Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has come under fire from the Barbados government. His family may be forced to pay reparations for running a slave plantation on the island in the 18th and 19th century. This comes after campaigners urged British Conservative parliament member Richard Drax to return a sugar plantation he inherited.
Barbados became a republic in 2021 after breaking from the British monarchy. Since then, their government has been keen to seek reparations from the descendants of earlier slave-owning families and plantation holders.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather reportedly bought Barbados’ Cleland planation in 1798 and held ownership of the same until slavery was abolished in 1834. The plantation was believed to be home to 250 enslaved people and went on to become a small piece of the Cumberbatch family’s fortune.
After the family was forced to shut down the plantation, they were handed $11,000 in compensation which amounts to $6.4 million today.
Reacting to Benedict Cumberbatch being related to slave-owners, a netizen tweeted:
The Barbadians are now driven to fight the ancestors of slave-owning families and seek reparations.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s mother advised him not to use his real name in the film industry
Benedict Cumberbatch, whose real name is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, is well aware of his family’s links to slavery. The Oscar-nominated actor has revealed in the past that his mother had advised him not to use his real name in the entertainment industry in fear of his links to his slave-owning great grandfather coming to light.
However, the actor seems to have come to terms with his family’s past. He played the role of a plantation-owner William Ford in the movie 12 Years a Slave over a decade ago. He jokingly said in an interview that he took the job to atone for his ancestors’ past. He said in an interview that it was “a sort of apology” for his ancestors.
The initiative to seek reparations was taken last month by the Barbados government. They started off by pursuing British parliament member Richard Drax to hand back a sugar plantation which is now prime real-estate on the island.
If Barbados wins in court, they will be allowed to seek reparations from the conservative parliament member and other descendants of enslavers like Benedict Cumberbatch. In an interview with The Telegraph, David Denny, the general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, said:
“Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family.”
Speaking about how the Drax family’s reparations can be used, Danny said in an interview:
“The money should be used to turn the local clinic into a hospital, support local schools, and improve infrastructure and housing.”
When David Comissiong, the deputy chairman of the national commission on reparations, was asked whether they would seek reparations from the Cumberbatch family, he said in an interview:
“This is at the earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light.”
Richard Drax has not publicly commented on the matter at hand. However, he flew to the Caribbean island in October to have a meeting with Prime Minister Mia Mottley to discuss what would happen to the former plantation.
Benedict Cumberbatch had not commented on the reparations at the time of writing this article.