The Guardian, one of Britain’s most progressive newspapers, has recently come under scrutiny after researchers commissioned by the outlet found that its founder and original investors profited from the transatlantic slavery economy. The newspaper’s founder, John Edward Taylor, was found to have profited from the importation of cotton picked by enslaved people. Additionally, the researchers discovered that nine of the original investors in The Guardian had ties to the transatlantic slavery trade in the early 19th century.
This revelation has shed light on the newspaper’s historical connection to the dark period of slavery and raises important questions about its past. The findings were made public in a special report published by The Guardian in March, which aimed to uncover and acknowledge the newspaper’s involvement in the slavery economy.
According to Cassandra Gooptar, an interdisciplinary researcher specializing in the study of enslavement and colonialism, a crucial part of her research involved identifying the identities of over 300 enslaved individuals in the Sea Islands and Jamaica. Gooptar acknowledged that the names of enslaved people were often anglicized, highlighting the control exerted by plantation owners. Nevertheless, she emphasized that these names represent a rare record of the humanity of those who were enslaved.
The Guardian’s editor overseeing the investigation, Maya Wolfe-Robinson, spoke about the challenges faced during the research process. Historians initially believed that it would be difficult to obtain detailed information about the plantations and the individuals involved. However, the researchers were able to uncover concrete evidence of the newspaper’s ties to the slavery economy, contributing to a better understanding of its historical context.
The newspaper has since launched its Cotton Capital series, which expands on Gooptar’s research. The series includes an “In Memoriam” piece that lists the names and ages of several enslaved individuals from the Sea Islands, as well as a comprehensive exploration of the Black history of Manchester, where The Guardian was originally founded.
The publication of these findings has sparked a dialogue about ethical responsibility and the need for institutions to confront their historical connections to oppression. The Guardian’s commitment to transparency sets an important example for other media organizations to reflect on their own histories and take meaningful steps towards addressing past injustices.
While the revelations about The Guardian’s past may be uncomfortable, they serve as a reminder of the lasting legacies of slavery and the importance of acknowledging and learning from them. The newspaper’s efforts to uncover and share its history with the public reflect a commitment to truth and accountability. By confronting its own involvement in the slavery economy, The Guardian demonstrates its dedication to integrity and progress.