Findings of preliminary review, released last month, showed links between the York based confectionary firm and a type of slavery known as colonial indenture in the late 19th and early 20th century. The review also said the company benefited from the sale of cocoa products made by enslaved people.
There is no suggestion that Joseph Rowntree, the renowned Quaker social reformer whose funds from the company still endow four charities in his name, was aware or complicit inthe practises.
But the charities, which include the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the UK’s leading anti-poverty organisations, said they were “appalled” by the initial findings, and have committed to further research being undertaken to understand the extent of the injustices.
They are among many heritage organisations including the National Trust, who have examined uncomfortable aspects of their pasts in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement gathering momentum last year.
Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, said: “The Rowntrees are a huge part of our city and have a huge legacy. It’s right they do they review but we musn’t forget what the Rowntree family did for York and our area at the same time.
“When they started off, life was different to what it is now.
“The Rowntrees did an amazing job and put huge support into our city.”
A more in-depth review into the company’s practises following initial findings by heritage organisation the Rowntree Society is due to take place later this year.