Antigua and Barbuda demands millions in reparations from All Souls over slave trade links

The Caribbean nation is asking for millions of pounds


Antiguan Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, wrote to the warden of All Souls College, Sir John Vickers, seeking reparations for millions of pounds which were earned from the “hard labour” of enslaved people in Antigua and Barbuda.

The letter, sent on Tuesday 6th April, proposed that “the college should repay its debt to enslaved persons on Antigua and Barbuda, who were the real source of benefit to All Souls, by contributing to the higher education of the people of Antigua and Barbuda through postgraduate scholarships to the College for eligible Antiguans and Barbudans and sending direct donations to the Five Islands (Antigua) Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) which was launched in September 2019 as the fourth landed campus of the University”. 

Sir John Vickers responded later that same day. In his response the warden thanked the prime minister and explained that All Souls College “is investigating academic initiatives in relation to the Codrington legacy”. 

He further hopes that “conclusions will be reached in the coming university term”. Vickers plans on writing again “by mid-June, if not sooner”. 

This is not the first time that controversy has been created over Codrington.

Codrington owned around 900 acres of land on Antigua and was additionally leased a portion of Barbuda at no cost in 1684.

Browne explained that this and their further land grants, which were owned by the family till 1944, allowed the family to profit from enslaved labour for 160 years.

The £10,000 endowment left in Codrington’s will is equivalent to around £1.7m today. That money was since used to build the college’s library in Codrington’s name and erect his statue as a centrepiece, a facet which in recent years has been heavily criticised.

The Rhodes Must Fall Campaign, which protested for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from outside Oriel College, also unsuccessfully lobbied for a statue of Codrington in the All Souls library to be removed. 

While they didn’t remove the statue, All Souls renamed the library to avoid glorifying the slave owner it is named after.

It also said it would “investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation within the library, which will draw attention to the presence of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery.”

In response to this new letter, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford told The Oxford Tab: “We are pleased to hear of the quick response from Sir John Vickers, who indicated that the college ‘is investigating academic initiatives in relation to the Codrington legacy’ and that ‘conclusions will be reached in the coming university term’.

“We hope that the college chooses concrete reparatory action guided by the Prime Minister’s proposal.

“However, we also restate our stance that the College’s continuing choice to materially uphold the Codrington statue undermines the studentships that the College offers to our sisters and brothers in Barbados.

“These studentships do not play the reparatory function assumed by the College, because they assimilate Black bodies, minds and hearts into a space which has not recognised the full extent of the harm on which its wealth stands.

“Our brothers and sisters are offered the chance to come to a College that chooses passivity in the face of the enslavement of their ancestors. These are not holistic reparations. They are the reproduction of harm. We cannot stand by and commend the College for it.

“As such, we continue to demand that All Souls College remove the statue of Codrington and are pleased to publicly support this campaign for direct reparations by Antigua and Barbuda.”

Prime Minister Browne did not inform the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office before making contact with All Souls and therefore the matter is being considered as one to be handled directly between the college and the government of Antigua and Barbuda. 

Featured Image: Steven C. Price, Creative Commons License

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