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Readers of The Guardian’s Cotton Capital series call it \”a necessary step forward\”

Photo by Natracare on Unsplash

I wish all companies and wealthy people would research the source of their wealth. An organisation should be set up to collect this data and work on “compensation” payments. School curricula (and universities) should include this history, so books and teacher training is needed.

The acknowledgment of the role the paper’s founders played in transatlantic slavery is a necessary step forward, and the Guardian has a vital role to play in shaping public discourse around issues of race and racism. However, it is important to recognise that this acknowledgment comes after years of silence. Black journalists and other people of colour have been fighting for years to be represented and included in the newsroom, but continue to face barriers.

I’m really interested in this as I grew up in the north-west of England – my parents were both weavers and my extended family (grandparents and great aunts and uncles) worked in the mills. I grew up learning about King Cotton and the impact on local communities. I didn’t learn about it from school but from my family’s stories. My mum entrusted me with her copy of King Cotton by Thomas Armstrong. It covers the Lancashire cotton famine during the American civil war and is a really relevant backdrop to the Guardian’s project. The weavers refused to weave slave-picked cotton, leaving them and their families to face starvation and the awful, shameful prospect of the workhouse.

I am the descendant of a cotton mill owner from Bolton near Manchester. The realisation of my family involvement in the slave trade came in a Black US literature course I took in Maryland, US. I was able to take this BA course because I had just received a small inheritance from my father, whose money came from the cotton trade.

I am deeply grateful for the Cotton Capital project. I have been teaching and writing about racism in the United States – past and present – for my entire career and have advocated for truthful recognition and acknowledgement of the enduring impact and legacy of enslavement in fostering inequality, contributing to the wealth of the UK and US, while impoverishing countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

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