taken to work as maidservants, farm hands and even sex slaves.
We should pay homage to figures like William Wilberforce for the 1807 Abolition of Slavery treaty and the slaves in the Americas who rioted against the practice.
Two centuries later, Britain and other countries have not done much to compensate for their evil business.
On January 1, 1863, the 16th President of the US Abraham Lincoln effected the Emancipation Proclamation declaring freedom for all slaves in the Confederacy just two years before his assassination on April 14 1865 at Washington's Ford's Theatre.
THE EFFECTS OF THIS CENTURIES-old crime against humanity is well-documented, but it is essential to remember that through slavery, our able-bodied kinsmen were poached leaving our society weak.
Some argue that even before the Omanis arrived in East Africa to begin trade in slaves, various chieftaincies and kingdoms in Africa practised slavery. However, it must be noted that this genre of slavery was not as thoughtless as the other form of the then 'international trade'
History shows that though formally slave trade was frowned upon legally in, for instance, Britain in 1807, it was not until 1883 that a law was passed to stop it.
In Mauritania, a 1980 decree challenging slavery was passed, but it just remained a romantic piece of legislation. The Berbers still own slaves!
It is normal in Mauritania to own chattels to herd cattle and as sex-servants. Their little 'lords' enjoy state protection. In Nouakchott, you will see slaves being patronised by their owners as they serve them drinks on red carpets.
In the Sudan, the elite Arabs still have between them an estimated 8,000 slaves.
As we flocked Elmina Post on Cape Coast Ghana, sub-Saharan's first trading post, last weekend, to commemorate the end of slavery, we have not yet broken free the chains of slavery.
If we did, the chains have been re-invented in various forms. The point is that slavery did not end. It just mutated like those viruses that put on a different face and thrive in new forms. Slavery is still with us and will last several generations.
Thousands continue to atrophy in China's laogai - forced labour camps. Consider our folk that continually cross Indian Ocean into the great Arab nation to look for 'ten pence and ten pence' to make ends meet. Their patrons have been known to extend 'their contract' to include sex and total surrender of their civil liberties.
Many nationals thus end up trapped between this albatross, never coming back because their patrons deny them even their right to communicate home.
Have we considered that sex slavery is a consequence of human trafficking? In fact, experts say human trafficking is rivalling trade in narcotics and weapons at the third most lucrative trade globally.
HAVE WE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, TOO, the plight of the thousands of African young men who brave the Mediterranean to try Europe via Tenerife and Canary Islands who at best will stick as economic slaves?
Closer home, in Eastern Congo, women and girls continue to be taken hostage to feed sexual desires of rogue soliders. The situation is not different in northern Uganda and Darfur.
At the Coast in Kenya, commercial sex is a thriving occupation.
Tony Blair refuses to apologise for slavery
By Staff Reporter
Tony Blair refused to bow to demands to apologise for Britain's role in the slave trade yesterday, expressing instead "deep sorrow and regret" for the suffering it caused.
Britain's first black archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, had earlier joined calls for the Prime Minister to "go a bit further" than such expressions of regret.
But Mr Blair - in a video message recorded for a major event in Ghana to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain passing a slavery abolition law - stopped short of a full apology.
He said the legislation, pushed through Parliament by William Wilberforce, had begun the process of ending "one of the most shameful enterprises in history."
He said: "So it is right that this anniversary is being marked today here in Ghana's Elmina Castle, the scene of such inhuman abuse, and in cities across the UK, in Liverpool, Hull, Bristol and London, which played their role in this deplorable trade.
"It is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to express our deep sorrow and regret for our nation's role in the slave trade and for the unbearable suffering, individually and collectively, it caused."
He paid tribute to people of all races who had contributed to the worldwide campaign against slavery.
He said: "They prayed, organised, marched and sometimes fought to change our world for good. We must remember them all today and celebrate the sheer power of the human spirit to overcome such injustice.
He said there was still a great deal to do in tackling modern slavery, such as the forced recruitment of child soldiers, human trafficking and bonded labour.
