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Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

'Slavery and the City' tour sheds light on London's dark past

'Slavery and the City' tour sheds light on London's dark past

Sellout tour highlights links to slave trade in heart of Britain's financial centre
A tour showing London's links to the slave trade aims to shed light on how British institutions - from megabanks to the state church - prospered on the backs of Black lives.

"Slavery and the City" takes in the financial centre's quaint cobbled yards, grand statues and statuesque buildings, highlighting its oft-hidden links to colonialism.

"Slavery is something where there has been a conspiracy of silence for almost 200 years," said tour guide Ildiko Bita.

"Without a doubt, a large proportion of the wealth of the City during the 18th century was dependent on slave labour and the trafficking of enslaved people," said Bita as she led a group of 11 through some of the capital's oldest streets.

The tour comes as the world grapples with race after George Floyd, an unarmed Black American, died in police custody in May. His death sparked worldwide protests and triggered a re-evaluation of the legacy of colonialism.

Statues to once-revered slave traders have come down.

Companies whose wealth depended on the exploitation of Black people have issued apologies, governments have promised to promote equality and white-dominated institutions have pledged change.

Yet many on the tour said Britain's slave past was still under the radar, with little taught at school in Britain or debated openly even now.

"The slave trade is something we should recognise as part of our history so that we can move on from it," said Hannah Gowland, 25. "We should bring it to the forefront of our education system because it is still impacting people today."

Gowland, from the northern English town of Middlesborough, came on the tour out of curiosity and said she was shocked to learn about the Church of England's support of the slave trade through its ownership of a sugar plantation in Barbados.

The Church of England has vowed to review places of worship to ensure any links to slavery are removed or put in context.

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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

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