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U.K. Conservation Society Details Links to Colonialism and Slavery

The country house of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an ardent imperialist; an estate in northern England that was owned by prominent slave traders; the London property of Thomas Carlyle, a 19th-century historian known for pro-slavery writings.

These are among the 93 properties managed by Britain’s National Trust, the revered conservation society, that it cited in a report released on Tuesday as having direct connections to slavery and colonialism — a disclosure that it said was an effort to shed a light on the “complex” and sometimes “hugely uncomfortable” stories behind the properties and their owners.

“This is part of caring for our properties in a historically responsible and academically robust way,” Dr. Tarnya Cooper, the trust’s curatorial and collections director, said in a statement. “The work helps us all understand what’s gone before; now and for future generations.”

As institutions across Europe reassess their ties to slavery and colonialism, the report’s publication raises questions about what concrete steps the organization could take after acknowledging such connections. In Britain and France, calls to give back looted art to African countries have intensified in recent years, although few have been returned. And while English cities like Liverpool and Bristol and French cities like Bordeaux have confronted their slave-trading past, others have remained silent.

An international reckoning over institutionalized racism after the police killing of George Floyd in the United States in May has given a new urgency to initiatives like the report, which the organization said it had commissioned last September.

Read entire article at New York Times