East London schools to review names and monuments in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests

Educational institutions across east London have vowed to review their names and monuments to historical figures linked to colonialism, racism and the slave trade following Black Lives Matter protests.

The University of East London took down its monument to slave trader Sir John Cass on Thursday after consultations with its Black Academy, students and staff and announced a “university-wide review” of all sources of historic funding.

“Slavery is monstrous to us all and we cannot comprehend how cultures around the world have, during some point in history, considered this not to be morally bankrupt,” the university said it a statement.

The University’s School of Education was renamed the Cass School of Education and Communities in 2008 following a donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation.

The former Conservative MP, born in 1665, was a merchant and major figure in the early development of the slave trade.

In 1748 he gave much his fortune to set up a foundation in his name and many sites in the East End, where he is buried, still bare his name.

Sir John Cass Red Coat school said it was calling an “emergency meeting ” of the school’s Governing Body for early next week to discuss the legacy of its name and “consider a proposal to remove his statue and bust located on the school premises and to rename the school”.

A spokesman said: “In 2020 no educational institution should be associated with the name of slave traders responsible for millions of deaths of African people”.

The foundation said it has worked with charities for many years on projects challenging and eradicating racism, discrimination and inequality.

It follows the removal of slave owner Robert Milligan’s statue near Canary Wharf on Tuesday and the toppling of a trader Edward Colston in Bristol last weekend.

Councils across the capital have vowed to review local monuments linked to the slave trade and Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a commission to review public landmarks to make sure they “suitably reflect London’s achievements and diversity”.

Redbridge council leader Jas Athwal warned people “not to take matters into their own hands” after the borough’s Winston Churchill statue was defaced.

The monument in Woodford Green was vandalised on Tuesday night sparking increased police patrols in the area.

The statue dates back to 1959 when Churchill was MP for Woodford and the graffiti has now been removed.

Cllr Athwal, said: “The Winston Churchill statue in Woodford was subjected to vandalism earlier in the week, but was immediately restored. While we understand this is a very emotive time and feelings are running high, we would please urge people not to take matters into their own hands.

“We need to take a considered, measured and pragmatic approach towards this sensitive matter, rather than acting in anger and haste. That is what we intend to do with the forthcoming review.”

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Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter