Barbados May Seek Reparations From the Family of Benedict Cumberbatch for Slave Trade

Jaelani Turner-Williams Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with…
Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix

The family of actor Benedict Cumberbatch faces the possibility of paying reparations for slavery over ties to a sugar plantation in Barbados.

Barbados might come down on the family of Oscar-nominated English actor Benedict Cumberbatch for reparations. According to The Telegraph, relatives of the Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness star face the prospect of paying reparations due to their ancestors formerly owning a sugar plantation in Barbados.

In 1728, Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather, Abraham Cumberbatch, bought the island’s Cleland plantation, passing down ownership until 1834, when slavery was abolished in Barbados. The plantation reportedly exploited 250 enslaved people, also becoming the foundation of the Cumberbatch family fortune. Barbados’s National Task Force on Reparations is closing in on seeking reparations from colonial powers and wealthy institutions that benefitted from slavery, including British Conservative MP Richard Drax, who’s family also owned a vast sugar plantation on the island.

In December, David Comissiong, the Barbados ambassador to Caricom and deputy chairman of the state’s task force spoke to The Guardian about Drax and other families could facing litigation if they refuse to pay reparations.

“It is now a matter that is before the government of Barbados,” Comissiong said. “It is being dealt with at the highest level.”

While a formal ask has not been given to the Cumberbatch family, the Barbadian government may pursue reparations in the near future. “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations,” said general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny, per The Telegraph, “including the Cumberbatch family.”

Cumberbatch, who portrayed a slave owner in 2013 film 12 Years a Slave and William Pitt in 2006 movie Amazing Grace, has acknowledged his family’s involvement in slavery. The actor once claimed that his role in Amazing Grace was “sort of apology” for his family’s role in the slave trade, also saying that his mother previously urged him to become an actor under an alias to avoid paying reparations.

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