Brewery Greene King will educate its staff in ‘understanding slavery’

Brewery Greene King which was founded by plantation owner will ‘educate its staff in understanding slavery’ after firm said its historic link to slave trade is ‘inexcusable’

  • Greene King will be launching a programme to raise awareness about slavery 
  • Employees at the company will be given chance to take part in online workshops 
  • Company is teaming up with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool 
  • The pub group was founded by the slave owner Benjamin Greene in 1799

Greene King has revealed it will launch a programme to raise awareness about slavery after admitting it was ‘inexcusable’ that its founder profited from the transatlantic slave trade.

The pub company, which has more than 3,000 pubs across the country, is teaming up with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool to ‘educate people about the shocking human exploitation which took place.’   

The Suffolk-based business was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene who went on to own sugar plantations in the West Indies where he was a slave owner.

Now all of Greene King’s 38,000 employees will be given a chance to take part in online workshops on ‘Understanding Transatlantic Slavery.’

Greene King, which has more than 3,000 pubs across the country, will launch a programme to raise awareness about slavery

The pub company said  it was 'inexcusable' its founder Benjamin Greene profited from the transatlantic slave trade

The pub company said  it was ‘inexcusable’ its founder Benjamin Greene profited from the transatlantic slave trade

The brewer is also backing the Black History Month programme at the Liverpool-based museum this month. 

Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: ‘There is no place for racism or discrimination anywhere in society.

‘We are working hard to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce with increased opportunities for people from minority ethnic backgrounds, but equally we don’t want to lose sight of the past.

‘It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and while that was nearly 200 years ago we can’t pretend it didn’t happen. 

‘We want to educate and work with the International Slavery Museum to learn more about the past and better inform our choices for the future.’  

Richard Benjamin, who heads the International Slavery Museum team, said: ‘This is a positive step.

‘Reparative justice must acknowledge past abuses and respond to their continuing legacies. We hope that more institutions and businesses in the UK with the same historical links to slavery can be equally as transparent about their origins.’ 

Greene King was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene who went on to own sugar plantations in the West Indies. Pictured: The pub headquarters in Abbot House in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Greene King was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene who went on to own sugar plantations in the West Indies. Pictured: The pub headquarters in Abbot House in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

The pub group is teaming up with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool to 'educate people about the shocking human exploitation which took place'

The pub group is teaming up with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool to ‘educate people about the shocking human exploitation which took place’

Born in 1780 in Northamptonshire, Benjamin Greene, went on to own three cane sugar plantations in the West Indies after he handed over his brewery company to his son Edward in 1836.  

During the 1880s, the brewery founder, who profited from the labour of enslaved Africans, wrote columns in his own newspaper the Bury and Suffolk Herald where he defended his actions against campaigners for the abolition of slavery.

Despite his protestations, MPs finally passed the Slavery Abolition Bill in 1833, on the condition that slave-owners be given compensation for freeing their slaves. 

Greene, who had at least 231 slaves, was among 47,000 people who benefited from the compensation and received the equivalent of £500,000 in today’s money.

In July, the pub group said it had invested £15million into pub safety as it prepared to open to customers once more from July 4. 

The pub confirmed tables would be spaced out in line with government regulations and said customers would have to pay using a new Order and Pay app.  

The business also said customers would be provided with one-time-use menus that could be disposed of in a sustainable way at the pub and cutlery would be wrapped. 

Benjamin Greene: The 19th Century brewer who held 231 slaves

Greene King traces its links to slavery to its founder, Benjamin Greene, who records show held at least 231 on Caribbean islands.  

Born in 1780 in Northamptonshire, Greene moved to Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, where in 1806 he founded what would become the UK’s largest brewery. 

He inherited plantations in the West Indies from Sir Patrick Blake, 2nd Baronet, upon his death.

In 1828, he bought the Bury and Suffolk Herald, at a time when the campaign to abolish slavery was being debated.

In his role as a newspaper proprietor, Greene used the pages of the broadsheet to ferociously oppose abolition.

According to his Oxford biography, he campaigned with ‘enormous vigour into representing the interests of the West Indian slave proprietors at a critical juncture of their affairs.’

His opposition to abolition saw him become a figure of controversy in Suffolk, and in 1837 he moved to London where he founded Benjamin Greene & Son – West Indian ship merchants – with his son in Russell Square.

Despite Greene’s protestations, MPs passed the Slavery Abolition Bill in 1833, on the condition that slave-owners were compensated for freeing their slaves.

Records archived by UCL show Greene claimed the modern equivalent of £500,000 for 231 slaves in the West Indies.

The claim forms show Greene received:  

January 23, 1836 – £2,672 for 156 slaves on St Kitts

February 27, 1836 – £1,262 for 69 slaves on St Kitts 

February 29, 1836 – £98 for six slaves on Monsterrat      

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