History Summer Term Essay Competition
CSG History Department summer term essay competition 2020
This term, the History Department has run an essay competition asking students to answer the following question;
‘It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) to be pulled down’. How far do you agree?
The competition was open to all students from Year 7 to Year 12 and gave them an opportunity to engage with current events in the UK, USA and around the world.
The response from students was fantastic - it was great to see so many entries from students across the school. They really showed an excellent ability to grapple with complex issues and use a range of examples to support their arguments.
The results are as follows and all students should be congratulated on their excellent essays.
Year 7 winner - Romy (7R)
Year 7 runner up - Verity (7R)
Year 8 winner - Fawziyah (8M)
Year 8 runner up – Zoe (8T)
Year 9 winner - Eliza (9M)
Year 9 runner up - Rafaela (9R)
Year 12 winner - India
Year 12 runner up - Rhanee
PLEASE SEE THE STUDENTS' ESSAYS BELOW:
‘It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) to be pulled down’. How far do you agree?
A number of monuments and memorials have been removed, or plans to remove them have been announced, during the protests that followed the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. In this essay, I will discuss whether it is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities to be pulled down.
Some people would agree with this, as these statues represent individuals whose actions and legacies should not be celebrated or memorialised. For example, a statue of Robert Milligan has been removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands. His statue was rendered because he was Deputy Chairman of the West India Dock Company. However, Milligan grew up on his wealthy family's sugar plantations in Jamaica and in 1809, the year of his death, Milligan owned 526 slaves who worked at his sugar plantation. The rendering of the statue is wrong, as Milligan made his money which he was able to use to plan and build the West India Dock Company from his family’s slave-owning business. The slaves working on his plantation would have been treated inhumanely, suffering physical abuse on a daily basis. How can we put up a statue honouring a man who became successful from something so immoral?
Some people may disagree with this statement, because they believe we are rewriting history by taking down these statues. For example, a statue of Winston Churchill has been vandalised with the words “was a racist” graffitied underneath his name, and it has been suggested that the statues should be pulled down and put in a museum. In Churchill’s lifetime, he said many racist things. One example is from 1937 when he said, “I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, or, at any rate, a more worldly wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” He was also a known supporter of eugenics, and approved of the separation of “feeble-minded” people, alongside being intrigued by the idea of sterilisation, to halt the breeding of “unfit” people posing “a very terrible danger to the race”. While this is clearly an incredibly racist and wrong thing to say and believe in, some may argue that Churchill did successfully lead Britain through World War Two in his time as PM, and to completely disregard this would be wrong. They may also argue that the statue in itself is not honouring or memorialising the racist things he said and believed, but is instead memorialising his effort in helping Britain win the war. An additional point is that Winston Churchill helped the Allies to defeat the Nazis, who had far more racist and radical views, and if we had not defeated them, who knows where we would be now.
In addition to this, there have been many times in history when there has been a change in power, and statues of a leader have been taken down. This dates back to the ancient Greeks, who made their major monuments out of bronze. Hardly any of these survived because as soon as regimes changed, as soon as there was war, as soon as someone could steal the statue, it got melted down and made into money or cannon balls or a statue of somebody else. This is the history of art, of changing loyalties and changing pasts. We are constantly evolving, and the pulling down of these statues isn’t going to make us forget our history. Instead, it is going to push us into a new era, and help us towards the goal of eliminating racism.
Some argue that statues like this are important to educate us. However, one could rebut that suggestion as never in a history lesson have we studied a statue, as they are often not rendered during the person’s lifetime and give us very little information. Statues are only really relevant when looking at more ancient civilisations which we don’t have as much information about. Furthermore, other resources of historical education would be found in a museum, where you can study them just as easily. And this way, you can choose whether to see these statues or not, and they become more of a historical source than a memorial honouring someone who was involved in immoral activities.
