Actor Benedict Cumberbatch could face a million-dollar lawsuit for his family’s slavery past


FILE PHOTO: Benedict Cumberbatch reacts at the premiere of "The Power of the Dog" at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Benedict Cumberbatch reacts at the premiere of “The Power of the Dog” at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

Since his irruption in the big Hollywood productions, Benedict Cumberbatch he never evaded any reference to his family’s slave-owning past on the Caribbean island of Barbados. In fact, the 46-year-old British actor once acknowledged that this part of family history weighs heavily on him. However, according to the press in his country, that family past could bring him serious problems if the Caribbean country, a former British colony and proclaimed an independent republic in November 2021, decides to sue the descendants of the owners of cotton and sugar plantations.

Among them is the Cumberbatch family. Joshua, the great-grandfather of the actor’s great-great-grandfather, purchased the Cleland plantation in 1728 to grow sugar in northern Barbados. According to the British newspaper The Telegraphover there the family came to have up to 250 slaves. The lands were in the hands of the family for almost a century, during which time they amassed a great fortune.

In 1834 slavery was abolished. Immediately afterwards, the British government granted financial compensation to the owners of those lands. The Cumberbatch family received £6,000 from that time. According to the calculations of The Telegraphthat figure would currently amount to about a million pounds (just over a million euros).

“All descendants of white plantation owners who have benefited from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family.”declared to that British media David Denny, Secretary General of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration. And he added: “The money should be used to convert local clinics into hospitals, support schools and improve the country’s infrastructure and housing.”

However, in the midst of these reports, this Tuesday the ambassador of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to Barbados, David Commissioningdenied that the Caribbean island is going to file a claim for reparation against the family of the British actor for the damages committed by his ancestors related to the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Benedict Cumberbatch said that he participated in the film "12 years a slave" to repair some of the damage caused by their ancestors (Credit: Imdb)
Benedict Cumberbatch said he was in the movie “12 Years a Slave” to repair some of the damage his ancestors did (Credit: Imdb)

“To date neither Caricom nor Barbados have officially filed a claim for reparations against a European family,” said Comissiong, according to the newspaper. BarbadosToday.

In this sense, he specified that “clearly, the reason is that it is much easier to establish a claim for reparations against a legal entity such as a national government or a company than against a family.”

For this reason, the Caricom ambassador to Barbados recalled that in 2016, Caricom, and by extension Barbados, filed a claim for reparation against six Western European governments -including the Government of the United Kingdom- for the damages that Barbados and the other nations of the Community suffered.

These statements come after various international media claimed that Cumberbatch, known for his interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and for being the protagonist of the film “12 Years a Slave”you may have to take charge and make amends for the damage your slave-related ancestors did.

The actor himself acknowledged some time ago that his participation in 12 Years a Slave and in Amazing Grace (2006)which recounts the struggle of the British parliamentarian william wilberforce against the slave trade in the 18th century, it was to try to settle debts with the damage done by their ancestors.

David Commissiong, Ambassador of the Caribbean Community to Barbados
David Commissiong, Ambassador of the Caribbean Community to Barbados

According to British media reports, the Barbados government planned to sue the descendants of the cotton and sugar plantation owners, including the actor’s family, for the slave trade.

However, the Commissiong assured that the Barbados National Reparations Task Force believes that the historical facts relating to the Drax family are more than clear enough to support a claim for reparations against the Cumberbatch family.

It is that the Cumberbatch family is not the only one that is under the radar of Barbados. Member of the British Parliament and the Conservative Party, Richard Drax, is also targeted, since he inherited the largest sugar plantation in the territory. The official is under pressure to return the lands to the Caribbean country. According to The Guardian a few months ago, if the British parliamentarian refuses, the Barbados government could seek compensation in an international court.

On November 30, Barbados celebrated the first anniversary of its change of status from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, thus disassociating itself from the British Crown completely, since the Caribbean island had been linked to it despite the fact that it ceased to be a colony. British in 1966.

With information from EFE and The Telegraph

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