Photo Credit: Rob Kim
This Oscar-Nominated Actor May Have To Pay Reparations For Family's Link To Slavery In Barbados
Barbados is cracking down on the wealthy descendants of slave owners and seeking reparations.
What we know
As part of the work of the country’s National Task Force on Reparations, actor Benedict Cumberbatch may have to pay for his family’s historical role in the slave trade, according to Insider.
In the 18th Century, an ancestor of his named Abraham Cumberbatch owned the Cleland plantation, on which he had 250 enslaved people working until 1834 when slavery was abolished.
With the plantation, the Cumberbatch family made a fortune in the sugar industry off the backs of the enslaved. The family even received a large payment from the British government after the abolition of slavery–£6,000, which equates to around $1 million today.
The Barbados National Task Force on Reparations findings
The Barbados National Task Force on Reparations previously focused on seeking reparations from wealthy institutions that profited greatly from slavery. However, it recently targeted British Conservative MP Richard Drax, whose family owned of a large sugar plantation on the island.
According to deputy chairman of the task force, David Comissiong, Drax, and other families could face litigation if they fail to pay reparations.
“It is now a matter that is before the government of Barbados,” he told the Guardian. “It is being dealt with at the highest level.”
Other families included
The Cumberbatch family may be forced to pay reparations next. Comissiong did not rule it out, stating, “This is at the earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light.”
Benedict Cumberbatch has publicly acknowledged and spoken about his family’s involvement in the slave trade.
“We have our past,” he told the Telegraph in 2018. “You don’t have to look far to see the slave-owning past. We were part of the whole sugar industry, which is a shocker.”
Slavery connections in real life?
In 2013, he played the role of a slave owner in the Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave.” In 2006, he played the role of William Pitt the Younger in “Amazing Grace.” The film was about the battle to abolish slavery in Great Britain.
Cumberbatch is said to have considered the role a “sort of apology” for his family’s history as slave owners, according to the Daily Mail.
The publication also reported that Cumberbatch’s mother had warned him not to use his real last name in his career as an actor as it could potentially make him a target for reparations campaigns.