Descendants of slaves seek justice from Lloyds

Descendants of slaves seek justice from Lloyds

By staff writers
29 Mar 2004

Descendants of slaves seek justice from Lloyds

-29/3/04

Descendants of black American slaves say they plan to sue London's oldest insurance firm, Lloyds, for compensation for allegedly underwriting the ships used in the slave trade.

Taking up a theme explored by some black theologians who have looked at ideas of liberation and racial justice, Ed Fagan, a lawyer involved in the case, said Lloyds played a significant part in the human trade and insisted black American slave descendants had as much right to damages as any other people subjected to genocide.

"Lloyds knew that what they were doing led to the destruction of the indigenous population," Fagan, who is well-known for his role is fighting claims for victims of the Holocaust, told BBC radio on Monday.

"They took people, they put them on ships, and they wiped out their identity."

Slavery was abolished in the British empire in the 1830s, largely as a result of campaigns headed by Evangelicals, most notably the MP, William Wilberforce.

Around 30 years later it was abolished in the United States. But more than 10 million people are thought to have been traded as slaves at west African ports and herded onto ships bound for America in the 1700s and early 1800s.

Fagan, who is expected to file the claim in New York on Monday, rejected charges that the case was based on events too far in the past.

"Why is it too far fetched to say that blacks should be entitled to compensation for damages and genocide committed against them, when every other people in the world... that has been victimised in this way has been entitled to compensation?"

A spokeswoman for Lloyds in London said the firm had not seen the claim, and so was not in a position to comment.

But she added that previous claims regarding slavery involving lawyers had been dismissed with prejudice.

A few years ago, the black theologian Robert Beckford, author of "Jesus is Dread" and "Dread and Pentecostal" was involved in a TV documentary which traced his family history back to slave owners. In the television programme he confronted descendents of those involved in the slave trade with the idea of reparations.

One of the current claimants, Deadria Farmer-Paellman, told BBC radio she had not doubt Lloyds bore some responsibility for her lack of identity.

"They are responsible because they played a role in enslaving African Americans - or at least our ancestors," she said. "And part of the slave trade included genocide - the destruction of ethnic and national identities."

"Today I suffer from the injury of not knowing who I am -- having no nationality or ethnic group as a result of acts committed by these parties."

Fagan won fame for representing victims of the Holocaust and is currently leading a string of multi-million-dollar lawsuits in the United States against multinational companies which he says should pay compensation for benefiting from the apartheid regime in South Africa, which ended in 1994.

Descendants of black American slaves say they plan to sue London's oldest insurance firm, Lloyds, for compensation for allegedly underwriting the ships used in the slave trade.

Taking up a theme explored by some black theologians who have looked at ideas of liberation and racial justice, Ed Fagan, a lawyer involved in the case, said Lloyds played a significant part in the human trade and insisted black American slave descendants had as much right to damages as any other people subjected to genocide.

"Lloyds knew that what they were doing led to the destruction of the indigenous population," Fagan, who is well-known for his role is fighting claims for victims of the Holocaust, told BBC radio on Monday.

"They took people, they put them on ships, and they wiped out their identity."

Slavery was abolished in the British empire in the 1830s, largely as a result of campaigns headed by Evangelicals, most notably the MP, William Wilberforce.

Around 30 years later it was abolished in the United States. But more than 10 million people are thought to have been traded as slaves at west African ports and herded onto ships bound for America in the 1700s and early 1800s.

Fagan, who is expected to file the claim in New York on Monday, rejected charges that the case was based on events too far in the past.

"Why is it too far fetched to say that blacks should be entitled to compensation for damages and genocide committed against them, when every other people in the world... that has been victimised in this way has been entitled to compensation?"

A spokeswoman for Lloyds in London said the firm had not seen the claim, and so was not in a position to comment.

But she added that previous claims regarding slavery involving lawyers had been dismissed with prejudice.

A few years ago, the black theologian Robert Beckford, author of "Jesus is Dread" and "Dread and Pentecostal" was involved in a TV documentary which traced his family history back to slave owners. In the television programme he confronted descendents of those involved in the slave trade with the idea of reparations.

One of the current claimants, Deadria Farmer-Paellman, told BBC radio she had not doubt Lloyds bore some responsibility for her lack of identity.

"They are responsible because they played a role in enslaving African Americans - or at least our ancestors," she said. "And part of the slave trade included genocide - the destruction of ethnic and national identities."

"Today I suffer from the injury of not knowing who I am -- having no nationality or ethnic group as a result of acts committed by these parties."

Fagan won fame for representing victims of the Holocaust and is currently leading a string of multi-million-dollar lawsuits in the United States against multinational companies which he says should pay compensation for benefiting from the apartheid regime in South Africa, which ended in 1994.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.