Who was Edward Colston that Lewis Hamilton says his statue should stay in the river?

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Who Was Edward Colston That Lewis Hamilton Says His Statue Should Stay In The River - We The World Magazine

During a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, hundreds of people plucked a memorial of a slave trader on public display in Bristol and toppled it on the nearby waterbody. F1 champion says the statue should stay in the river. So who was Edward Colston, right?

Lewis Hamilton, F1 world champion opened up about the recent protest in Bristol that lead to vandalizing of a 17th-century statue of Edward Colston, who was a slave trader.

Protestors allegedly detached the bronze statues from the plank and toppled it into the nearby River Avon with a jeering cheer. The statue-in-question was here in the southwest city of England in Bristol since 1895. Local reports estimate as much as 100,000 Brits attended the Sunday’s Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol.

Lewis Hamilton writing on his Instagram story said; “if those people hadn’t taken down that statue, honouring a racist slave trader, it would never have been removed.”

“There are talks of it going into a museum. That man’s statue should stay in the river just like the 20 thousand African souls who died on the journey here and thrown into the sea, with no burial or memorial,” Hamilton wrote.

“He stole them from their families, country and must not be celebrated! it should be replaced with a memorial of all those he sold, all those that lost their lives.”

The six-time world F1 champ is the only black driver in the white-dominated F1. Hamilton is a vocal proponent of racism and animal cruelty.

George Floyd was killed by a White Minneapolis cop who suffocated him to death. Since then Black Lives Matter has become a global movement.

Who was Edward Colston? A Prolific slave trader

Edward Colston was a board member and a deputy governor of the Royal African Company that was associated with the ferring of 84,000 Africans for slavery from Africa to the New World plantations. Estimates claim nearly 20,000 if the black people who were captured as slaves died on the way inside the vessels of hunger. The dead bodies were then toppled into the sea which would be devoured by the sharks.

Ironically, a critic of Colton David Olusoga, in an opinionated piece on The Guardian notes the “historic symmetry of this moment is poetic,” noting the fate of the bronze statue of a prolific slave trader like Colton. His memorial was co-incidentally toppled in waters, just like the dead bodies of the slaves.

A PhD resercher in History at the Universiy of Bristol, James Watts notes how that history of the statue is tied with a peculiar attempt to highlight and at som point shadow Bristol’s partake in the infamous Middle Passage activities. Colston’s staue that is now toppled was erected 170-years after his death in 1895.

According to Watts, Colston’s statue was cemented in 19-century Bristol “because influential men in the city wanted to create a paternalist local idol,” he writes in The Conversation. The history researcher notes how, despite Colston’s direct association with the enslavement and transfer of the thousands of Africans through the “middle passage,” Victorian elites saw the sheer act of racism as philanthropic work.

Then came a spree for erecting statues across England in the late-Victorian period. “Virtuous” figures were being statued and in Bristol, Colston was the father-figure. Watts writes: “The erection of the statue, and the adulation of Colston in this era, was all part of an ongoing attempt to obscure the role of Bristol in the transatlantic slave trade. As Madge Dresser, a Bristol University historian, has written, there is, or was, no trace of “his trafficking in human cargo” on the statue.”

The honor of Colston is also found to be dubious, according to Watts, who says his philanthropic works that the Bristol presses to remember are very little indeed, if not inconsiderable. He built a boys school in Almshouse which critics say was with a motive to supply sailors for his slave trade. And he donated to some churches and charities.

Crimial act

The regional government has severely condemned the act of pulling down the statue by branding it as a “criminal act.” An investigation has been launched over the incident. Nonetheless, vandalism has got some support including that from Bristol’s Mayor, thanks to public pressure. He told:

‘I’m not going to mourn Colston statue’s removal.’

Following the Black Lives Matter protest, Colston Hall – a music and entertainment theatre in the city has decided to change the name. “Following the Black Lives Matter protests and the removal of the Edward Colston statue in #Bristol yesterday, we would like to reassert our commitment to changing the name of Colston Hall (…)” the official Twitter account of the organization writes. “The current name does not reflect our values as a progressive, forward-thinking and open arts organization – we want it to be representative of the city, a beacon of its values of hope, diversity, and inclusion,” they state.

[Cover image courtesy of Jen_ross83 via Flickr (CC 2.0 attribution) and Simon Cobb via Commons (CC 1.0 attribution)]