Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sorry seems the hardest word

A descendent of an Elizabethan buccaneer has made a formal apology for slavery in an African country where many slaves were taken.

Andrew Hawkins, wearing chains, appeared in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, The Independent reported. He knelt down to express his regret for the actions of Sir John Hawkins, who is believed to have been the first person to sell African slaves in the Caribbean.

Hawkins, a youth worker in Cornwall, went to Gambia with the Lifeline Expedition, a British group. His apology was part of the Roots Festival, which marks the events described in Alex Haley's book about his family.

"It was one of the most memorable things I've ever done," he said. "It was a learning experience. You see just how deep the wounds left by the slave trade are. As someone with family links to the slave traders, it was a very difficult thing to see the consequences of their actions."

Isatou Njie Saidy, Gambia's vice president, accepted Hawkins' apology and removed his chains.

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