The Sale of Drax Hall Plantation

The decision by the Government of Barbados to buy the land of the Drax Hall Estate from Richard Drax MP was very disappointing. The Drax family, who have owned land in Barbados since 1627, grew wealthy on the unpaid labour of 200 enslaved Africans for over two centuries. Those unpaid wages, at today’s prices, amount to £1.5 billion and, add to that, £4,293 12s 6d paid to John Sawbridge Earle-Drax as compensation for the loss of his human property when enslavement was abolished in 1838, worth about £5 million today. The £3 million offered by the Barbados government can therefore be seen as yet more blood money.

The government explained the purchase by saying that the land is needed to build 500 houses for sale to low and middle income families. Laudable as that may be, is there no other land available that does not require making a deal with a man who has said the role his ancestors played in the slave trade was “deeply regrettable but no one can be held responsible today for what happened many hundreds of years ago”. 

The Reparations Movement does indeed hold individuals, states and corporations to be  responsible for what happened many years ago when their current wealth was derived from slavery, the effects of which are still felt today by the descendents of the enslaved. The Government of Barbados has made this point repeatedly on the international stage. By rewarding Richard Drax for his family’s exploitation of enslaved workers, they are undermining the arguments of the Reparations Movement in general.

The UN World Conference Against Racism 2001 recognised slavery as a Crime against Humanity. The tropical forest covering the land of the original plantation was cleared by enslaved labour and the prosperity that followed equally depended on enslaved labour. The Drax Hall Estate is therefore the “Proceeds of Crime”. The authorities have powers to seek to confiscate these assets so that crime does not pay.

The fight for Reparations will continue, including holding the MP for South Dorset to account.