Rowntree Society report explores historic slavery connections
A research project set up by The Rowntree Society into global supply chains has revealed histories of slavery, forced labour, colonialism and racial injustice.
In a statement released today, The Rowntree Society says, “These have profound implications for the content and direction of our work."
Building a true picture of the history and legacies of racial exploitation in Quaker companies is an important part of owning and understanding our own history.- Paul Parker, Recording Clerk
The research was prompted by the prominence and urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing global recognition of long histories of systemic racism.
The Rowntree Society has been working with their funders, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT), to explore the commercial origins of their endowments. Each of the Trusts was endowed with shares in Rowntree & Co in 1904.
A statement from The Rowntree Society says, “Although we found no evidence that the Rowntree family owned or traded in enslaved people or benefitted from the abolition compensation scheme, we have identified five areas where we believe further research is necessary to create a fuller understanding of how Rowntree businesses benefitted from slavery, unfree labour and other forms of racial exploitation during the eras of colonialism and apartheid."
The Trusts are Quaker founded and have Quaker connections.
Reflecting on the statements, Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said, “We welcome the research being done by The Rowntree Society into the origins of the endowments that formed these Quaker trusts. Building a true picture of the history and legacies of racial exploitation in Quaker companies is an important part of owning and understanding our own history, and is informing our ongoing work to become an anti-racist church.
“Quakers in Britain acknowledge that racism today is rooted in the trade of enslaved people, forced labour, colonialism and racial exploitation. We owe it to those who live with that legacy to take steps to redress this."