Slave trade has come and gone but history, as usual, remembers. The University of Glasgow has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of the West Indies as part of a $24m (£20m) program of reparative justice over its historical ties to slave trade.
The prominent Russell Group University set up the scheme after a year-long study revealed it has profited in tens of millions of pounds from the “appalling and heinous” slave trade.
As a result, a scheme revealed as the Glasgow-Caribbean Center for Development Research will be set up with the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The jointly-owned and managed center will be equipped to host events, sponsor research, coordinate academic partnerships between universities, and aims to boost public awareness about the history of slavery.
The agreement, which marks the first of its kind since British Emancipation in 1838, was signed by UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and University of Glasgow’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli. After the signing in Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. David Duncan, Chief operating officer of the University of Glasgow, representing the Vice-Chancellor described it as a “historic occasion” for the universities.
In his words about the university’s investigation, Dr. Duncan said: “We were conscious both of the proud part that Glasgow played in the abolitionist movement, and an awareness that we would have benefited, although indirectly, from that appalling and heinous trade.”
“From the onset, we were determined to be open, honest and transparent with the discoveries, and to produce a program of reparative justice.”
The report published by the University of Glasgow in 2018 reveals that it received millions of pounds in grants and endowments from Scottish and British slave owners that served to enrich and physically expand the near 600-year-old university.
Commenting on the globally anticipated moment in the long reparations struggle, Sir Hillary admitted that a university cannot be excellent if it is not ethical, and that this agreement improves the moral standing of the university.
The center, which will be formally established in September would focus on cleaning the colonial mess that continues to undermine efforts at Caribbean social and economic growth.
“It is expedient that Britain plays a role in putting back some of the money it milked from the Caribbean for its own development.” “I believe it’s a right”, says Sir Beckles who is involved in developing framework for research of slavery.
In the meantime, earlier this year, Cambridge and Bristol have begun to investigate their slave trade links during the dark phase of human history.
Creoles celebrate their age old African culture that wasn’t wiped out during slavery at the most recent St. Lucian Festival