On the 7th June 2020, Black Lives Matter protestors toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in Bristol dock.
What Colston’s Statue Omitted to Say
In 1680 Edward Colston invested in the Royal Africa Company (RAC) established twenty years earlier in 1660 and set up by King Charles II and the City of London merchants. According to historian William Pettigrew the company:
“shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade.”
Britain itself was responsible for a quarter of the 12 million enslaved African people during the Atlantic Slave Trade.
All investors would have known about the RAC activities, how they were making their profits. He was there at the outset and was there when merchants took over from the King in Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. According to Wikipedia:
During Colston’s involvement with the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692 it is estimated that the company transported over 84,000 African men, women and children to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas, of whom as many as 19,000 may have died on the journey.
From 1692 to 1708 Colston carried on trading in enslaved Africans privately.
It is reasonable that a statue representing enslavement and murder should be taken down. Colston represents the loss of life, brutality, murder and the enslavement of people. No civilised people for example would erect a statue to the serial killers in neighbouring Gloucester, Rosemary and Fred West, then why a statue of Edward Colston?
The wealth that Colston had accumulated through the slave trade may have built the City Of Bristol, but surely the lives of people are worth more than property! As a society we have a disconnect.
Four people have been charged with toppling and dumping into the dock a statue of Edward Colston, they have been charged with damage to property estimated at £3,750. A bit of metal! Not flesh, but metal.
Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, will appear before Bristol magistrates court on 25 January for the first hearing, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
Property! Lets think on this. What is more important? Human beings, the enslavment of people that Colston was involved in? Or a bit of metal? Honestly, as humans we’ll come to the right conclusion, or will we?
David Hughson, writing in 1808, described Colston as:
“the great benefactor of the city of Bristol, who, in his lifetime, expended more than 70,000L. [£] in charitable institutions”.
The Colston Society, which had operated for 275 years commemorating Colston, latterly as a charity, decided to disband in 2020.
Mr Rees, the city’s elected mayor, said removing, the new statue was “critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the [Colston] statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal… and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know”.
Jen Reid Statue – Black Lives Matter temprarily on Colston plinth