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The Guardian

The Guardian and The Observer on Sunday followed the Abolition commemoration with an interesting perspective but nevertheless succeeded in reinforcing core features of the debates regarding abolition and enslavement. Issues concerning an apology for the slave trade and compensation for descendants were reduced to the 'Comments' pages which acts to further obscure the discussion with British society.

On Friday 23 March, The Guardian reported on the moves made by the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to establish a national commemoration day for the 'remembrance of the slave trade and the fight to abolish it.' The newspaper reports, that this day is 'likely to be held in June, on a day in common with the rest of Europe.' Whilst the newspaper reports this as a British or European initiative, it fails to reveal that the International Slavery Day is already respected throughout the Caribbean and African countries on the 23rd of August, marking the Haitian Revolution of 1791. Framing the success in establishing a day of remembrance as a British achievement appears an act of self-congratulation rather than a critical examination of the proposal. This act of displacement between Britain and the slave trade is continued through the article's discussion of an apology. Emphasising that 'Africa didn't want this'; Prescott states that demands for an apology weren't coming from Africa. On a recent visit to Sierra Leone Prescott revealed that children had told him; 'Not every white man was guilty and not every black man was innocent.' The focus is firmly put on action in the present encouraging the economic development of Africa. The fear that such an apology would lead to legal action is stressed as the issue of apology is portrayed as leading to complexity and problems for Britain as it is considered to have done in America. The idea that the apology and compensation should be owed to citizens of Britain and America who associate themselves with the African Diaspora is not followed in the article. There is therefore a particular remembrance occurring through this article. It focuses on British generosity in the present rather than complicity in the past. This tone is repeated in the G2 supplement article in The Guardian on Friday the 23rd of March, as Kevin Bale from 'Free the Slaves', reveals the extent of modern forms of slavery. 'This weekend it will be 200 years since Britain abolished the slave trade. But…enslavement is still very much with us.' The continuance of slavery as exploitation is addressed but the legacy of transatlantic slavery is concealed.

Whilst reporting on the marches made by evangelical Christian groups (Addley and Moir 24/3/2007: 12), and members of the clergy's demands for an apology from former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Hinsliff 25/03/2007: 4), all critical debate is reserved for the 'Comments' pages. Madeline Bunting (26/03/2007: 31) uses the bicentenary of the abolition to draw attention to the 'slavery' of foreign domestic workers. Whilst Joseph Harker (24/03/07: 35) provides one of only two analytical perspectives in his assertion that the, 'brutal legacy of the slave trade is manifest in the problems afflicting so many black Britons today.' Kwame Kwei-Armah (25/03/07: 18-19) similarly reveals the manner in which slavery's legacy had robbed many of a sense of belonging and community. These perspectives are however made to compete firstly on the lesser stage of the 'Comments' page and secondly with an ingrained perception expressed through the reporting of the bicentenary that, 'rather than apologise for our past we should absorb it (anon 25/03/07: 28).

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