Edward Colston (1636-1721) was an English merchant and Conservative MP. He was a great philanthropist, endowing schools and hospices and supporting the High Anglican movement in the Church of England. It is Bristol, in England, which he represents in Parliament, who benefits the most from his largesse.
In Bristol he founded Almshouses on King Street and Colstons Almshouses on St Michael’s Hill, founded the Queen Elizabeth Hospital School and helped found Colston Hospital, a boarding school which opened in 1710, leaving an endowment managed by the Society of Merchant Venturers for maintenance. He donated money to Temple Schools (one of which became St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School) and other parts of Bristol, as well as several churches and the Cathedral.
David Hughson, writing in 1808, described Colston as “the great benefactor of the city of Bristol, which during his lifetime spent over £ 70,000. [£] in charitable institutions “, equivalent to £ 5,581,350 in 20
In 1894 a committee was formed to raise funds for a statue in honor of his philanthropy and it was erected in 1895.
Edward Colston was apprenticed to the Mercers Company, a London City Guild in 1654 and by 1672 had established his trading company. He exported textiles from London while importing oils, wine and sherry from Spain and Portugal. He also traded in silk with Virginia and was a regular cod trader from Newfoundland to Naples. In 1680 he diversified his portfolio with a new commodity, people. Edward Colston became a successful entrepreneur in the slave trade.
Almost 300 years after Colston’s death, Bristol has changed uncontrollably, somewhat helped by the small disagreement with Germany in the 1940s. Perhaps Bristol’s most famous son is the artist Banksy.
Bristol’s modern economy is built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city center docks have been redeveloped into centers of heritage and culture. The city has the largest community currency in circulation in the UK; the Bristol pound, which is pegged to the pound sterling. The city has two universities, the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, as well as a variety of arts and sports organizations and venues, including the Royal West of England Academy, Arnolfini , Spike Island, Ashton Gate and Memorial Stadium. It is connected to London and other major UK cities by road and rail, and to the world by sea and air: road, by the M5 and M4 (which connect to the city center via the Portway and the M32); rail, via Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway main stations; and Bristol Airport.
One of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations, Bristol was named Britain’s Best City to Live in 2014 and 2017, and won the European Green Capital Award in 2015.
The people of Bristol have also changed. Slavery is no longer acceptable and statues glorifying those who organized it are no longer acceptable, at least without contextualization. It seems the Colston statue was provocative from the start, as was the explosion of the Civil War ‘heroes’ statue erected in response to early civil rights movements.
According to Tim Cole of the University of Bristol, the Colston statue was proposed in response to the erection near another statue in Bristol, depicting Edmund Burke, who had criticized the city’s involvement in the human trafficking. slaves.
The extent of Colston’s involvement in the development of the slave trade in Bristol was recorded by historians in the 1920s. By the 1990s the statue had become contradictory with more and more calls for his withdrawal. This was finally achieved on June 7, 2020.
During a Black Lives Matter protest, a group spray painted the statue and dragged it from its pedestal. It was then rolled into the nearby river, breaking part of the herd’s long coat in the process. This also revealed a beautiful modeling of the top of the left leg by sculptor John Cassidy. The police officers present at the demonstration did not intervene. Four people were later arrested and charged with “criminal damages”.
Today, Wednesday, a jury found Sage Willoughby, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford and Jake Skuse not guilty of “along with” other strangers “damaging the Colston statue and plinth of unknown value without lawful excuse . “
None of the Coltston Four denied their actions, but rather the crux of their defense was that the statue had caused such an offense that they had a legitimate excuse to remove it. This was summed up in Milo Ponsford’s testimony:
when told he had no lawful excuse to damage it, he replied: “There was a lawful excuse, it was preventing further damage to the people of Bristol.”
He added: “It’s an offense to the whole character of Bristol, especially in our time. I think that’s just plain wrong.”
Mr Ponsford, who is a carpenter, said he only decided to bring his rope on the morning of the protest, although he discussed the statue toppling in his workshop the night before.
It seems the jury agreed.
Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, on behalf of Ms Graham, 30, said the case “demonstrates the fundamental importance of a jury trial”.
“In this case, they determined that a conviction for the removal of this statue – which glorified a slave trader involved in the slavery of more than 84,000 black men, women and children as the” most righteous and wisest “- would not be proportionate.”
The BLM movement has also led others in the UK to revisit their cultural exhibits. A statue of another involved in the slave trade has been moved outside the Docklands Museum in London. Also in London, the Geffrye Museum was renamed Museum of the Home. This was originally named after Sir Robert Geffrye (1613-1703) who endowed a set of widows’ hospices with ironmongers that house the museum. He had also invested in the slave trade and partly owned a slave ship. The statue that stood prominently on the grounds of the hospice has been moved to a wall and contextualized.
On a lighter note, the BLM protests prompted UK Morris Dance troupes to examine the traditional use of black face makeup. It could be a smear all over the face (but usually not the neck). The origins are obscure. One suggestion is that this is a reference to the “Moorish” dances which are said to be part of the origins of the dance. Another is to disguise the dancers so that they cannot be arrested for “begging” for the pints of beer they get in pubs as they pass through villages. To avoid confusion with the ‘Nigger Minstrel’ tradition (yes that’s what it was called), they all changed in colors or vivid patterns in 2021 (lockdown meant no performance in 2020).
As for the statue of Colston, it was recovered from the river and has been lovingly preserved by the local museum authorities. The main job was to remove all the mud and make sure the spray paint didn’t come off the bronze. He is now back on the screen. It is no longer a contested statue praising an 18th century slave trader erected by the 19th century imperialists. It is now a historic document of the day when the people of Bristol resolutely rejected their attitudes. Today’s verdict by a Brisolians jury shows it wasn’t limited to those protesting in 2020.