In Wake Of Queen’s Death, Former Black Diaspora British Colonies Conflicted Over Monarchy’s Legacy

At the end of her 70-year reign, voices were demanding an apology for slavery and other historical atrocities at the hands of the crown.

The late Queen Elizabeth II began her seven-decade reign in 1952 with millions of people across Africa, the Caribbean and other regions under colonial subjugation. With a legacy that included slavery, British rule was often brutal as the crumbling empire fought to keep its colonies in the face of independence movements.

Her death on Sept. 8 brought a mix of reactions in the former colonies. Governments largely issued condolences, while many citizens and activists in those countries vented their anger.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted: “My family and I, and the more than 200 million Nigerians, have learned with immense sadness of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, and the end of her unique and wonderful 70-year reign. She was the only British Sovereign known to 90 percent of our population.”

In his condolence message, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said the queen “was a towering icon of selfless service to humanity.” Kenyatta has apparently buried the past, at least officially.

The Associated Press noted that his father, Jomo Kenyatta, who served as Kenya’s first president, was imprisoned during Elizabeth II’s reign.

The U.K. committed atrocities during the Mau Mau uprising, as the colonial rulers fought to keep Kenya under its ownership. In 2013, Britain announced that it would pay out the equivalent of $23 million in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the uprising in the 1950s.

News of the queen’s death prompted Kenyan lawyer Alice Mugo to tweet that she “cannot mourn” the monarch’s death. She accompanied the post with what AP said is a “movement permit” from 1956.

The British held more than 100,000 Kenyans in camps under inhuman conditions, while others, like Mugo’s grandmother, were forced to request permission to travel within the country. “Most of our grandparents were oppressed,” Mugo stated.

Meanwhile, on the Caribbean islands, a movement was underway before Elizabeth II’s death to remove the British monarch as head of state. In March, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, faced protests in Jamaica while on tour of the region. The protesters demanded reparations and an apology for slavery, four months after Barbados removed Elizabeth II as its head of state.

“This commonwealth of nations, that wealth belongs to England. That wealth is something never shared in,” Bert Samuels, a member of the National Council on Reparations in Jamaica, said, according to the AP..

RELATED: Prince Charles Says ‘Slavery Was An Atrocity’ As Barbados Becomes Republic

RELATED: Jamaica Reportedly Began Process Of Removing Queen Elizabeth II As Head Of State

In some cases, there’s a generational split on the queen’s legacy. Jamaican activist Nadeen Spence told the AP that there’s affection for Elizabeth II among older people on the island who knew her as “this benevolent queen who has always looked out for us.” Many younger Jamaicans who grew up after independence don’t have the same connection with the royal family.

“The only thing I noted about the queen’s passing is that she died and never apologized for slavery,” Spence stated. “She should’ve apologized.”

Others, like Kenyan Max Kahindi, told the AP that he doesn’t ignore the oppression his country experienced under British rule, but he doesn’t blame the queen who was “a very young lady” when she ascended to the throne and wasn’t responsible for British foreign policy.

The news agency noted that in countries across the Middle East, where the United Kingdom flexed its authority by arbitrarily drawing borders without consulting local leaders, there were few signs of public mourning for the queen. And in India, an effort has been underway under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove colonial names and symbols.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.