Benedict Cumberbatch Could Be Forced To Pay Reparations For Family’s Slave Plantation

Benedict Cumberbatch could be forced to pay reparations over his family’s historical slave plantation.
Credit: Alamy & Fox Searchlight Pictures

Benedict Cumberbatch reportedly could be forced to pay reparations over his family’s historical slave plantation.

The Sherlock star, 46, is often outspoken on a variety of social and political issues – and now he and his family find themselves at the centre of one.

The two-time Oscar nominee once played slave owner William Ford in the award-winning film 12 Years a Slave.

And now it appears that Barbados’ government are targeting him as part of a campaign seeking reparations from descendants of slave-owning families.

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Barbados officially became a republic in 2021, after 396 years under the British monarchy’s control.

And government officials are now starting to seek reparations from the descendants of once slave-owning families and plantation holders.

The Cumberbatch family was placed under the watch of Barbados’ leaders when his ancestry was revealed.

According to reports, Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather owned a plantation in Cleland, Barbados, in 1728.

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He is thought to have held ownership of the land until slavery was abolished in the country around 1834.

The plantation is said to have held around 250 enslaved people and is thought to have been the main source of the Cumberbatch family’s initial wealth.

Prior to a court case between Barbados and Tory MP Richard Drax, which will set the precedent for Cumberbatch’s family, general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny, explained the country’s campaign in further detail.

Benedict Cumberbatch in 12 Years a Slave.
Benedict Cumberbatch could be forced to pay reparations over his family’s historical slave plantation. Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

He told The Telegraph: “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family.”

While Cumberbatch’s family no longer owns their plantation in Barbados, where slavery was abolished years ago, it’s believed the family sold up for around $1 million (£827,000).

Denny said of the potential uses for the Drax family’s reparations: “The money should be used to turn the local clinic into a hospital, support local schools, and improve infrastructure and housing.”

Previously, having starred in 12 Years a Slave, Cumberbatch revealed his mother had once warned him against using his real surname professionally for fear of reparation claims.

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He also is said to have suggested he took the role in order to atone for his family’s past with regards to their part in enslaving plantation workers.

When asked whether or not the famous family would face a financial squeeze from newly independent Barbados, politician David Commisiong told The Telegraph: “This is at its earliest stages, we are just beginning.

“A lot of the history is only really now coming to light.”

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Written by Cal Gaunt

Cal is a former content editor at IGV who specialised in writing trending and entertainment news. He previously worked as a news reporter at the Lancashire Telegraph and earned an NCTJ in Sports Journalism.