London statues with slavery links ‘should be taken down’

London statues with slavery links 'should be taken down'

Thomas Guy

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Thomas Guy made his fortune through ownership of a large amount of shares in the South Sea Company

Statues and street names in London with links to slavery “should be taken down”, the city’s mayor has said.

Sadiq Khan said he had set up a commission to review the capital’s landmarks to ensure they reflect its diversity.

It comes after anti-racism protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday.

Mr Khan said London had “an uncomfortable truth” with historical links to slavery.

The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review the city’s landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – and consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations.

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Sir John Cass (1660-1718) did business with slave agents in Africa and the Caribbean

Mr Khan said London was “one of the most diverse cities in the world”, but said recent Black Lives Matter protests had highlighted that the city’s statues, plaques and street names largely reflect Victorian Britain.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade,” he said.

“While this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored.”

During a Black Lives Matter protest in central London on Sunday, a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was sprayed with graffiti.

But Mr Khan said he did not consider statues of the likes of Churchill to be included in the review.

He said pupils needed to be educated about famous figures “warts and all” and that “nobody was perfect”, including the likes of Churchill, Gandhi and Malcolm X.

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Reuters

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A statue of Sir Winston Churchill was sprayed with graffiti during a Black Lives Matter protest

Petitions have also been launched to remove statues of controversial people around London, such as one of Robert Milligan in West India Quays.

Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he did not have ownership of the statues and the land they are on.

He also said it would be “inappropriate” to single out which statues and street names he thinks should go.

Instead a number of new memorials in the capital have been pledged by Mr Khan, including ones for Stephen Lawrence, the Windrush generation, a National Slavery Museum or memorial and a National Sikh War Memorial.

London statues with links to slavery

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Getty Images

Image caption

Robert Milligan was a noted slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks

  • Sir Thomas Guy made his fortune through ownership of a very large amount of shares in the South Sea Company, whose main purpose was to sell slaves to the Spanish Colonies
  • Robert Milligan was a noted West Indian merchant, slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks. There is a statue to him outside the Museum of London Docklands
  • Aside from founding an educational charity, Sir John Cass was a major figure in the early development of the slave trade and the Atlantic slave economy, directly dealing with slave agents in the African forts and in the Caribbean

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