Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather purchased the Cleland plantation on the island in 1728 and passed on ownership until 1834, when slavery was abolished in Barbados. The plantation reportedly exploited 250 enslaved people and became the foundation of the Cumberbatch family’s fortune, a fact the actor did not shy away from.
In an interview in 2007, according to New York Times, Cumberbatch revealed that his mother urged him to continue his career under an alias specifically to avoid paying reparations. He also said that he took his role 12 Years A Slave because he is pitied that his ancestors were involved in the slave trade.
Barbados’ push for reparations follows the country’s 2021 break from the British monarchy and subsequent transition to a republic. Barbados began pushing for reparations from conservative Member of Parliament Richard Drax, who still owns the island’s largest plantation, Drax Hall. This is the only plantation that remains in the ownership of the original slave family and the government is demanding that the land be handed over to Barbados. If he refuses, the country will ask for compensation through the international court of arbitration.
No formal appeal has been made by the Cumberbatch family to the public, but the Barbadian government may pursue reparations in the near future. “Any descendants of white plantation owners who benefited from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations,” SAYS general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny, “including the Cumberbatch family.”