Bristol’s new lord mayor, Cleo Lake, removed the portrait of controversial slave trader Edward Colston from the mayoral office on Tuesday 19 June. The painting had hung on the parlour wall since 1953.
Colston was a slave trader who was born in Bristol in 1636.
The removal of the portrait has been welcomed by the Countering Colston Campaign, which opposes the public celebration of the slave trader. Lake, who is of mixed African-Caribbean and Scottish descent, is an active member of the campaign. The Guardian reports that, speaking of her discomfort with sharing her office with the portrait, she said:
People have wondered why the portrait wasn’t already removed from the parlour. I first noticed it when I was invited in to meet the Jamaican high commissioner a couple of years back. Having it on the parlour wall in my view sent mixed messages about the city council’s values today, which are not the same as what they might have been centuries ago in Colston’s time.
Confronting the past
Many Bristol landmarks still bear names intrinsically linked to the slave trade. But in April 2017, Bristolians applauded the decision to drop Colston’s name from one of Bristol’s most important concert venues. Many artists such as local band Massive Attack famously boycotted the venue in the past. Some critics, however, feel that far too little has been done to remove the city’s visible tributes to slave traders.
Although some in the city of Bristol benefited from Colston’s philanthropic donations, his slave trading resulted in widescale human suffering. Between 1672 and 1689, his ships transported an estimated 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas, via the ‘slave triangle‘.
While the lord mayor’s role is symbolic, removing the Colston painting demonstrates Lake’s will to serve the interests of a city still grappling with historical denial.
Featured image via screengrab
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?