London statues with links to slavery to be removed

London statues with links to slavery to be removed

William Beckford

The City of London Corporation voted last Thursday to remove the statues of  two British colonial-era politicians over their links to the slave trade.

The statues are of 17th and 18th-century figures that accrued wealth through the slave trade – John Cass, a Tory MP and a major player in the Royal Africa Company that facilitated the transatlantic slave trade, and William Beckford, a former London mayor who drew his wealth from plantations in Jamaica that used slave labor.

The impetus for the removal of the statues began when Black Lives Matter protests swept Britain and Europe following the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in US police custody months earlier. The protests sparked nationwide calls to remove monuments linked to Britain’s colonial past. Demonstrators toppled  the statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol slave trader.

In September, the corporation launched a public consultation on monuments connected to slavery, and earlier this week, the decision was made that historic statues will only be removed in “the most exceptional circumstances”.

The final decision will rest with Communities Minister Robert Jenrick.