The Guardian’s owner apologises for historical slave trade links
March 29, 2023
Image source, Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
In 2020, the newspaper’s owner commissioned research into possible historical slave trade links
The trust which owns The Guardian has apologized for its Mancunian founders’ links to the slave trade.
The Scott Trust said in the paper that millions of pounds would be dedicated to “descendant communities linked to the Guardian’s 19th century founders”.
Researchers investigated the paper’s original financial backers from Manchester.
They found partnerships within the textile industry linked to cotton produced by enslaved people.
The Scott Trust commissioned independent academic research in 2020 to investigate whether there was any historical connection between chattel slavery and John Edward Taylor and other Manchester businessmen who financed its creation.
Mr Taylor was the journalist and cotton merchant who founded the newspaper’s forerunner, The Manchester Guardian, in 1821.
The commissioned research followed global protests against racism and renewed calls for UK institutions to investigate possible historical links with slavery.
The Scott Trust’s Legacies of Enslavement report, published on Tuesday, revealed that Mr Taylor, and at least nine of his 11 supporters, had links to slavery, mainly in textiles.
‘Crime against humanity’
According to the report, Mr Taylor had various connections through partnerships in the cotton manufacturing firm, Oakden & Taylor, and the cotton trading company Shuttleworth, Taylor & Co, which imported large quantities of raw cotton produced by enslaved people in the Americas.
The trust’s board issued a statement saying: “The Scott Trust and Guardian apologize unreservedly for their role in this crime against humanity.”
It said it expected to “invest more than £10m” during a decade of restorative justice.
The trust has pledged to set up a new global news sector fellowship program for mid-career Black journalists.
It also said it would “consult widely with black communities and other stakeholders starting later in 2023, in the UK and in the Americas, to determine what types of projects the trust could fund”.
Research into the paper’s ties to slavery will continue, it added.
The Manchester Guardian was founded in 1821 by Mr Taylor, who witnessed the Peterloo massacre in the city.
His prospectus for the paper said it would “zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious liberty, in the most comprehensive sense of those terms” and “heartily espouse the cause of Reformation”.
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