Teeming residents of global cities have begun to sign petitions for the pulling down of statues with ties to or representing slave trade. This comes after anti-racism protesters in England pulled down the 124 years old statue of Edward Colston to support the US Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd. These global protests have highlighted the histories of global cities with colonial or slave trade affiliations and the figures that promote injustice. Here’s a look at the historical figures that were sacked for their ties to slave trade and racism.
The movement started with angry protesters who pushed down the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, southwest of England during the Black Lives Matters march. Edward Colston was believed to own ships that transported about 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to America. This was to stand against the wrongful honour of his memory by his home city of Bristol, which greatly benefitted from his ill-gotten wealth.
A statue of slaveholder Robert Milligan has been removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands. Furthermore, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan announced the review of all of London statues and street names, intending to take down those with links to slavery.
A monument in the Scottish capital Edinburgh to honour Henry Dundas, a politician that stalled the abolition of slave trade was defaced with spray-paint with the words “George Floyd” and “BLM” (for Black Lives Matters). The 150ft (46m) tall Melville Monument in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh was erected in 1823. Dundas was a highly influential politician in the 18th and 19th centuries who pushed for an amendment to a bill supposed to abolish slavery. He advocated for a more “gradual” approach, thus allowing slavery to continue for 15 more years.
King Leopold II
An uprising in Belgium has demanded the removal of a monument to the country’s longest-reigning king, Leopold II. The online petitions have amassed tens of thousands of signatures, while some anti-racism protesters have taken more direct action. In the city of Ghent, the bust of the colonial-era monarch was covered with a cloth over the head, marked with the words “I can’t breathe”. In Antwerp, protesters set fire to another statue of the king which prompted the removal of the statue and transfer to a museum. In the capital Brussels, protesters mark one of his statues with the word “assassin”.King Leopold II ruled Belgium from 1865 to 1909, with a terrible legacy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Between 1885 and 1908, the king made DRC, then known as Congo Free State, his private colony. He turned the African country to a labour camp for rubber trade, ordered the shooting of indigenes who refused to be subjected to slavery and kept a collection of their amputated hands.
Even Winston Churchill who led Britain to victory in World War 2 was not exempted from this brazen rewrite of history. Protesters defaced the statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for London and declared him “racist”. He is believed to regard white people as superior, slandered Indians and Chinese alike. Churchill had also faced criticism on his remarks about Jews and Islam, and his actions, or inactions during the 1943 Bengal famine, which killed over two million people.