A major grant-giver has apologised after research revealed the origins of its wealth came from the profits of a chocolate and cocoa business that used slave labour.
The Barrow Cadbury Trust, which spends an average of £4m a year on about 100 grants of varying amounts, was founded by Barrow and Geraldine Southall Cadbury in 1920.
Barrow was the grandson of John Cadbury, the founder of the family-run Cadbury chocolate business in Birmingham, where Barrow worked for almost 50 years, succeeding his uncle George Cadbury as chairman in 1918.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, the trust said it began to look into the origins of its endowment and the involvement of the Cadbury company and its plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe.
The trust said in a statement that its research uncovered “a more complex and troubling story”.
It said: “It is clear that our endowment, which originally came from the Cadbury brothers’ chocolate and cocoa business in the 19th and early 20th century, was not free from labour exploitation.
“Our research has found that Angolan people were enslaved on cocoa plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe at the end of the 19th century.”
The trust said that while the company was alerted to this in 1901, it was clear that this response was well intentioned but slow, and that the company continued to profit from this extreme form of exploitation for about another eight years until it organised a boycott by British and some European cocoa manufacturers.
Erica Cadbury, chair of the trust, said: “The board and executive team of the trust recognise the extreme pain and damage done to those people, who were forcibly exploited, taken from their homelands, separated from their children, and many of whom died from their appalling conditions.
“We apologise unreservedly for this historic injustice and renew our commitment to deepen our engagement with modern-day racial inequality across all of our work.”