Oxford University College Refuses to Remove Statue of Slave Owner Christopher Codrington

Published January 10th, 2021 - 11:38 GMT
Oxford college. (Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Oxford college. (Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Highlights
A marble statue of Codrington has stood in the library since the 18th century.

An Oxford college has removed the name of an 18th century slave trader from its main library but has defied calls to take down his statue.

All Souls College reviewed its link to Christopher Codrington, a Barbados-born colonial governor, in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter movement.

The former college fellow who died in 1710 bequeathed £10,000 to the library which has since been unofficially known as the Codrington Library. 

An Oxford college has removed the name of an 18th century slave trader from its main library but has defied calls to take down his statue.

All Souls College reviewed its link to Christopher Codrington, a Barbados-born colonial governor, in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter movement.

The former college fellow who died in 1710 bequeathed £10,000 to the library which has since been unofficially known as the Codrington Library. 

The All Souls governing body said: 'Rather than seek to remove it the College will investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation within the library, which will draw attention to the presence of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery.'

Their review found that Codrington's wealth 'derived largely from his family’s activities in the West Indies, where they owned plantations worked by enslaved people of African descent'.

The college claims it has undertaken a number of measures to address the colonial legacy, including erecting a memorial plaque in memory of those who worked on the Caribbean plantations. 

All Souls has donated £100,000 to Codrington College in Barbados, a theological school also founded by a bequest in the slave trader's will.

Three full graduate studentships are also funded by the college for students from the Caribbean.

All Souls say £6million of its endowment is now permanently set aside to produce the income to fund the studentships.

But campaigners say the measures are insufficient when the imposing statue remains in the hallowed grounds of the graduate college.

Campaign group Common Ground said: 'Physically, this statue cannot be made neutral: it is positioned such that onlookers stand at his stone feet, its pose is one of heroism and prestige.'


They also say the memorial plaque fails to 'sanitise the harm of continuing to elevate this slave owner'.

The students also disagree with Codrington's depiction by the college as a mere slave trader, saying his crimes are much more severe.

Common Ground said his wealth was 'accumulated from systematic sexual exploitation, trafficking and mass murder'.

The controversy comes amid ongoing scrutiny of Oxford's links to colonial figures.

Oriel College's statue of Cecil Rhodes has provoked scorn from many students because of his colonial activities in Africa.

Critics argue the British imperialist paved the way for the apartheid in southern Africa, and raise issue with his time as leader of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.

A decision over the statue's future has been delayed until the spring, Oriel's commission said.

Oriel College voted to launch an inquiry into 'the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue' in June, after BLM protesters pulled down a memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and threw it in the harbour.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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