Banco do Brasil, the country’s largest public bank, apologized on Saturday (November 18) for its role during the period of slavery, as Brazil celebrates November 20 black consciousness day “. A group of historians filed a complaint against the financial institution two months ago.
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“ Banco do Brasil apologizes to black people for its past behavior and is now actively working to combat structural racism in the country. » The message is signed Tarciana Medeiros, the president of Brazil’s first public bank, Banco do Brasil known as “BB”, founded in 1808, in the midst of slavery.
This mea culpa, published in an official press release of the institution, responds to a complaint filed by a group of historiansunderlines our correspondent in São Paulo, Martin Bernard. They claim the bank’s founders participated in and profited from the slave trade. On September 27, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the opening of a civil investigation into the relations between one of the country’s main financial institutions and the slave trade in the 19th century.
The civil action, revealed by BBC News Brazil, results from a petition from a group of 14 historians who researched precisely this question. Clearly, according to these historians, it is “ the entire financial system » of the era which rested » on slavery. For example, the French weekly International mail indicates that among the founders and shareholders of the bank were “ some of the most famous slave traders of the time “. Among them was José Bernardino de Sá, one of the richest men in Brazil at the time, and who is said to have personally organized the trafficking of 20,000 Africans between 1825 and 1851.
In early October, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation told BBC News Brasil that it could “ be the starting point for discussions about historical reparations » in Brazil. “ The bank cannot hide its face », Now assures Tarciana Medeiros, even if she affirms that it is the whole of society which must ask forgiveness from black people because of this period in history.
Appointed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva earlier this year, she emphasizes that racial issues are a priority today. This translates into positive discrimination policies in entrance exams at Banco do Brasil and in promotions granted to black or mixed-race employees, not to mention the numerous cultural actions to combat racism.