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David Harewood’s portrait will hang in stately home owned by family that enslaved his ancestors


Written by Lianne Kolirin, CNNLondon

A portrait of the British actor David Harewood has been commissioned to hang in a stately home belonging to the aristocratic family that once enslaved his ancestors.

The portrait of the “Homeland” star will hang on the walls of Harewood House, an 18th-century property near Leeds, northern England, built upon the vast fortune made by Henry Lascelles through the slave trade. Harewood’s ancestors were enslaved on a Caribbean sugar plantation owned by the family.

“To have my portrait presented at Harewood House brings on many complex emotions,” Harewood said in a statement sent to CNN. “It is a day that is well overdue for me and my ancestors, a day that sees their efforts and hard work finally acknowledged. I am pleased that we have reached a point when this can happen and I hope it might encourage positive change elsewhere.”

Harewood House was built on the proceeds of the transatlantic slave trade. Credit: Alamy

Harewood’s portrait, which hasn’t yet been unveiled, will be the work of photographer and filmmaker Ashley Karrell and will go on display in September as part of the property’s permanent collection.

It was commissioned as part of an Open History program that attempts to “better reflect and understand the history of Harewood, which was built upon the vast fortune made by Henry Lascelles through the Transatlantic slave trade,” the house said in a statement.

As part of that program, it launched its Missing Portraits series last year to address the lack of diversity within its art collection, pledging to work with artists from diverse backgrounds to celebrate “people of colour who have deep-rooted links” to the house.

Harewood, who is a director, author and activist as well as an actor, was born in Birmingham, England in 1965. His parents moved to the UK from Barbados in the 1950s as part of the Windrush generation of Caribbean immigrants who came to help rebuild Britain after World War II.

In 2021, he visited the stately home with a camera crew, as part of a TV series by British broadcaster Channel 5 entitled “1000 Years a Slave.”

During the episode in which he featured, Harewood met with David Lascelles, the 8th Earl of Harewood, to discuss the house’s historic roots and his own family’s connection to them.

In the documentary, it emerged that Harewood’s great-great-great-great grandparents, Richard and Betty Harewood, had been slaves on a plantation in Barbados owned by the second Earl of Harewood.

Lascelles and his wife, Diane Howse, said they were “delighted” the actor had agreed to be the subject of the portrait, adding: “His links to Harewood are self-evident and we agree on the importance of sharing our histories, however uncomfortable this might first appear. Being honest about the past is the only way to start to address the prejudices of the present and help build a better future.”

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