Socialist Worker

Anti-racists demand Tory MP Drax hands back family’s old slave plantation to people of Barbados

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2760

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism Dorset take the knee earlier this year

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism Dorset take the knee earlier this year (Pic: SUTR Dorset)


Anti-racists in Dorset have told their Tory MP—whose family fortune comes from the slave trade—that “it’s time” for justice.

Supporters of the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) group plan to march next month against South Dorset MP, Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax. He owns Drax Hall Estate, the family’s old slave plantation in Barbados—which still grows sugar.

Drax is also the wealthiest landowner in the House of Commons. He owns 15,000 acres of land in Dorset alone.

The Caricom Reparations Commissions (CRC), which represents states across the Caribbean, is calling for Drax to relinquish his estate in the Caribbean. It wants the 621-acre plantation to be handed back to the people of Barbados—calling on Drax for “moral leadership”.

And it says the land should benefit ordinary people in Barbados—many of them descendants of slaves.

The CRC is also asking for recognition of “the harm and suffering that have resulted from crimes committed against enslaved and indentured people”.

Drax claims that “no one can be held responsible today for what happened many hundreds of years ago”.

But anti-racist activists say he must be held to account for enjoying the wealth generated by hundreds of years of brutality. SUTR Dorset and the South West TUC union federation are calling a march on 17 July, ending with a rally at the gates of Drax’s Charborough Park estate, to support the CRC's demands.

Drax has been asked to receive a petition signed by organisations and individuals who also support the movement.

Descendants 

Lynne Hubbard, SUTR Dorset co-chair, said, “Much has come to light about the suffering of generations of slaves and their descendants. And about the role of the Drax family, which pioneered the use of slave labour in the Caribbean.

“We ask Richard Drax to recognise the legacy of slavery and to assist the people of Barbados.”

Lynne added, “Richard Drax is immensely wealthy—with wealth exceeding £150 million. A fraction of his family fortune, accumulated during centuries of slavery, could do good today for people who are the descendants of those once enslaved. 

Blood money—how wealth created by slavery bankrolled capitalist Britain
Blood money—how wealth created by slavery bankrolled capitalist Britain
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“We say, ‘It’s time, Mr Drax.’”

Activists have long been raising awareness of Drax’s bloody legacy. The Drax family was one of the first to bring sugar to the Caribbean and commercialise its growing through large-scale slave labour.

Drax Hall Estate, founded in the 17th century, operated for almost 200 years. The plantation was responsible for the deaths of 30,000 slaves.

Historian professor Hilary Beckles, chair of the CRC, says the Draxes have “done more harm and violence to the black people of Barbados than any other family”. “The Draxes built and designed and structured slavery,” he said.

“Black life mattered only to make millionaires of English enslavers and the Drax family did it longer than any other elite family.”

South West TUC secretary Nigel Costley said, “No one can be held responsible for the actions of their ancestors. But Richard Drax is still sitting on the mountain of gold gained from the horrors of slavery.

“It’s time he paid some back.”

Demanding justice from those rich people who still benefit from their family’s bloody legacy in the slave trade is a vital fight for anti-racists.

March on Saturday 17 July assembles at 11.30am at Winterborne Zelston near the World’s End pub, DT11 9EW. Full details here. The event will be livestreamed to the Tolpuddle Festival, which can be viewed here.

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