In June 2020, at the height of the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, Guido published an article about the Guardian’s own links to the slave trade. The story was soon followed up by the Mail, Sun and Telegraph. Echoing our call on the Guardian to pay reparations.
A year later, the Guardian issued a partial mea culpa, Guardian Admits Historic Support for the White Supremacist Confederacy, Still Covering Up Slavery Links Report. Today, however, the Scott Trust-commissioned investigation into whether there was any historical connection between slavery and John Edward Taylor, the journalist and cotton merchant who founded the newspaper in 1821, as well as the other Manchester businessmen who funded its creation, is published. The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement report confirms that Taylor, and at least nine of his eleven backers, had links to slavery through the cotton industry.
Ole Jacob Sunde, the chair of the Scott Trust, says:
“The Scott Trust is deeply sorry for the role John Edward Taylor and his backers played in the cotton trade. We recognise that apologising and sharing these facts transparently is only the first step in addressing the Guardian’s historical links to slavery. In response to the findings, the Scott Trust is committing to fund a restorative justice programme over the next decade, which will be designed and carried out in consultation with local and national communities in the US, Jamaica, the UK and elsewhere, centred on long-term initiatives and meaningful impact.”
Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian writes:
“We are facing up to, and apologising for, the fact that our founder and those who funded him drew their wealth from a practice that was a crime against humanity. As we enter our third century as a news organisation, this awful history must reinforce our determination to use our journalism to expose racism, injustice and inequality, and to hold the powerful to account.”
We would point that the £10 million in reparations is over 10 years. £1 million-a-year is 0.1% of their capital reserves. As the report makes clear, the profits that were used to fund the Guardian’s pro-confederacy propaganda were made on the backs of thousands of slaves.
N.B. Our original story was based on an unearthed 1962 history student’s thesis by Robert Allen Schellenberg of the University of Nebraska at Omaha “The Manchester Guardian and the American Civil War“. Unfortunately Schellenberg died in 2016 and did not live to see this day.
Pressure is mounting on The Guardian to address and redress its dark history after Guido first brought to light the company’s complicity in profiting from slavery in the past last week. Since then both the Mail and the Sun have helped highlight the paper’s pro-Confederacy views, and a petition calling for the paper to be “shut down” has now hit 17,000 signatures. Meanwhile, Guardian op-eds supporting Black Lives Matter continue being published daily…
This morning the The Telegraph splashed on big companies such as Greene King and Lloyd’s of London apologising for their slavery links and pledging payments to BAME groups; Barclays also hinted they will pay reparations over their historic role. Greene King explained:
It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s… [we will make a] substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business as we increase our focus on targeted work in this area.”
The Guardian, which has grown from its founding first owner John Edward Taylor’s investment of his cotton trade profits – made off the back of the slave trade – to now having £1 billion in reserves in the bank, has no excuse not to follow suit. Will the paper apologise and pay up?