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The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Secondly, I do believe there is a place for apology. Within some Christian circles in England, Afro-Caribbeans are feeling that they have heard apologies often enough from their white brothers. Perhaps apology needs to be heard more often outside of the Christian ghetto. Apology needs to come primarily from the heart rather than the head. While a formal written statement may sometimes be appropriate, it can easily come across as something the reader is obliged to do – “in the light of these facts I ought to apologise.” The apology from the heart will come more spontaneously out of genuine feeling perhaps in the context of a normal conversation – “I am so sorry for what my nation did to your ancestors. I think it’s the worst thing we ever did and the impact of it is still with us.”

Thirdly, symbolic or prophetic action is an appropriate response. The Lifeline Expedition is one example of this. The expedition is a series of reconciliation journeys using the Greenwich meridian line as a link between the former European slave trading nations and the West African nations from which slaves were transported. The journey began in England in the summer of 2000 and a major feature was that of white Europeans, West Africans and Afro-Caribbeans walking and talking and praying together. There is no substitute for the building of relationships across traditional cultural divides. In the summer of 2002, a team visited former slave ports in France, including Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. The symbolic action was that of representatives from the former slave trading nations walking chained together in a slave coffle. There was considerable media interest, but, most significantly, the reaction of slave descendants (mostly from Martinique and Guadeloupe) was very positive. The expedition continued in Spain and Portugal in autumn 2003. Once again, the walk in yokes and chains took place and in cities we visited such as Seville and Lisbon, copies of the 1999 Liverpool apology statement were given to the civic authorities for their consideration.  A visit to the USA in the autumn of 2004 was marked by opposition from white supremacist groups and extensive publicity resulted. Many African Americans were deeply grateful and many said they had never heard genuine white apology before. Journeys will continue in the Caribbean in 2005 and walking along former slave routes in West Africa in 2006. Finally we plan to return to England for a triangular walk from London to Bristol to Liverpool and back to London in 2007. This would be in connection with the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain.

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