Professor Sir Hilary McD. Beckles holds a Chair in Social and Economic History, University of The West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, where he is also Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor. He is Vice-President of the International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO Slave Route Project, and member of the International Advisory Board of The Cultures and Globalization Series. A leading voice on reparations issues, he led the Barbados National Delegation and coordinated Caribbean actions at the UN Conference on Race in Durban, 2001. He is author of several monographs on transatlantic slavery, including Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados; Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society; and A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State.
Beckles (Univ. of the West Indies, Barbados) continues the debate over slave reparations largely silenced after the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. At that meeting, the former slave-owning powers agreed that while slavery should have been a crime when it occurred, slavery and the slave trading were not, in fact, illegal when they occurred. A distinguished economic historian, Beckles makes the case for reparations for the English-speaking Caribbean. After surveying the principles and politics of reparations, he narrates such topics as the British genocide of the Caribbean indigenous population, the slave trade to the Caribbean, the legal classification of "slave" in England, slave owners in Parliament and the private sector, and the reparations awarded slaveholders in 1838. Beckles next makes his case for reparations within the context of the global reparations movement following the Durban conference. He holds slavery responsible for the mass poverty, illiteracy, dysfunctional family structure, and ill health in the Caribbean today and considers reparations "an act of justice," one that would begin a process of redemption and renewal and the celebration of humanity rather than inhumanity. Reparations would spotlight slavery's crimes against humanity and underscore fairness, justice, and closure. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/ libraries.- J.D. Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte