Friday briefing: One year on from the Guardian’s look at its historic connections to slavery

<span>Cotton Capital illustration including an extract from 'The Bill of sales of Negro slaves, 1774-1872' from South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia.</span><span>Illustration: Guardian Design</span>
Cotton Capital illustration including an extract from 'The Bill of sales of Negro slaves, 1774-1872' from South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia.Illustration: Guardian Design

Good morning.

In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Scott Trust, the Guardian’s owner, commissioned a report by an independent academic expert to investigate the links between the founder of what was then the Manchester Guardian and transatlantic slavery. Criticism was mounting at institutions that needed to interrogate their possible links to the slave trade. After almost two centuries, the time had come for the Guardian to face its history.

Three years later, this report was published. It found that John Edward Taylor, the journalist who founded the Manchester Guardian in 1821, and his backers had profited from the labour of enslaved people through the cotton trade. In response, the Scott Trust issued an apology and announced a decade-long programme for restorative justice, called the legacies of enslavement programme.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke with Ebony Riddell Bamber, the programme director, about the progress the project has made in its first year. That’s right after the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Israel-Gaza war | The international court of justice has ordered Israel to allow unimpeded access of food aid into Gaza, where sections of the population are facing imminent starvation, in a significant legal rebuke to Israel’s claim it is not blocking aid deliveries.

  2. Conservatives | John Baron, a senior Tory MP, is facing questions over whether he used his Commons Treasury committee role to lobby for post-Brexit changes to City rules, which stand to benefit the industry where he has a second job.

  3. South Africa | An eight-year-old child was the sole survivor after a bus carrying 46 people fell 50 metres from a bridge in South Africa into a ravine and caught fire.

  4. UK news | Seven women, including the classicist Mary Beard, the former home secretary Amber Rudd, the broadcaster Cathy Newman and the new Labour peer Ayesha Hazarika, have been nominated as prospective female members of the Garrick Club in the event that it agrees to change its rules so that women are able to join.

  5. Cryotocurrency | The former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for masterminding the $8bn fraud that led to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. He was found guilty in November 2023 on seven charges of wire fraud and conspiracy.

In depth: ‘We’re grateful for how we’ve been received – this is not an easy issue to discuss’

The Guardian’s journalism series Cotton Capital has published a number of new thoughtful pieces that continue to explore and interrogate the legacies of slavery in the Sea Islands and Jamaica. Vincent Brown’s long read on the tensions that exist when trying to memorialise and reflect on the history of slavery is enlightening and nuanced. This Guardian documentary on the discovery of a vast burial ground in St Helena is a sobering but important watch. Highlighting other historical burial sites, Peggy King Jorde writes they are “where revolutionary acts of remembrance will for ever mark our cultural landscape.”


An expanded team

Cotton Capital and the legacies project is not just about excavating the Guardian’s dark past, it is also about looking ahead. As part of a move to address the company’s culpability, the Guardian has recruited a number of new correspondents, including its first-ever Caribbean correspondent, Natricia Duncan. Duncan said: “The region is often misunderstood, misrepresented, or ignored by global media. It is a great privilege to be part of the Guardian’s historic move to ensure the Caribbean gets the coverage it deserves.”

There is also a South America correspondent, two more Africa correspondents, a new UK health and inequalities correspondent, as well as two new recruits in the race and equity team in the Guardian US. “It’s really important that we have correspondents from those regions to bring their perspective and deep knowledge to our global audience,” Ebony says.


The process

As the Guardian has gone on this public journey of discovery, so have some readers, Ebony says. “If this prompts others to similarly want to understand more about the UK’s history or their own then that’s a really encouraging outcome because all of this is about truth seeking and being open to finding things that may not be that comfortable. That’s a big part of what will help us in dealing with these legacies in the present.”

A key part of the programme has been to meaningfully engage with descendant communities in regions that have been affected. What that looks like in practice is both allowing descendant communities to help define what repair actually looks like and also work in partnership with them throughout the programme. So much of their history was buried, hidden or destroyed – addressing this by working transparently and openly is an “intrinsic” part of reparatory justice, Ebony says. “How we do this is just as important as what we do in the end.”


The challenges

Though there are governmental frameworks on how to handle reparations and activists have been campaigning on this issue for decades, an institutional model for restorative justice programmes does not yet exist. Some universities, like the University of Glasgow, are on a similar trajectory to the Guardian but this is still developing in real time. Starting from scratch is not easy but the team have been using the well of literature and information created from the long-term work by those who have been fighting for reparations and restorative justice for years. It’s important to “recognise that they have led the way on this and to respect that,” Ebony adds.

The legacies project is long term, with millions invested over the course of the next decade, so the payoff may not be seen imminently but the harm that has been caused and compounded over the centuries by the transatlantic slave trade was never going to be a quick fix. “We’re very grateful for how graciously we’ve been received by people that we’ve engaged with. This is not necessarily an easy issue to discuss, there’s a lot of emotional energy required, so we really value that people have been open to talking to us especially when they did not have to,” Ebony says.

You can find the entire Cotton Capital series on the Guardian website, and sign up here for a eight-newsletter series profiling the project and its findings.

