Jews and Slave Trading

The British Labour party seems to be ripping itself apart on a number of levels, one of which involves the matter of anti-semitic comments. Jackie Walker, vice chair of Momentum, the group that supports its present leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, made some comments that were deemed offensive, and was suspended for claiming Jewish people financed the African slave trade.

As my regular followers may know, I have done quite a bit of research on 18th century African trade, and this comment intrigued me. My first response was, this is unlikely, as Jews were generally treated as an underclass: in early 20th century New York, they lived in slums alongside the descendants of former slaves. 

But… Jews were often involved in finance and banking, which as we know has only one colour – that of money. So I wondered. Then I recalled an item in Dominic Sandbrook’s The Great British Dream Factory The Strange History of Our National Imagination. It deals with Ian Fleming living in Jamaica working on From Russia With Love.

He had almost finished when, at a neighbour’s dinner party, he met the greatest love of his life. In her mid-forties, Blanche Blackwell had an impeccable colonial pedigree. Her family, the Lindos, were originally Sephardic Jewish refugees from Spain, and had come to Jamaica in the eighteenth century. There they made a fortune in sugar and slaves before moving int bananas, coffee and rum. With their bustling warehouses, and enormous plantations, the Lindos became one of Jamaica’s elite families, so rich that part of Kingston was even nicknamed ‘Lindo’s Town’. Blanche had grown up as a typical plantation child, taught  by tutors, sent off to finishing school, and utterly isolated from most black Jamaicans. She married an Irish Guards officer, Joseph Blackwell, descended from the chutney family, who owned the best racehorses on the island.

The son of Blanche and Joseph was Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records.

I am not publishing this to take sides in the whole Labour mess, merely to point out that history matters, and if you are going to make claims, you should be citing sources. In the current climate, those sources should be good ones. 

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