LONDON — Two of Britain's largest companies have promised to financially support projects assisting minorities as Britain continues to reckon with its role in the slave trade.
Insurance giant Lloyd's of London and the pub chain Greene King made the pledges after they were included in a University College database of companies with ties to the slave trade.
"Lloyd's has a long and rich history dating back over 330 years, but there are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of,'' Lloyd's said in a prepared statement. "In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd's market in the eighteenth and nineteenth Century slave trade. This was an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own, and we condemn the indefensible wrongdoing that occurred during this period.''
The pub chain was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene. He was among the 47,000 people who received compensation intended for slave owners when the British Empire abolished slavery in 1833. Greene surrendered three plantations in the West Indies for the equivalent of 500,000 pounds ($628,000) in today's currency.
The database showed that Simon Fraser, a founder subscriber member to Lloyds, was given 400,000 pounds ($502,00) in today's currency, to surrender an estate in Dominica.
The companies have taken action in the wake of the May 25th death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. A video surfaced of a white police officer pressing a knee to Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. U.S. racial equality protests have spread overseas.
Protesters in the English city of Bristol hauled down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader and philanthropist, and dumped in the city's harbor.
There are revived calls for Oxford University to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed Oxford University's Rhodes scholarships.
Greene King's chief executive Nick Mackenzie told the Daily Telegraph that the company would update its website to mention past connections to slavery. He also offered an apology.
"It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s," he told the newspaper. "We don't have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners, as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work."