Jamaican anger over slave trade
By Clive Myrie
BBC News in Kingston, Jamaica
The crop is only harvested by hand on modern plantations when it rains and today there is a steady drizzle. Usually machines do the graft. But for more than 300 years until the early 19th century the machines were African slaves.
Men, women and children were overworked and brutalised. Cruelty and torture meant as many as a third of all slaves died within three years of arriving here.
In the fields, the tears of the living often mixed with the blood of the dead. In all one and half million Africans sailed here. It is their descendents who make up modern Jamaica.
Kingston is the capital of a proud nation, a proud people, but there are painful memories of slavery and racism here. There is also a defiance of spirit that came with the first Africans and today sets this nation apart. It's a defiance that saw slaves endure the worst indignities at the hands of British slave masters.
At the Institute of Jamaica, the staff laid out for me some of the shackles and chains used to keep slaves in line. They are rough-hewn from iron and browned with age. They are also very heavy and would weigh down the slaves forced to wear them.
One artefact is particularly disturbing. It's a tongue restraint, a thin strip of metal and would be fitted around the lower jaw and held in place by a lock at the back of the neck.
At the front is a little plate which would rest on top of the tongue, holding it down. This shackle might be used to force feed slaves. One punishment was the force feeding of human excrement.
There is unease here that British commemorations marking the end of the slave trade are too focused on white abolitionists like William Wilberforce and they do not acknowledge the effect on the morale of the British of numerous slave rebellions.
Many Jamaicans believe Britain wants to play up its role in helping to end the trade and downplay its role in slavery itself.
The bicentenary of the Act outlawing the slave trade has raised interesting questions about who owns slave history and what should be done about that history. Nick Hibbert Steele is the descendant of one of the most important slave owning families in Jamaica.
At the height of their wealth and prestige, the Hibberts had interests in 60 plantations and owned 4000 slaves. He's been researching his family history and says he feels it is important to apologise.
"All I can do is say I'm sorry, I come here with clean hands. I don't want my family's history buried any longer."
But Professor Carolyn Cooper of the University of the West Indies says personal apologies mean nothing. "What Britain needs to do as a nation is acknowledge the scale and magnitude of the crimes it committed and then having made that acknowledgement find the appropriate way to right historic wrongs."
The Jamaican parliament is discussing whether or not a formal claim for reparations should be made to the British government. Any final decision is a long way off and a vote for reparations is likely to be greeted with a firm rejection from No 10.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a rare interview, told me that in this bicentenary year, there is no statute of limitations on genocide and that Jamaicans will never forget the cruelty done to their ancestors.
"They were packed into ships like sardines in a sardine can. We will never forget what was done to our foreparents. It was a crime against humanity."
Sorrow, but not yet an apology
Toronto Star, Canada - 26 Mar 2007
LONDON–There are fresh calls here for the British government to issue a clear and unequivocal apology for the enslavement of millions of Africans, perpetrating the black holocaust and the racist ideology and legacy that followed.
Anglican bishops participating in a walk by thousands of Britons, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the law ending the slave trade, say British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the appropriate one to make the apology.
Ironically, the bishops are being pressured by a Pan-African Congress, whose president Cikiah Thomas is in Toronto, to pay reparations for the church's involvement in the slave trade.
In a letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams, Thomas challenged the Church of England to push the British government and agencies into taking responsibility for the damage on enslaved Africans. Thomas said the archbishop acknowledged receipt of the letter, sent in December. The church has apologized for its own damaging past, including the owning of the Codrington slave plantation in Barbados. But it has not offered reparations.
Blair has stated regret for what he called a "crime against humanity." Yesterday he delivered a taped message to hundreds gathered at a slave dungeon in Elmina, Ghana, to mark the UN-recognized anniversary.
But the government fears an apology might lead to legal action seeking reparations and compensation from Britain for the ravages of slavery.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone favours a clear apology. Last week he described as "squalid" Blair's refusal to apologize.
The debate is just one backdrop to a year-long flurry of events across Britain, especially in cities like Liverpool, Bristol and London that were steeped in slavery.
