Tearing Down Evil: The Edward Colston Statue

By Char Shields - June 08, 2020

Image found here: https://news.sky.com/story/edward-colston-why-toppled-statue-was-hated-by-many-and-other-controversial-uk-monuments-12002819. I do not claim any ownership of this image, all rights go to original owner.

Never have I been so proud to call Bristol my city when I saw they had pulled down the statue of Edward Colston, the slave trader.

On the 7th June 2020, anti-racism protesters pulled down the statue, which was erected in 1895, and threw it into the harbour. Comments have since been flying around social media in response. Some for, some heavily against, calling the protesters 'thugs' and claiming the act was 'mindless vandalism' that was 'erasing history'.

However, these protesters didn't destroy history. They've made it.

For those who don't know, Edward Colston was an English merchant, slave trader, Tory MP and philanthropist who was born in Bristol in 1636. He used his wealth to support schools, hospitals, almshouses and churches. To this day, numerous landmarks, streets and schools are named after him in Bristol.

In 1680, he became a member of the Royal African Company (RAC) and quickly became the deputy governor. The company held a monopoly in slave trading and is believed to have sold over 100,000 West African people in the Caribbean and Americas.

The statue, which until very recently stood in the centre of Bristol, was erected to celebrate his philanthropy work, despite his involvement with the slave trade. Campaigns and debates have been held to remove the statue since at least the 1990s.

In 2018, a plaque was arranged to be put in front of the statue to provide more history on Colston. However, the wording was never agreed upon. Conservative councillor, Richard Eddy, and the Society of Merchant Ventures (an organisation which Colston had belonged to) managed to remove any mention of him being a Tory MP on the plaque, as well as certain aspects of his work. This is the definition of erasing history, not the toppling of a statue of an evil man.

Hats off to the people who pulled the tower down and rolled it all the way to the harbour. The statue did nothing but display some sick, twisted pride in a slave trader. In removing it, people are learning more about the history of Colston than they did when it was stood there, having people walk past it without giving it a second look. 

As a white person, I can't even begin to imagine the pain of walking past a concert hall, a tower, schools and streets all named after someone who enslaved and trafficked their ancestors across the Atlantic. Bristol is a vibrant and multicultural city where there should be no constant reminders of a horrific period of history. It should be taught about in museums and schools, and never forgotten. That can be done without rubbing people's faces in it every day in the city centre.

We need to educate ourselves more because it's not done enough in schools. Pulling down the statue has started important conversations. I stand with the protesters across the UK, the US and any other country where they're fighting for true equality.


Until the next time,

Char.

Black LGBT+ Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Happy Pride Season.

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