A former Conservative party MP has been slammed after trying to get a university to delete her family’s links to slavery.
Antoinette Sandbach allegedly threatened to sue Cambridge University after they rejected her bid to remove reference to her in a video by a Black PhD student who was researching his own history.
Sandbach, who was MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, claimed the Ted Talk video by Malik Al Nasir infringed her right to privacy, but Al Nasir, a third-year PhD student at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, hit back saying: “As a Black person who has, as a result of the legacy of enslavement and colonialism, been detached from his ancestral African roots, it’s important to have the freedom to research my own history.
“That history will by default intersect with the history of other people. What my research uncovered is a matter of historical record and genealogical fact. I should have the academic freedom to report what I find.”
Al Nasir said that Sandbach’s ancestors had worked to death on their plantations in British Guiana, now Guyana, and listed slaves when they died in financial accounts alongside livestock.
The organisation African, Caribbean and Asian Lawyers for Justice wrote on Twitter/X: “As a direct descendant of her slave owning family, she claims a right to be forgotten. Its white privilege personified. Black people bear her family name. She enjoys the money but not the scandal of the great crime in human history.”
Sandbach emailed Al Nasir’s academic supervisor asking for reference to her to be removed from a Ted Talk embedded on the university’s website. She then complained to the university claiming it breached her privacy.
The university’s information compliance office investigated and rejected her complaint on grounds of academic freedom. Sandbach then told Al Nasir she was in the process of instructing solicitors, and she was considering making a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Sandbach’s ancestor, Samuel Sandbach, was compensated for 600 stolen Africans when parliament abolished enslavement in 1833. He was Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and some of his family were slave-holders as well.
Sandbach initially refused to comment, but later tweeted that she was “at the start of my learning journey” about slavery. However, a profile of her in Cheshire Life stated that “the family can trace their history back through several ‘greats’ to a Lord Mayor of Liverpool, who invested money made in sugar trading into land in North Wales.”
Sandbach said she was “appalled by the actions of my distant ancestors” but then pivoted to make the issue about discrimination she had faced because she was “half Dutch”, before appearing to suggest women’s oppression was worse than that faced by Black people.
She tweeted: “Alexander Crummell was the first graduate of African descent from Cambridge University in the 1840s – women were not officially allowed to graduate until 1948.”
Samuel Sandbach built Hafodunos estate in North Wales, and Antoinette lived in the foreman’s cottage while farming the land. She was deselected by the Tories over her pro-Europe stance before running as a Liberal Democrat and losing at the last election. As a company director of Hafodunos Farms Ltd she received tens of thousands in EU subsidies for her farm.
Days later, the former member of parliament apologized “for the acts of my ancestors”.