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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
City 'should apologise to slaves'
Panel of experts at slavery debate
A panel of experts took questions from the public
Bristol should apologise for its role in the slave trade, a high-profile debate in the city has concluded.

A panel of experts took questions from the public at The Empire and Commonwealth Museum on Wednesday night.

Black rights campaigners argued that the city owed it to the descendants of slaves to apologise. Others said it would be an 'empty gesture'.

The meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of a formal apology over slavery.

However, in a telephone poll conducted by BBC Points West, 91.7% of nearly 10,000 viewers voted against an apology with 8.3% voting in favour.

'Empty gesture'

About 200 people attended the debate chaired by philosopher Professor Anthony Grayling, who was one of those against making an apology.

"It's a rather empty gesture however sincere it might be," he said.

"Much more important is first to understand the history of slavery and secondly, to apply those lessons because the problem today is much bigger than it ever was."

The legacy of slavery is what we know as racism today
Paul Stephenson, black rights campaigner

But black rights campaigner Paul Stephenson said: "The legacy of slavery is what we know as racism today.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of black people who've lived here over the last 50 years who still have to confront racism."

Hilary Banks, a direct descendant of a slave family in Bristol agreed.

"My grandmother's grandmother was a slave. It's thanks to her and all the other slaves that Bristol is such a wealthy city.

"Don't you think they deserve an apology?" she said.

Conservative councillor Richard Eddy said: "I think it's a ludicrous proposal. Why should 21st Century Bristolians apologise and be held accountable for events they had no responsibility for?"

Barbara Janke, leader of Bristol City Council, said the issue would be discussed by the authority, but she was not convinced by of the need for an apology

Last month, developers backed down over a plan to rename the Broadmead area of Bristol Merchants' Quarter, as this was considered potentially offensive.

Next year, the city is to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery with a 250,000 programme of events.

Debate over city's slavery role
09 May 06 |  Bristol/Somerset
Name's 'slavery link offensive'
22 Feb 06 |  Bristol/Somerset
City to mark end of slave trade
02 Feb 06 |  Bristol/Somerset
Plans revealed for slavery museum
14 Nov 05 |  Merseyside


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