City of London backtracks over removal of two slavery-connected statues

A statue of Sir John Cass in London.

The authority that runs London’s financial district said Thursday it will retain two statues of colonial-era figures connected to slavery that it had before planned to remove.

The City of London Corporation said it had decided to keep the statues of the 17th- and 18th-century figures but would contextualise them with information about the two men’s links to slavery following a fresh vote on their position.

Guild Hall Monument to William Beckford, 1886.

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“We’ve carefully considered this matter, taking into account strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and made what we think is a sensible, proportionate response to a sensitive issue,” said City of London Corporation Statues Working Group chairman Doug Barrow.

He additional that the organisation “can’t be blind to the fact the history of the City is inextricably connected to slavery”, calling the practice “a stain on our past”.

The statues of William Beckford, a former London mayor and plantation owner and John Cass, an MP who played a central role in the transatlantic slave trade, had been chosen for removal following a public consultation.

The City of London launched the review of statues connected to slavery last year in the wake of protests that swept Britain and Europe following the death in US police custody of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

The displays, which led to the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in the southwestern English city of Bristol, sparked nationwide calls to remove monuments connected to Britain’s colonial past.

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