Sir John Cass and transatlantic slavery


In February, Sir John Cass’s Foundation commissioned a report, which can be found here, into our founder’s historical connection with transatlantic slavery. The report was delayed due to Covid-19 but its significance is now even more important following the tragic killing of George Floyd and the #BLM campaign.

Professor Miles Ogborn, FBA of Queen Mary, University of London, has been able to demonstrate Sir John Cass’s role not just in investing in the Royal African Company, but in his active management of the slave trade from its London base.

Why do we need to delve into the past? British history is a rich tapestry, and this sort of document ensures that all the threads are seen. It reinserts a part of the past that has been removed, scrubbed out and ignored because it was unpleasant and distasteful.

The way in which we pass on our national story is through historical information and research. They combine to create the legacy that we give to the next generation to tell them who we were – and why they have become who they are. They are the shared map of a history that we are all taught and celebrate.

Sadly, it is still as though many of our nation do not exist as part of that historical map. When people ask why, they are often accused of distorting the past and whitewashing history. For most ethnic minorities we believe that these aren’t matters for revolution. For most, this is simply a desire to have an honest picture of everyone’s place in history that we can all understand and appreciate.

We can’t address racial inequalities if we don’t know what they are, where they come from and why they exist. The Foundation wishes to continue to research, to listen and to learn and use its newly acquired knowledge to ensure that we focus on present injustices as we define our priorities for grant-making and thereby develop further our educational support for institutions and individuals.

Governors of Sir John Cass’s Foundation.