Benedict Cumberbatch's family may have to pay reparations over slave trade links in Barbados

Benedict Cumberbatch's family may have to pay reparations over slave trade links in Barbados
Benedict Cumberbatch has a tainted past linked to slave trave. (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for BFI)

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s family can possibly face a reparations fight in Barbados. Since becoming a republic in 2021, the Barbados government has been chasing many wealthy descendants of former enslavers and making them pay for their ‘horrific’ family history. Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather bought the Caribbean nation’s Cleland plantation on the north side of the island in 1728, and owned the land until 1728, the year in which slavery was abolished.

In a 2007 interview with New York Times, ‘The Imitation Game’ star told his mother had suggested he take on his acting career with a stage name just to avoid paying reparations. Interestingly, he pointed out that he accepted the role in ‘12 Years as a Slave’ as he felt sorry for his ancestor's involvement in the slave trade. “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family,” said general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny. However, no formal petition has been filed against the family as of now.

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David Comissiong, Barbados’ deputy chairman of the island’s national commission on reparation, also updated on the development. He emphasized that the demand for reparations would likely continue in the coming years. On being asked if the Barbados government had any dateline in mind to pursue legal action against the Cumberbatch family, the minister told The Telegraph, “This is at its earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of the history is only really now coming to light.”

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Earlier, the Barbados government made plans to pursue reparations from a conservative member of the British Parliament Richard Drax public. The parliamentarian owns the island’s largest plantation, Drax Hall, which makes it the only sugar plantation on the south side of the island held by the family of its original owners. The government has been pressing Drax to hand over the land to the government since 2021, and if he fails to abide, then the authorities will likely opt for compensation from an international arbitration court. “The money should be used to turn the local clinic into a hospital, support local schools, and improve infrastructure and housing,” Denny said, according to Daily Beast.

“We have our past – you don't have to look far to see the slave-owning past. We were part of the whole sugar industry, which is a shocker," Cumberbatch told The Telegraph about his family’s history in 2018. Cumberbatch was last seen in 'Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness'. His next flick is for Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl adaptation, 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar'.

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