Looks Like Benedict Cumberbatch May Have To Pay Reparations For His Fam’s Slave-Owning Past

Benedict Cumberbatch

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is facing a compensation claim from the nation of Barbados because of his family’s slave-owning past.

According to UK’s The Telegraph Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather Abraham Cumberbatch ran a sugar plantation with 250 slaves on the island nation.

Abraham reportedly bought Barbados’ Cleland plantation in 1728 — pictured in a 2015 Daily Mail article here — and the family reportedly made a motza off it over the next 100 years.

When slavery was abolished in the 1830s, the Cumberbatch family was paid thousands of pounds in compensation. In today’s money, that’s equivalent to about a million pounds.

Yep that’s right — slave owners really got paid for the inconvenience of LOSING ALL THEIR SLAVES. The mind boggles.

Barbados sought independence from British monarchical control in 2021 and according to a previous UK Telegraph report, officials have ramped up the process of seeking reparations from descendants of slave-owning families and plantation owners.

The Telegraph reports that David Denny, general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, said: “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family.”

“The money should be used to turn the local clinic into a hospital, support local schools, and improve infrastructure and housing,” Denny added.

While Benedict Cumberbatch hasn’t commented on the current reparation conversation, he has alluded to his family’s slave-owning in the past.

In a 2007 interview with Scotland on Sunday (as quoted in this Buzzfeed News report) he talked about his actor father Timothy Carlton‘s reluctance to use the name Cumberbatch and his mother’s suggestion that Benedict ditch it, too.

“Cumberbatch — it sounds like a fart in a bath, doesn’t it?” he laughs. “What a fluffy old name. I can never say it on a Monday morning. When I became an actor, Mum wasn’t keen on me keeping it. ‘They’ll be after you for money,’ she used to say.”

In the same 2007 interview, Benedict Cumberbatch touched on potential reparations.

“Reparation cases are ongoing in the American courts. I’ve got friends involved in researching this scar on human history and I’ve spoken to them about it,” he said.

“The issue of how far you should be willing to atone is interesting. I mean, it’s not as if I’m making a profit from the suffering — it’s not like it’s Nazi money.” Though he did go on to admit his ancestors were “pretty dodgy”. The ick I just got from that sentence.

He also spoke about his decision to play former British PM William Pitt the Younger in 2006’s Amazing Grace, a film about the abolition of the slave trade.

“Maybe I was trying to right a wrong there,” he told the Scotland on Sunday interviewer with an “edgy smile”.

Benedict Cumberbatch also played slave owner William Ford in the 2013 film 12 Years A Slave. 

As for the potential compensation, it might not happen for a while yet. David Comissiong, Barbados’ ambassador to the Caribbean community and deputy chairman of the island’s national commission on reparations, told the UK Telegraph:

“This is at the earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light.”