By Huw Jones (Reuters) Representatives of the City of London municipal authority on Thursday voted in favor of retaining in their Guildhall headquarters two statues linked to the transatlantic slave trade.
The councilors who run the Square Mile financial district agreed to add plaques to statues of former Lord Mayor William Beckford and merchant John Cass to explain how they profited from the 18th century slave trade.
British ships ferried over 3 million enslaved African people across the Atlantic, many of the vessels insured by Lloyd’s of London, but the City of London and the Bank of England had links to the slave trade as well.
The City and its institutions looked at their historic links to slavery following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and Black Lives Matter protests.
“It is important that we acknowledge both Cass and Beckford as well as the City’s evident role and involvement in the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade,” said Douglas Barrow, who chaired a report which recommended retaining the statues.
“The history of the City is, sadly, inextricably linked to that appalling activity and it will be forever to our shame,” Barrow told a meeting of the City’s council in the ancient Guildhall.
The recommendation was not a simple proposal to “stick up a plaque and move on” or “running away from our history,” Barrow said.
A committee of councilors had agreed earlier this year to back a call from the City of London’s anti-racism task force to remove the two statues, but it was then decided to set up a working group chaired by Barrow to look further into the issue.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood, Reuters)
Sign up for our newsletter