Antigua and Barbuda seeking reparation from British university

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne has written to the Master of All Souls College at Oxford University, seeking reparations for what now amounts to tens of millions of pounds sterling as a result of the “hard labour” of enslaved people on Antigua and Barbuda.

In a letter sent to the university on Tuesday, Browne stated that a bequest to All Souls College in 1710 from Christopher Codrington III, which stocked and built the college’s now famous library, was generated principally from the labour of enslaved people on ‘granted’ lands in Antigua and Barbuda.

Browne pointed out that the Codringtons added considerably to their family’s wealth from the proceeds of plantations and slavery on Antigua, principally, a ‘grant’ of 500 acres of land in 1674 which he named Betty’s Hope and a further 400 acres that was also subsequently ‘granted’.

In the letter, Browne told Sir John Vickers, the Master of All Souls, that the Codringtons retained that land until 1944 and for 160 of those years profited from the hard labour of enslaved people on Antigua.

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Oxford University (Photo: Insider)

Browne said that Christopher Codrington III, who bequeathed the funds to All Souls, not only inherited the 900 acres of land and enslaved people on Antigua, but he also secured a lease of Barbuda in 1684 at no cost.

The considerable profits made from these granted lands and the hard labour of enslaved people allowed Christopher Codrington III, when he died in 1710, to bequeath to All Souls the equivalent of millions of pounds sterling (One British Pound=US$1.38 cents) at today’s value.

He proposed to Sir John 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 (a) contributing to the higher education of the people of Antigua and Barbuda through post graduate scholarships to the college for eligible Antiguans and Barbudans; or (b) direct donations to the Five Islands (Antigua) campus of the University of the West Indies which was launched in September 2019 as the fourth landed campus of the university”

In an immediate response, Sir John thanked Browne for his letter and advised that All Souls College “is investigating academic initiatives in relation to the Codrington legacy”.

He said that his hope is that “conclusions will be reached in the coming university term” promising to write again “by mid-June, if not sooner”.