Felling of Slave Trader Statue Prompts Fresh Look at British HistoryBreaking News
tags: slavery, memorials, britain
The toppling by anti-racism protesters of a statue of a slave trader in the English port city of Bristol has given new urgency to a debate about how Britain should confront some of the darkest chapters of its history.
The statue of Edward Colston, who made a fortune in the 17th century from trading in West African slaves, was torn down and thrown into Bristol harbour on Sunday by a group of demonstrators taking part in a worldwide wave of protests.
Statues of figures from Britain’s imperialist past have in recent years become the subject of controversies between those who argue that such monuments merely reflect history and those who say they glorify racism.
By taking matters into their own hands, the protesters raised the temperature of a debate that had previously remained confined to the realms of marches, petitions and newspaper columns.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the removal of the statue was a criminal act.
“The PM fully understands the strength of feeling on this issue. But in this country where there is strong feeling, we have democratic processes which can resolve these matters,” the spokesman said.
But others countered that such processes had failed to recognise the pain caused by the legacy of slavery.
“People who say - authorities should take statues down after discussion. Yes. But it isn’t happening. Bristol’s been debating Edward Colston for years and wasn’t getting anywhere,” said historian and broadcaster Kate Williams on Twitter.