As previously mentioned, one reason people would agree with this statement is that most statues are built after the person’s life. The peak in construction of Civil War Monuments in America occurred between the late 1890s up to 1920, with a second, smaller peak in the late 1950s to mid 1960s. The civil war lasted from 1861 – 1865. So, as you can see, the construction of these statues is relatively recent, and the sole purpose of it was to commemorate and symbolise the Confederate States of America , Confederate leaders, or Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War. You may also notice that the second peak, in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, was around the same time as the Civil Rights Movement. It is very likely that these monuments were put up as not so covert symbols of white power. According to Smithsonian Magazine, "Confederate monuments aren't just heirlooms, the artefacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today." The report also concluded that the monuments were constructed and are regularly maintained in promotion of Lost Cause, white supremacist mythology, and over the many decades of their establishment, African American leaders regularly protested these memorials and what they represented. As stated in Smithsonian Magazine, American taxpayers are still investing in these tributes today. This includes African Americans, who are paying to maintain monuments of people who fought to keep their ancestors enslaved.
Another reason people may agree with this statement is that recent figures who it has been revealed have been involved in immoral activities have had statues of them removed. For example, when evidence of Jimmy Savile’s history of sexual abuse against women and children came out after his death, an extraordinary effort took place to wipe out painful reminders of him. A footpath sign in Scarborough named Savile's View was removed, a wall commemorating high-profile citizens in Leeds Civic Hall had the inscription of Savile's name removed, a wooden statue of him in Glasgow was taken down and much more. This shows the extent to which we have tried to eliminate any trace of Savile from our memory. But, Savile is also estimated to have raised £40 million for charity. However, no one argues that these commemorations of him should not be removed because of the philanthropy he was involved in, like people argue with statues of Confederates and people involved in the slave trade. No one argues that if we remove these commemorations of Savile, we are manipulating history. And even though these reminders of Saville have been removed, he has not been forgotten. But these statues and places named after him are a painful reminder of the awful things he did, just like the statues of slave traders and Confederates are too.
One reason people might disagree with this statement is that we cannot eliminate anyone who has done something immoral from history. Amid the growing row over the removal of public monuments, the Prime Minister has warned that Britain cannot “photoshop” its complex cultural history, and that to do so would be a “distortion” of the past. He may have a point here, that we cannot eliminate racism from history, and that by doing so it could actually be dangerous as we could not recognise the patterns of racism and history could repeat itself. However, like I said before, putting these statues in museums would not hold this problem as they would still be there to study. Writing for The Telegraph, Boris Johnson also promised to fight “with every breath in his body” any attempt to remove the statue of Winston Churchill from Parliament Square. As prime minister during a pandemic which our government has dealt with worse than nearly any other country, it seems strange to be so worried and focused on one statue, when what he should really be doing is addressing racism in the UK, and doing something about it. For example, he could be making sure that black history and the history of racism is being taught in schools so that the next generation understands what racism is and how to recognise and try to prevent it.
Another issue that arises when discussing this statement, is where the line stops. All of our history is based on and entwined with colonialism and the British Empire, which in turn means slavery and colonial subjugation of different peoples. The reason we are such a rich and developed country is built on the back of the British Empire, including the slave trade. This makes it difficult to untangle, as it is not just the statues that have been made to honour people involved in immoral activities. Many civic buildings and streets have been built using money from slavery and honour those involved in the slave trade. For example, the statue of Edward Colston has been pulled down in Bristol, due to his involvement with the Royal African Company trading slaves. During Colston's involvement with the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692 it is estimated that the company transported over 84,000 African men, women and children to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas, of whom 19,000 died on their journey. However, in his lifetime he also was involved in philanthropy and supported and endowed schools, almshouses, hospitals and churches in Bristol, London and elsewhere. This means that many of these buildings and organisations have been named after him, and have been built using his money, which he made from trading slaves. While some of these places have changed their names, they have still been founded using this money made from incredibly immoral activities, and some may argue that they, just like the statue, should be removed.
However, it could be argued there is a difference between a statue, which is purely there to honour and memorialise a person, and schools, hospitals, churches and almshouses that have been named after and endowed by a man involved in immoral activities. If you change the name of these places, it is a symbolic gesture that these men are no longer unquestionably honoured. But this is where it becomes difficult, as our country has essentially been built off the back of colonialism, which is heavily interlaced with the slave trade.
