British slavery-linked statues under threat
June 10, 2020 - A statue of Robert Milligan, an 18th-century slave trader, has been removed from its plinth in London’s glitzy business district of Canary Wharf – the latest move against Britain’s historical links to slavery.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has announced that statues, plaques and street names linked to slavery should be removed or changed.
Statues commemorating Britain’s imperial past have come into sharp focus following Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that started in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd.
On Sunday, June 7, BLM supporters in the port city of Bristol toppled a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in the harbour.
Inspired by Bristol’s historical triumph and the Mayor of London’s comments, a new website called “Topple the Racists,” shows statues and monuments in Britain that allegedly celebrate slavery and racism.
The group has drawn up a “hit list” of dozens of statues of leading historical figures to topple. The list includes Sir Francis Drake, Nancy Astor, Christopher Columbus, William Gladstone, and five statues of Sir Robert Peel.
In Oxford, on Monday more than 1,000 demonstrators demanded the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes on the facade of Oriel College.
Campaigners see Rhodes as the architect of apartheid in southern Africa -- he conquered what is now Zimbabwe. He was responsible for thousands of African deaths.
British historian Michael Wood makes a case for keeping the Rhodes monument. He argues in the BBC History Extra magazine for keeping the statue and moving it inside the college, with a plaque explaining Rhodes’s career.
“These ‘history wars’ over statues are really about something bigger: about different views of the past, and who controls it,” says Wood.
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