Richard Dawkins expresses disbelief over slave trader ancestor story

Evolutionary biologist and atheist calls ‘surreal’ Sunday Telegraph article citing 18th-century forefather as slave owner

Richard Dawkins has put down as 'surreal' a Sunday Telegraph article linking his ancestor with the slave trade. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist, is used to criticism from those who do not share his views on religion or the origins of mankind.

But he has expressed surprise at the latest attack which claims the scientist faces awkward questions because some of his ancestors were slave owners.

An article in the Sunday Telegraph reported that Henry Dawkins had amassed more than 1,000 slaves in Jamaica by the time of his death in 1744 and quoted campaigners calling on Dawkins to pay reparations.

But writing on his blog, Dawkins hit back, describing the interview and subsequent article as “surreal”.

“At the end of a week of successfully rattling cages, I was ready for yet another smear or diversionary tactic of some kind,” said Dawkins, who clashed on the BBC Today programme with Giles Fraser, formerly canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday. “But in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the surreal form this one was to take.”

Dawkins said a reporter had called him and named a number of his ancestors who he said were slave owners.

After the reporter quoted the biblical verse about the Lord “visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” Dawkins said he ended the conversation.

Source: The Guardian Read more


If we go back far enough, we all have skeletons in our closets, and some of us don’t need to go back that far.

We seem to have this necessity to make the skeletons rattle from time to time, it reminds us of history, so it’s not altogether a bad thing.

Interestingly enough, Richard Dawkins defends his family by using examples of clergymen. I wouldn’t, not given the skeletons that will rattle for years over Catholic priests, you just never know when a skeleton will slip off its peg.