In conclusion, I agree with this statement. A statue’s purpose is always to honour and memorialise a person’s life, and not to educate us. They are made to honour people who have done something good, and we should not have statues of people involved in immoral activities such as the slave trade because it is offensive to those whose ancestors were killed or treated inhumanely. Furthermore, claiming that these people have also done positive things which means we should keep these statues, conveys the idea that it is okay to be involved in these things and hold these viewpoints as long as you do something good, and then we will always honour you and remember only the positive things you did. And above all, the pulling down of these statues is symbolic of the turning of a new page in the history of racism. As these statues of confederates and slave traders symbolise white supremacy, the tearing down of these statues is symbolic of tearing down white supremacy. This does not mean eliminating racism from our history, but instead learning from it and understanding where it stems from. But with these statues and monuments hanging over us, symbolising white supremacy and slavery, we can never move on. It starts with the removal of these statues, but I believe this could spark a metaphorical revolution that will tear down institutional racism, and build society back up.
‘It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) to be pulled down’. How far do you agree?
In Britain there are many statues of historical figures in public spaces. However, many of these figures have been involved in immoral activities such as being slave traders, imperialists and slave owners. Due to the current situations, more and more people are calling for the removal of people who have been involved in such acts. Nevertheless, others believe it is right for the statues to remain on their pedestals. This essay addresses both sides of the argument; that it is disrespectful towards the impacted communities, having such statues accepts and celebrates these acts and lastly, it is a step towards racial equality. The counter-argument includes that it isn’t affecting current lives, the good outweighs the bad and it doesn’t solve the real issues of racism.
Statues of people who have been involved in immoral activities is disrespectful to the communities that were impacted. Statues of such individuals caused harm to the ancestors of many people residing in the country now and seeing them being celebrated is disrespectful. An example of this is the statue of Edward Colston, he was a slave trader who assisted in the transportation of over 84,000 slaves. Those who will see his statue and many others will constantly be reminded of what happened to their forefathers in the past and will be made to feel alienated and marginalised from society. Furthermore, due to that many councils are allowing statues to remain, it places seeds of doubt into the hearts of members of these communities about whether those in power really represent them and if they truly are welcomed and belong in this country. On the other hand, others may argue that such events took place in the past and it is not affecting current lives and the communities today, as the UK is one of the most multicultural and diverse countries in the world. Additionally, the statues of such people can educate people and people can question and learn about the history of these figures. However, welcoming and bringing communities together should be top priority of the government’s agenda, thus, if it is causing offence to these people the statues should rightfully be removed.
Statues signify and commemorate figures of the past, therefore keeping statues of the likes of slave-traders shows that Britain is comfortable with celebrating slavery, imperialism and more. The act of putting someone on a pedestal is commemorating their actions, despite the fact that many of the acts would now be viewed as despicable. For instance, Robert Clive was a general who looted riches from Bengal and was accused of being corrupt, however, his statue still remains in Shropshire. An opposing argument is that some people who are on statues have done more good than harm. Thomas Guy was a philanthropist who had opened Guy’s hospital, although this was good he held shares with the South Sea Company, which attempted to sell slaves. Many of whom have been put on pedestals have done applaudable acts yet, they have also done many bad things thus representing that as a society we can excuse people’s wrongs as long as they’ve done something good; therefore, this is not a strong enough basis to keep statues up and is an unjustifiable reason as to why statues should remain.
Taking down statues of people who have harmed communities of colour especially black communities it shows that we are becoming a less racist society is a positive step towards racial equality. Majority of those on statues who have done immoral things were involved with the slave trade or British Empire. An example of a statue which has been recently taken down is the statue of Robert Milligan who was a slave trader and owner. Taking these down represents that Britain is facing its colonial past and it’s major involvement with the slave trade. The opposing argument is that it is performative and taking down statues is not enough to combat inequality. Taking down statues is only performative and the inequality embedded in the system will not be tackled and the real issues in the present will be ignored if the main concern is the past. An example of an issue that needs to be addressed is the real racial inequality that exists within the healthcare system. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how deep the inequality goes as black men are three times more likely to catch coronavirus compared to their white male counterparts through health and socioeconomic disparities. If issues like this are identified and tackled, there is no dwelling on the past and a shift into focussing on what can be done to fix the present and future. Ultimately, taking down the statues and fixing the racial inequality faced by communities of colour is the best solution as then both confronting the past and dealing with the present is incorporated.
