Barbados seeks reparations from UK MP over family’s slavery legacy
The Drax family, the first sugar plantation owners in Barbados and Jamaica, pioneered the use of African slaves.
Richard Drax, a wealthy conservative MP in the British Parliament, will be asked by the government of Barbados, a former colony of the British empire, to pay reparations associated with his ancestor’s pivotal role in slavery.
Richard Drax is reported to have visited the Caribbean island for a meeting with the country’s Prime Minister, Mia Mottley.
The MP had reportedly inherited the plantation where his ancestors created the first slave-worked sugar plantation in the 17th century.
Mottley’s cabinet have laid out the next steps for the procedure, which include legal action in the event that Drax declines to pay reparations.
Barbados became independent from the United Kingdom in November 1966, more than three centuries after English settlers arrived and turned the island into a wealthy sugar colony based on the work of hundreds of thousands of African slaves.
Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax - Conservative MP for South Dorset.— Sir Walter Raleigh 🏴 (@NxlAnglo) November 26, 2022
>Lives in family's ancestral seat, Charborough House.
>Holds the lordship of the manor of Longburton.
> Largest individual landowner in Dorset, owning 2% of the land
> Owns sugar plantation in 🇧🇧 pic.twitter.com/m26tByOpHO
The Drax family is one of the few who were pioneers in the early stages of the British slave economy back in the 17th century and, generations later, still owned plantations and enslaved people at the end of British slavery in the 1830s.
The Drax dynasty was able to generate extraordinary wealth through the cultivation of sugar by enslaved Africans.
The MP's ancestor, Sir James Drax, was among the first colonizers in Barbados in the early 17th century.
The family owned a plantation in Jamaica, which they sold in the 19th century.
When slavery was abolished, the Draxes received £4,293 12s 6d in 1836 for freeing 189 enslaved people, a sum estimated to be worth £3 million.
Barbados MP Trevor Prescod, chairman of Barbados National Task Force on Reparations, said, "If the issue cannot be resolved we would take legal action in the international courts. The case against the Drax family would be for hundreds of years of slavery, so it’s likely any damages would go well beyond the value of the land."
Prescod added, "The Drax family had slave ships. They had agents in the African continent and kidnapped black African people to work on their plantations here in Barbados. I have no doubt that what would have motivated them was that they never perceived us to be equal to them, that we were human beings. They considered us as chattels."
This is the first time a family has been singled out among all countries of the Caribean who are generally seeking reparations from particular Western governments.
The plans which have been laid out so far include suggestions to turn the 17th-century Drax Hall into an Afro-centric museum and for a large section of the plantation to be used for social housing for lower-income families.
Drax has been the subject of heavy criticism after the Observer revealed in December 2020 that the MP concealed his inheritance of the 250-hectare (617 acres) Drax Hall plantation, which only surfaced after official documents revealed him as the owner.
Drax inherited a plantation in Barbados, valued at Bds$12.5m (£5.25m), from his father in 2017.
The 64-year-old MP currently resides in his family mansion in Charborough Park, Dorset.
His family fortune is estimated to be worth at least £150m, and he owns 23.5 square miles in Dorset, including an estate and grouse moor in Yorkshire.
The family also owns 125 properties in Dorset, either personally or through family trusts, as well as a £4.5m holiday villa on nearby Sandbanks.