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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 18:31 GMT
Actor quizzes Viscount on slavery
David Harewood and David Lascelles
David Harewood spoke to Viscount Lascelles about Harewood's past
A British Hollywood actor has visited an estate that his slave ancestors were named after.

David Harewood, who starred in the film Blood Diamond, descends from slaves who helped create the wealth that allowed Harewood House near Leeds to be built.

His ancestors worked on Caribbean sugar plantations to help build up the fortune of the Lascelles family.

BBC Look North took David to the house and allowed him to question one of its present occupants about its past.

Many of the slaves who worked for the Lascelles were named Harewood after the project they were helping finance.

Original names

David, who has also starred in TV series including Silent Witness, The Ruby In The Smoke, Babyfather and Fat Friends, said he did not know what his ancestors' original names were.

His great-great-great-great-grandfather was taken from Africa to the Bahamas where they were "owned" by the Lascelles family.

To mark the 200th anniversary since the Parliamentary act to abolish the slave trade, David interviewed David Lascelles, the son of the present Earl of Harewood, about his family's links with slavery.

Slavery documents
About 600 slavery documents were found at Harewood House

He asked Viscount Lascelles whether he felt any guilt about what had happened.

Viscount Lascelles said: "I do not feel any personal guilt because it happened 250 years ago.

"No matter how appalling it was, there is nothing I can do about it. I can do stuff about today and fortunately I am in the position where I can make a bit of a difference.

"If we can use this bicentenary to give Harewood a name for positive activities, not just to be known for its history, that would be a wonderful thing."

The Grade I-listed building was designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam and was built between 1759 to 1771.

Curators at Harewood House discovered 600 to 700 documents in the estate relating to slaves.

Documents showed the slaves' names, what job they did and how much they were worth.

One referred to a 17-year-old who was deemed "worthless" as he had a broken back and would be unable to do any manual work.

We can look forward to a time when the name Harewood does not necessarily stand for something which is dark and murky
David Harewood
Actor

The records are now kept at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at York University.

After the visit, David said he felt positive about how the viscount viewed the history behind the house.

He said: "We need to be positive about the future and I think that the next Lord Harewood is someone who is engaging with the community and someone who has educated himself about the slave trade.

"He's prepared to talk about it. I think that's very positive and something we should all commend.

"We can look forward to a time when the name Harewood does not necessarily stand for something which is dark and murky."


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