In Hull, the refurbished William Wilberforce Museum reopened, celebrating the abolitionist movement Wilberforce spearheaded in parliament, ending with the bill in 1807. Charlotte Wilberforce, a descendent, told the BBC yesterday that an apology recognizes the "absolute atrocity" of the slave trade.
Nelson Mandela turned down an invitation to attend commemorative services in Bristol yesterday after local black groups advised him of the city's less-than-stellar record on equity and concerns about intolerance and racism. A small demonstration greeted the city's official events.
Liverpool is to upgrade its slave gallery into an international slavery museum in August. On Saturday, the Anglican bishop there recalled the racist murder of teenager Anthony Walker in his town, killed with an axe as he fled thugs in Liverpool.
The more he studies history the more he's convinced that "our racism is rooted in the dehumanizing treatment of black people by white people," Bishop James Jones said. Jones read an account of abolitionist John Newton, decrying the practice of "jointing" – hacking slaves to death and tossing their body parts to other slaves as a warning.
On Saturday, at a huge march through London, sponsored by the Church of England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York blessed a huge wreath, symbolic of the lives lost in the trade and the near 3,000 trips the slave ships made up the Thames, out to the Atlantic and on to Africa.
The head of the Anglican church said the easiest thing to do is assume slavery is a relic of the past that modern man would not tolerate. "A part of what we are doing today is recognizing that people who worked in the slave trade, people who kept going a system of inhumanity, were people like you and me," said Archbishop Williams.
Drexler Gomez, archbishop of the West Indies, said the difference between expressing regret and apologizing is more than a technicality. "An apology is in order because we have to acknowledge our past in order to build our future." The debate over an appropriate apology doesn't detract from the sheer number of events. Britain was clearly a slaving power. It was one of the first to abolish the trade. Now it is at the forefront of events to mark its 200th anniversary.
Britain and the legacy of the slave trade serves to reinforce the adage that to whom much is given, much is required. The British Empire gorged itself on the riches built on African slave labour, a state-sanctioned atrocity that infiltrated all levels of British society.
Abolitionists, aided and abetted by slaves in revolt and petitions and product boycotts from working class Britons, pushed parliament to end the slave trade. Now, the country is doing more than any other European country to mark the anniversary.
Still, critics have asked for more.
Tomorrow, Blair is expected to join the Queen and invited guests for the national service to mark the bicentenary. Expect penitence, regret and sorrow. But don't expect an apology. That word alone strikes fear as some researchers and pro-reparation groups have already said black people are owed trillions of dollars.
They point to 1807 when parliament ended the slave trade (though it continued to 1834). To appease slaveholders, the government gave them 20 million pounds as compensation. Some say that is equivalent to $1.4 billion now.
The slaves who built the empire for free and gave their lives for the cause got nothing. That fact is lost on most Britons here. Calls to radio stations, the BBC and letters to the editor overwhelmingly side with no apology.
Cleric says Blair's regret over slavery not enough
March 26, 2007, 06:45
Tony Blair, the British prime minister, expressed Britain's "deep sorrow and regret" yesterday for the country's role in the slave trade as events take place to mark the anniversary of its abolition in the British Empire.
However the second most senior cleric in the Church of England said the government should make a formal apology for the trade which was abolished by parliament exactly 200 years ago on March 25, 1807.
In a recorded message for celebrations in Ghana -- a source of many of the slaves - marking the bicentenary of the abolition, Blair said it was right that the occasion was marked across British cities which had played a role in slavery. "It is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to express our deep sorrow and regret for our nation's role in the slave trade and for the unbearable suffering, individually and collectively, it caused," Blair said.
Earlier this month Blair said he was "sorry" for Britain's role but John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, said Blair still needed to go further. "A nation of this quality should have the sense of saying we are very sorry and we have to put the record straight," he told the BBC. "This community was involved in a very terrible trade, Africans were involved in a very terrible trade, the Church was involved in a very terrible trade ... it's important that we all own up to what was collectively done."