Plaque explaining slave trader’s past axed afte being branded ‘naive’

Plaque explaining the past of 17th-century slave trader is axed over the wording after mayor brands it ‘naive’

  • Plaque explained Edward Colston’s role in enslaving 80,000 Africans
  • Bristol’s Marvin Rees – a ‘descendant of enslaved Africans’ – said he was not consulted on wording
  • New plaque will examine how Bristol acknowledges it history in slave trade
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A plaque explaining the past of 17th-century philanthropist and slave trader Edward Colston ha been scrapped after Bristol city mayor Marvin Rees branded it ‘unacceptable and naive’ 

A plaque commissioned to explain the slave-trading past of a 17th- century philanthropist has been scrapped after the city’s mayor branded it ‘unacceptable and naive’.

Bristol’s Marvin Rees – a ‘descendant of enslaved Africans’ – said he was not consulted on the wording of the sign set to feature on Edward Colston’s statue.

Colston’s donations to the city’s schools, hospitals and alms houses saw two streets, three schools and buildings including a music venue named after him.

But his ships took about 80,000 enslaved men, women and children from Africa to the Americas between 1672 and 1689.

The 19th-century plaque on his statue, pictured, does not mention the slave trade, calling him ‘one of the city’s most virtuous sons’.

Bristol City Council agreed last year to replace it, with the wording to be decided by the Merchant Venturers – a Bristol-based society to which Colston belonged.

Their proposed plaque included the words: ‘A significant proportion of Colston’s wealth came from slave trading.

  • Bristol city council adds a plaque on statue of slave trade… Statue of notorious slave trader Edward Colston will get a…

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‘He was also involved in the transportation of 84,000 enslaved African men, women and young children.

‘Of these, 19,000 died on voyages from West Africa to the Caribbean and Americas.’

But Mr Rees vetoed the plaque, calling it ‘extremely naive’ as it watered down Colston’s links to slavery.


Bristol’s Marvin Rees (pictured in 2016 with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) – a ‘descendant of enslaved Africans’ – said he was not consulted on the wording of the sign set to feature on Edward Colston’s statue

His office said: “It makes no reference to the descendants of Africans enslaved by merchants like Colston.

‘It’s an oversight to not have had a conversation with Marvin Rees, Europe’s first mayor of African heritage. He is the descendant of enslaved Africans.’

Merchant Venturers historian Francis Greenacre said: ‘The plaque was intended to put the two sides to the question – which ultimately it did do.’

The wording for a new plaque will now form part of a wider project looking at how Bristol acknowledges its slave trade and abolitionist history.

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