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Stand Up to Racism urges MP to return Drax Hall Estate to Barbadians

Image: Drax Windmill & Drax Hall, Barbados, West Indies, Unknown author, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Morning Star (22 June 2021) has reported that the Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) group of Dorset has urged the South Dorset Tory MP Richard Drax to relinquish his 621-acre sugar plantation estate in the Caribbean to the people of Barbados. The call is in solidarity with the Caricom Reparations Commission, which represents states across the Caribbean. The commission is asking the MP to return Drax Hall Estate to the people of the local community, many of whom are the descendants of those enslaved.

Richard Grovenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle Drax, Britain’s wealthiest MP, who owns 13,780 acres of land in Dorset has vast inherited wealth built on the lives first of the unfortunates of English poorhouses and Irish prisoners of war growing tobacco in Barbados in the 1640s, and then on the forced labour and lives of enslaved Africans in growing sugar. Hilary McD. Beckles, prime historian of Barbadian enslavement and author of Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide had calculated that close to 30,000 enslaved people died on the Drax plantations over 200 years.

Two books by Peepal Tree authors have more to say about Drax and the context of the family’s role in the brutal exploitation of enslaved people. Corinne Fowler’s Green Unpleasant Land puts the Drax family business into the context of land-ownership in England and its connection to slavery and colonial profits, and Esther Phillips very recent collection of poems, Witness in Stone, has several poems that describe growing up in the shadow of the Drax estate and of how “History’s wound [is] still bleeding/ to its last drop.”

And I’m sure Diana McCaulay won’t mind me mentioning that she eagerly took up my editorial suggestion that she rename her violent and sexually exploitative villain in her topnotch novel, Daylight Come, from Dax to Drax. A small but satisfying change. 

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