London’s landmarks and street names will be reviewed by a commission “to reflect the city’s diversity,” according to a statement from the London Mayor’s Office.
The newly formed commission may recommend the taking down of some statues, said Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The move came after a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, was pulled down and thrown into the river in Bristol during weekend Black Lives Mater protests triggered by the killing in US police custody of African-American George Floyd.
“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored,” Khan said.
He said: “This cannot continue.
“We must ensure that we celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city, and that we commemorate those who have made London what it is – that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated.”
Khan said the Black Lives Matter protests “have rightly brought this to the public’s attention, but it’s important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape.”
The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials and consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations.
Some protesters in London scrawled graffiti on a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square over the weekend.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the actions toward the statues and memorials, including the Cenotaph in White Hall, describing them “thuggery” by a minority that marred the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the toppling of the Colston statue is “utterly disgraceful” and “undermines” anti-racism protests, and ordered an investigation into the incident.
Britain’s slave trade
The slave trade in Britain was a common practice by various nobles and merchants between the 16th and 19th centuries, and many statues in the capital can be linked to the trade.
Hundreds of thousands of black people were bought and sold in slave markets across the country and in its colonies.
Portugal and Britain were the two most “successful” slave-trading countries, accounting for about 70% of all Africans transported to the Americas, according to the national archives.
Britain was the most dominant between 1640 and 1807, when the British slave trade was abolished.
It is estimated that Britain transported 3.1 million Africans to the British colonies in the Caribbean, North and South America, and to other countries, and approximately 400,000 of those never completed the journey due to such causes as dehydration, disease, and inhumane, overcrowded conditions.
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