KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Committee (CRC) says it has expanded the list of countries to be targeted for reparation and that it was in the process of preparing a new round of letters of demands to those countries identified as participants in the trafficking of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.
CRC Vice-Chair, Professor Verene Shepherd spoke of the findings from the 2018 expanded Slave Voyages Database created by Professor David Eltis and his team of researchers.
1,000 additional slave voyages
The official said that the database created in 1999 and updated in 2008 and 2018, has revealed 1,000 additional voyages undertaken by slavers from European states that were participants in one form or another in the trade in Africans to CARICOM member states and Cuba and or slavery.
Among the less-publicized names are Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Norway Hanse Towns Brandenburg and the Duchy of Courland (Latvia).
The Slave Voyages Database brings together the work of scholars over four decades and across five continents to track the movements of ships, their countries of origin and the numbers of people who were forcibly taken halfway across the world to the Caribbean.
The City University of New York (CUNY) historian, Dr Ahmed Reid, introduced the latest 2018 finding at a news conference, highlighting details of over 36,000 voyages between Africa and the Americas, as well as information on 11,400 voyages between the countries of the Caribbean and the Americas.
Colonial Kingston was major trans-shipment port
It identifies colonial Kingston, Jamaica as a major trans-shipment port in the 19th century in the trafficking of enslaved Africans mainly to the Spanish Caribbean and reinforces the fact that the trafficking was a global enterprise.
12.5 million Africans captured and transported
Reid, who is also Chair of the United Nations Working Group of Experts, during his presentation also identified the major players and their percentage participation in the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans, the total number of Africans that were captured and transported, and estimated at 12.5 million.
He said that the mortality rate averaged 14 per cent.
Included in the expanded database are the names of over 92,000 Africans who were actually trafficked, identifying them by sex but more shockingly by ages that ranged from infants as young as a year old to men as old as 77 being captured, sold and relocated far away from their homeland.
Professor Shepherd said the names not only represent a digital memorial to the lives of the enslaved but personalizes the crime against humanity.
According to the new data Russia came in for special attention with the records showing an 1838 voyage by the vessel Goliubchick, flying the Russian flag departing the port of Odessa and landing in Matanzas, Cuba that same year with a cargo of 306 of the 340 Africans who started the voyage.
But Aleksel Alexeevich Sazonov, head of the consular section of the Russian embassy in Jamaica rose to the defense of his country and in a statement, questioned the completeness of the research and suggested that a vessel flying a country’s flag did not necessarily imply that the vessel actually originated in that country.
Professor Shepherd said that as the database becomes more widely known, countries implicated will be engaged in denial and cautioned against too quick a denial as the Slave Voyages Database is an active research project.
She said the findings not only strengthens the case CARICOM is building against involved and complicit states, but also holds them accountable and making them aware of their responsibility in ways they would never before have confronted.
The new findings also enhance the CARICOM Reparations Commission’s work in carrying out the mandate given to it in 2013 by CARICOM governments.