174 years after his death a statue of Edward Colston was erected on November 13th 1895. For a further 125 uninterrupted years the statue of Colston stood proudly and prominently in the centre of Bristol. Celebrated as a “wise and virtuous son”, on his death Colston bequeathed his extensive wealth to the city resulting in his name being baked into Bristol’s DNA – in it’s streets, schools, cultural buildings, and influential societies with Colston’s name.
Fast forward to June 7th, 2020, and during a mass Black Lives Matter march the statue of Edward Colston was toppled by a global grassroots movement born out of police brutality and racial injustice. For many, the surreal images of the Colston statue being dragged along Colston Avenue and then dumped in the river where he made his fortune from the Transatlantic Slave Trade was both seismic and ironic in equal measure.
In our infographic we explore some of Colston’s origins, his influence and impact on Bristol. However, the fall of Colston’s legacy began long before he was toppled by the BLM protestors on June 7th.
For decades, different grassroot movements have called for the Colston statue to either be reframed to reflect unspoken truths, replaced to better represent the new face of the city or removed as it is no longer relevant. There have been reports and petitions, along with the setting up of the Legacy Commission. Massive Attacks’ refusal to play in the Colston Hall because of its associations hit the national headlines.
And for generations, whilst the city dithered and delayed on deciding, others took it into their own hands. Colston has been dubbed a slave trader in graffiti, alternative plaques citing his links to slavery have been placed on the statue, there has been anti-slavery vigils, and organisations such as Countering Colston set up. Ultimately Colston was toppled.
Where Now And Next
With a focus on the city’s organisations, for many the removal of the Edward Colston statue acted as a catalyst for inclusive change. Be it removing the name, or in the case of the influential Society of Merchant Venturers openly stating:
“We are committed to working with the Mayor and others to achieve real and lasting change in Bristol – building an inclusive, sustainable and successful city where inequality no longer exists and the place of your birth or the colour of your skin is not an obstacle.”
Join The Boardroom Revolution
As a city that is led by Europe’s first re-elected Mayor of African Caribbean descent, there is a renewed urgency to advance constructive debates around inequality, race, place, power, and representation.
Post Colston, BeOnBoard is delivering radical recruitment solutions for organisations keen to revolutionise their Boardrooms with untapped talent from diverse backgrounds. We believe in inclusive governance, so if like us you want to see the face of our leadership change then join us for #InspiringYourBoardCareer on June 17th from 6-7.30pm. We are calling out to all aspiring Trustees from a diverse background (Black, Brown, Women, LGBTQ+ and Disabled) looking to make a difference. Get top peer-to-peer tips from experienced Trustees on how to navigate your Board careers and speed-date with organisations committed to diversifying their boards. Register for #InspiringYourBoardCareer for free today – and do tell a friend!