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.
It’s not been plain sailing at The Guardian since Guido first brought the paper’s problematic past to light. The newspaper has sought to make amends for its slave trade links and Confederate sympathy – creating an editorial project and a podcast to investigate the issue. Careful what you wish for…
Short of a self-effacing exoneration for their troubled history, the podcasters realised The Guardian has failed to get with the times. Three producers from the show complained in writing about their treatment, before leaving the project. In a letter obtained by Deadline, the producers criticise a “lack of any serious desire from The Guardian to face and interrogate its own historic role” adding this left room for “microaggressions, colourism” and “bullying”. Their guidance on combatting microaggressions is clearly due a re-write.
The letter was as the paper looked for other black producers to fill the void of those quitting. In the wake of these new accusations of “institutional racism”, it’s worth asking again – surely The Guardian must fall…
Read the producers’ email in full below:
Guardian columnists are revelling in the destruction of imperfect historical figures, perhaps unaware their employer’s past is one rooted in being on the side of the US Confederacy and opposition to Abraham Lincoln. Will Black Lives Matter protestors begin marching towards 90 York Way?
Back in the 1860s, The Manchester Guardian gave unqualified support to the confederacy during the American civil war; even reprinting confederate propaganda against the slaves’ liberator Abraham Lincoln.
“it was an evil day both for America and the world when he was chosen President of the United States”
– Manchester Guardian, 10th October 1862
Upon the news of President Lincoln’s assassination, the Guardian described the president’s time in office as “abhorrent”, specifically the Proclamation of Emancipation – the act that declared “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
Perhaps the opposition to emancipation of slaves was driven by the views of their founder, John Edward Taylor, who made his money in the cotton trade – an industry that prospered on the backs of cotton-picking slaves. After the death of their founder in 1844, the paper continued its relationship with its cotton merchant advertisers, going as far as demanding Manchester’s cotton workers, who refused to touch cotton picked by US slaves, should be forced back into work. Guido’s proud that his heritage is rooted in a history of toiling to end the despotic rule of oppressive leaders…