The Black Lives Matter global movement has recently challenged Covid-19 for headlines across the world following the televised murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police.
Now two UK businesses are in the headlines for their founders’ involvement in the 19th century trans-Atlantic slave trade, Lloyd’s of London and brewer and pub chain Greene King.
Both on Wednesday pledged to make financial reparations to black people seeking in part to address their founders’ roles in the abhorrent trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The news was first reported by the Telegraph, and followed by other broadsheets. It comes as people worldwide are outraged by the recent killing in Minnesota, and wider growing recognition of the legacy of the British empire’s extensive role in trading millions of black African lives during the 19th century.
The Guardian reported that records archived at University College London show that one of Greene King’s founders, Benjamin Greene, held at least 231 human beings in slavery and became an enthusiastic supporter of the practice, arguing against its abolition.
The University College London records show Greene was given the equivalent of about £500,000 at today’s rate when he surrendered rights to plantations in Montserrat and Saint Kitts.
He handed over control of his brewery to his son three years later and it was given its current name after a merger in 1887.
When slavery was abolished in the British empire in 1833, the Government paid compensation to slave owners, but not to the people enslaved.
Greene King CEO, Nick Mackenzie said in a statement on Wednesday: “It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800’s.
“We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work.”
MacKenzie promised that Greene King will “make a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business”. He added that the firm now employs people “across the UK from all backgrounds”, adding that “racism and discrimination have no place at Greene King”.