Joyce Trotman, now 94 years of age, a descendant of slaves held in Guyana, writes as the descendant of great-grandfather, Ben Conright (survivor), and great grandmother, Seebucka Trotman (daughter of survivors), and on behalf of all descendants of the British holocaust known as Chattel Slavery.
Which Government department decided that a visit by William and Catherine to the territories of the Caribbean was a good idea for the Queen`s Platinum Jubilee? Were visas required for them to enter those territories? Any Commonwealth member of the Caribbean would need a visa to enter the United Kingdom, once known as the Mother Country.
Were they reminded that the people they were going to visit are descendants of the survivors of three centuries of the British holocaust known as Chattel Slavery? That the word ‘chattel’ accurately describes the particular system of British slavery in which these people’s ancestors were branded as beasts of burden: the letters DY on human beings enslaved by the then Duke of York (David Olusoga, Black and British: A Forgotten History), the letter S on those enslaved by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the missionary arm of the Church of England, absentee enslaver in Barbados (Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains, pp 62- 68).
Punishments of enslaved Africans included whipping, burning, shackling, mutilation, hanging, beating, rape, imprisonment, murder. Were the royal visitors reminded that the chief and earliest perpetrators of this crime against humanity were the royal ancestors of William, members of the royal houses of Tudor and Stuart, important members of the Church of England? And that, in exchange for granting freedom to the enslaved Africans the British enslavers were given substantial compensation for the loss of their human property?
Were they reminded of the 1831 uprising of the enslaved Africans of Jamaica (Hochschild, pp. 340) and the 1832 uprising of enslaved Africans in Demerara (Thomas Harding, White Debt), both of which were brutally put down by the British authorities? Some hanged, some shot down, some sent to England for transportation to Australia (Kenneth Joyce Robertson, The Four Pillars: A Genealogical Journey).
Were they told that the various shades of brown skin colour among Caribbean people, the fact that they have English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish surnames, that their religion is, for the most part, Christian, the Creolese and Patois languages they speak, now provide material for academic studies in university Departments of Linguistics? All this would have been essential preparation for such a visit.
I admire the zeal, sincerity and commitment that William brings to the conservation of endangered animals in Africa. He could now show that same commitment on behalf of the mixed-race (European-African) human beings of the Caribbean who under the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962 are deprived of the right of entry and abode in a country that was built on the labour of their black African ancestors. In addition, he could urge the perpetrators of the Windrush scandal to pay full compensation, not just apologise, to those who were subjected to this gross injustice.
Recently I wrote on this same issue to William’s father, in his capacity as Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, quoting the words of Maria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Laureate: ‘Nothing is possible without the facts.’ I now say to William, as I said to his father: ‘Action is possible, now that the facts are known’. No more condescending diplomatic mouthings about ‘that appalling atrocity’, no more ‘profound sorrow’, etc, etc, etc! Words, words, words.
The time to act is overdue. The patronage that his father is endowing on the descendants of the German Holocaust survivors, William could now likewise endow on the descendants of the British holocaust survivors. This would be an appropriate Thank You for the hospitality that he and Catherine enjoyed during their visit.