Enhedslisten wants Denmark to apologise for slave trade

October 30th, 2013

This article is more than 11 years old.

Far-left party calls for an official apology as US Virgin Islands vote on whether or not Denmark should compensate for its time as a colonial power

The US Virgin Islands, formerly the Danish West Indies, is scheduled to vote today on whether or not the islands should seek an apology from Denmark and request compensation for Denmark's role in the trans-atlantic slave trade between 1670-1802.

Ahead of the vote, far-left party Enhedslisten (EL) says that an apology would be appropriate. 

"Denmark has a gruesome history with active involvement in slave trade," EL's foreign affairs spokesperson, Nikolaj Villumsen (EL), told Radio 24/7. "An official apology is important for two reasons. One is to pay sympathies to the descendants of slaves and the other reason is to have a debate in Denmark about our slavery past."

Far-right Dansk Folkeparti said that Denmark shouldn't be held responsible for something that happened centuries ago.

"It is crazy to think that we should apologise for something that happened 200 years ago," DF's foreign affairs spokesperson, Søren Espersen (DF), told Politiken newspaper."That is completely nuts. You could say that these people should feel lucky that they are now American citizens in a free country and not in Ghana."

READ MORE: The Akwamu: the beginning of the end of Danish colonial power

The discussion was recently sparked by Shelley Moorhead, a Saint Croix resident who heads the organisation African-Caribbean Reparations Alliance (Accra), which works to confront Denmark with its slavery past. He threatened to go on hunger strike on October 23 unless the island's leaders took up the case in congress.

"After 250 years of Danish colonial rule and 175 years of slavery, the people on the US Virgin Islands were left uneducated, ill and poor," Moorhead told Radio 24/7.

Apology could hurt US relationship
It is not the first time that the US Virgin Islands have sought an apology from Denmark, but the demand has always been rejected because it could affect ties with the US.

“I cannot see what’s right about people who have had nothing to do with slavery apologising to people who haven’t experienced slavery,” the former foreign minister, Niels Helveg Petersen (R), said in 1998.

It is estimated that around 100,000 slaves were transported on Danish ships before Denmark became the first nation to prohibit slave trade in 1792. In 1917, Denmark sold Saint Thomas, Saint Croix and Saint John to the US for 25 million dollars in gold.


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