By Frederick H. Lowe
Black Lives Matter protesters in the United Kingdom pulled the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, off its base in Bristol, England, and rolled it down the street before pushing it into the harbor to a watery grave to loud cheers, according to the BBC. The entire event was captured by photographers.
Protesters in Bristol, a city in South West England, used ropes to pull down the 18- foot tall bronze statue of Colston leaning on his walking stick.
The statue was dedicated in 1895, but for many city residents and others it had been a source of controversy because of his slave-trading past, although streets, buildings and bridges in Bristol are named after Colston who died in 1721. Before he died, he gave his wealth to charities.
Any association with his name is controversial by some.
In February 2019, St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in Bristol announced that it would be renaming Colston House as Johnson House, after the American mathematician Katherine Johnson, a black woman, who plotted astronaut John Glenn’s successful February 20, 1962, orbit of the Earth.
Colston was an official of the Royal African Company and for a short time as Member of Parliament. In 1680, the company monopolized Britain’s slave trade, selling 80,000 to 100,000 black men, women, and children to businessmen in the Americas in exchange for tobacco, sugar and other goods.
Royal African Company employees branded captured slaves with the initials RAC, using a red-hot branding iron.
Bristol was a key port in the triangular slave trade. In the first side of the slavery triangle, manufactured goods were shipped to West Africa and exchanged for Africans. The enslaved captives were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas in the Middle Passage under brutal conditions.
The third side of the triangle, plantation goods such as sugar, tobacco, rum, rice, cotton, and a few slaves (sold to the aristocracy as house servants) returned across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom.
At the height of the Bristol slave trade from 1700 to 1807, more than 2,000 slave ships carried an estimated 500,000 people from Africa to slavery in the Americas.
After the Colston statute was torn from its base, a protester pressed his knee on Colston’s neck similar to the way former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to back of a handcuffed George Floyd’s neck as he lay face down on the ground, killing him.
The removal of Colston’s statute occurred during the second day of demonstrations in Manchester, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh over Floyd’s murder and in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.