Centuries-old British bank apologizes for involvement in slave trade

Centuries-old British bank apologizes for involvement in slave trade
Bank of England

By Harry Whitehead

The Bank of England has officially apologized for its role in the slave trade — the latest move by a major international company to seek forgiveness for historical ties to racial injustice.

The United Kingdom’s central bank, which in a statement acknowledged the role many of its leading figures played in the slave trade, denied any direct involvement in slavery.

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“The Bank of England was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former Governors and Directors and apologises for them,” the bank said Friday.

The Bank of England is the latest in a wave of British companies apologizing for figures directly involved in historical discrimination, CNN reports. Protests over racial inequality, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this month, made its way across the Atlantic and has been gaining momentum in many parts of British life, including sports and academia.

Sky News reported Thursday that the Rugby Football Union is considering banning Swing Low, Sweet Chariot — a famous anthem sung by English fans that has its roots in the 19th-century American slave trade. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not backed this idea, saying the tune is “sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or sensitivities,” The New York Times reported.

Oxford University’s Oriel College announced Wednesday that they have recommended the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes, claiming it to be a symbol of imperialism and racism.

“The Commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME [Black, Asian and Minority ethnic] undergraduate, graduate students and faculty,” the statement read.

Rhodes is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in British history and is also the original benefactor of the Rhodes Scholarship, which has served minority students at the college including New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

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