What else we’ve been reading

  • The housing crisis has left more and more adult children living with their parents. For Jason Okundaye it was the right move – his relationship with his mum has matured and he has more disposable income – but he also argues that it should not be the default living situation for young people. Nimo

  • Having recently ventured into the sometimes smelly world of pets, making sure I know how to rid our home of unwelcome odours has become a constant battle. So I will definitely be using frankincense crystals popped over a tea light as a last resort for stenches! Nazia Parveen, acting deputy editor, newsletters

  • Julian Benson follows the story of a small team of skilled gamers who set their sights on finishing 80,000 levels of Super Mario Maker. (I won’t spoil it, just read the piece to find out if they made it). Nimo

  • “You can find out a lot about yourself up a chimney.” Bill Nighy talks about his many lives with Rich Pelley, answering questions on working as a chimney sweep, finessing his perfect sandwich, and hoping to die in a hail of bullets. Nazia

  • The decline of British nightlife has been lamented by many but it’s not inevitable or irreversible. DJ Gilles Peterson lays out how it can be saved. Nimo


Football | Newcastle United’s Sandro Tonali has been charged by the Football Association in England for 50 alleged breaches of betting rules. The 23-year-old is alleged to have breached FA rule E8 50 times by betting on matches between 12 August 2023 and 12 October 2023, and has until 5 April to respond.

Football | Leicester have sacked manager Willie Kirk after an investigation into an alleged relationship with a player. The Guardian revealed on 8 March that Kirk had been suspended while the club carried out an investigation into an alleged relationship with one of his squad members.

Tennis | The fourth seed, Elena Rybakina, overcame a second-set meltdown to beat the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (2) on Thursday and secure a return trip to the Miami Open final.

The front pages

The Guardian print edition leads today with “‘Famine is setting in’: UN court orders Israel to unblock Gaza aid”. “Clean your own mess, Thames Water told” says the Times while the Daily Telegraph has “PM under fire after honour for top donor”. “Disgrace! Fat cat water bosses under fire” – that’s the Daily Express while the i explains further why there’s fat in the fire: “Taxpayers may be forced to bail out Thames Water as customers face 40% hike in bills”. “Rayner on the ropes” says the Daily Mail, reporting on “council housegate” and the Labour deputy leader. “Save lives for Martyn” – the Daily Mirror has a story about proposed laws to protect entertainment venues from terrorists. Martyn Hett was one of the Manchester Arena bombing victims. “Gogglebox George death arrest” covers page one of the Sun.

Something for the weekend

Our critics’ roundup of the best things to watch, read and listen to right now

Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts
BBC Two and iPlayer
If you had to choose a TV chef to throw you a huge party, who would it be? Let’s face it, there’s only one answer. (OK, two because no one sets a table like Nigella.) I’m talking about a chef and restaurateur for whom everything is soul food. Someone whose background includes singing in a punk band and throwing legendary warehouse parties in the 1980s, neither of which can be said of Gregg Wallace or Marcus Wareing. A presenter who put the great into Great British Menu, a series that wasn’t otherwise known for its big heart and high glamour. It is, of course … Andi Oliver! This joyous show sees the TV chef (above) overflowing with warmth and knowledge as she tours the UK to throw genuinely cool parties for deserving Brits. It’s utterly heartwarming. Chitra Ramaswamy

Nico: The Marble Index/Desertshore
These two reissued solo albums from the German singer have a fearsome reputation – but they offer an experience like no other. The Marble Index and Desertshore seem to exist exclusively in a world of Nico’s own creation, detached and incomparable. It’s demanding terrain, and you might not want to visit that often but it offers an experience like no other, one you’re unlikely to forget. Alexis Petridis

Disco Boy
Cinemas nationwide
Italian director Giacomo Abbruzzese makes a really stylish debut with this visually thrilling, ambitious and distinctly freaky adventure into the heart of imperial darkness, or into something else entirely: the heart of an alternative reality, or a transcendent new self. This is bold film-making: a movie that wants to dazzle you with its standalone setpieces, but also to carry you along with its storytelling. The electronic score by Vitalic AKA Pascal Arbez-Nicolas throbs in its own incantatory trance and Hélène Louvart’s cinematography is a thing of beauty. It’s quite a trip. Peter Bradshaw

Widely available, episodes weekly
The OG of podcasting returns for an excellent fourth season, with Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvis’s history of Guantánamo. It’s a story they have been wanting to tell for years, but until now haven’t been able to get too far beyond the official line. Today, staff and detainees are ready to talk: while the former report partying their “asses off”, the latter – who each cost $13m a year to accommodate – discuss their fears. Hannah Verdier

Today in Focus

Can Bibles, sneakers and social media save Trump from financial ruin?

Donald Trump is embroiled in a balancing act between several criminal and civil trials, which could cost him millions of dollars and potentially even put him behind bars. On top of that, there’s the small issue of a presidential campaign. So the question is: can he afford to do it all? Jonathan Freedland speaks to Erica Orden, of Politico, to discuss the highs and lows Trump experienced this week, and whether or not he can raise the money to save himself from bankruptcy

Cartoon of the day | Ben Jennings

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

To mark Nena’s 99 Red Balloons somehow turning 40 this week, the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis ranks the 20 greatest Euro-pop hits of all time.

With stars from Françoise Hardy to Rammstein and Sigur Rós to Vanessa Paradis, the list truly has something for everyone. Alexis writes of the winner (no spoilers from us, of course) that it is “one of the great pop singles of the 80s: epic, soaring, sophisticated and atmospheric, it pulled off the feat of sounding ineffably moving even if you couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics”.

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s puzzles are here to keep you entertained throughout the day. Until Monday.