The past Ray is afraid of

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EDITOR – Ever since the US Ambassador Charles Ray urged us not to be preoccupied with our past, I have been reading about our past like a man possessed. Why? Because I know from painful experience that whenever we are told something by Western ambassadors, it is in our interest to do the very opposite if we are to survive as Africans. I recently stumbled upon something intriguing about our African past in a book called ‘Capitalism and Slavery’ by Eric Williams that I recommend to anyone who wears a black skin. Williams reveals stunning stuff. I now know that Britain became great because it played a leading role in capturing and enslaving Africans for over four centuries, from 1480 to 1900. This trade in human cargo was so successful that Britain named one of its coins the guinea, in acknowledgement of the wealth it got from trading in slaves from Guinea in West Africa. I now know that ordinary folks in Europe started drinking tea only when African slaves in the so-called New World (North and South America and the Caribbean Islands) produced enough sugar to go round. Before then, only royalty and the upper class could afford to buy sugar. I now know that Barclays Bank is named from a family by that name which made its fortune from enslaving Africans. I have been banking with Barclays for years unaware that my ancestors poured out their sweat and blood for the Barclays family. I also know that the people who invented the steam engine in Britain got the money to do so from investors who made their fortunes from the unpaid labour of enslaved Africans in the New World. An even more stunning revelation is the fact that the giant company by the name Lloyds Insurance started off as a coffee house in London which became well-known as the place to collect runaway African slaves. Later the Lloyds family started the insurance business, ensuring slave ships transporting African slaves from Africa to the Americas. Since then, the Lloyds family and its great-great-great-grandchildren has been overwhelmed by the fortunes which have come its way. Lastly, did your readers know that the technology which developed the USA is the human technology of African slaves who planted and harvested Virginia tobacco, sugar and cotton plantations of America for four centuries? This is the past which Charles Ray does not want to know, a past in which Africa and its children has played a key role in creating the prosperity of the West. The African contribution remains hidden from us because, whether we like it or not, Western countries supported by the Uncle Toms of this world have been trying to hide their shameful past from Africans. Kenneth Harare

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