To summarise, the disrespect towards impacted communities, commemorating slave traders, and taking a step towards racial equality outweighs all counterpoints and is right for statues of those who were involved in immoral activities to be taken down. The evidence clearly shows that there is an urgent need for the removal in order for Britain to move on from their past, learn from it and make amends now and for the future. Many of the figures had done commemorable acts but they participated in degrading and inhumane acts that harmed so many people, therefore their statues should no longer be a part of Great Britain's streets.
This issue is a complex one; defacing public property is illegal and is vandalism however protesting statues of slave-traders is a commendable cause. In this short essay I will explore the pros and cons of pulling down statues of immoral people.
It’s easy to assume that the heroic looking statue was in fact, a hero, but in a world where Churchill was a white supremacist who supported concentration camps, this is a dangerous assumption. Tearing down these statues is a step in educating people about the horrors of history so as to not repeat them. However, it is important to put these statues in context, often they weren’t put in place because they were slave-traders. In the case of Churchill, his leadership helped to defeat the Nazi’s and these people were often a product of their times. Though nothing excuses their behaviour it's important to remember that all leaders of the past had views that would be considered appalling today.
Nonetheless, that these statues are even up is shameful as it’s not just the statues, it’s what they represent. They don’t just represent racism in the past, they represent racism in the present. Tearing down the statues is symbolic of the cultural revolution that's taking place; racism has become unacceptable in a way it wasn’t before and that is undoubtedly a good thing. When you erect a statue of someone it bestows honour and legitimacy, they become symbols, perceived as respected figures, meaning having statues of slave-traders is disgraceful.
However, it is arguable that tearing the statues down is not the right way forward, instead writing a letter to the council and applying for it to be taken down is the correct way. Another alternative to tearing down statues is to add statues of slaves who suffered and those who fought for the abolition of slavery, telling both sides of the story instead of erasing the history. However, I believe protesting statues of racists and slave-traders is crucial in the fight against racism.
In conclusion, I believe that tearing down statues of immoral people is completely justified. It is deplorable that they have stood this long and I think them being teared down is long overdue. Racism is an urgent issue and anything that will further the cause is justifiable. Tearing down slave-trader statues in protest won’t fix racism but it will help.
“It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) to be pulled down” How far do you agree?
Painted in the background of the British Empire are the lives of 2.6 million African people transported by British vessels to America. And it is from the death of George Floyd and many others in the African American community that have been killed by police brutality that has reignited the atmosphere, originated from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s calling for social and political change. If we compare the treatment of the black community in the 20th century to the 21st century, there is still racism present but only now is it institutionalised and embedded with our society. With ongoing peaceful demonstrations protesting an end to racism, it comes into question should Britain remove all statues of people involved in immoral activities like the slave trade as we are in a time of change.
Bristol's fame and wealth were built on the slave trade and few slave traders were more infamous or wealthy than Edward Colston. On his death in 1721, he bequeathed his wealth to charities and his legacy can still be seen on Bristol's streets, memorials and buildings. Colston supported and endowed schools, hospitals, and churches in Bristol, London, and elsewhere, intended to benefit only those who shared his political and religious views. David Hughson, writing in 1808, described Colston as "the great benefactor of the city of Bristol”. Throughout the 18th century, Colston would have been deemed as a man who has contributed greatly to society and awarding him a statue would have been seen as a celebratory act as he has contributed so much to Bristol. However, Colston made his fortune through human suffering. Between 1672 and 1689, ships are believed to have transported about 80,000 men, women, and children from Africa to the Americas. On 7 June 2020, the statue was toppled, defaced, and pushed into Bristol Harbour by George Floyd protestors for the Black Lives Matter movement. The effect of not removing statues is extremely detrimental to society as the local authorities fail to understand the impact it has on the black community in the UK. If we look at the descendants of the slaves they are still economically and psychologically worse off. As well as mentally they still feel collectively inferior. This is exemplified through the fact that more African Caribbean males are disproportionately in prison and the judicial system; they do worse at school; economically are paid less and working class. Colston’s actions judged by an 18th-century society would be deemed commendable, but now in the 21st century it seems like they are commemorating their work within the Trans- Atlantic slave trade, by not removing these statues. And a simple plaque or moving the statue is not going to rectify or eradicate racism. It is clear in the case of Edward Colston that his statue is removed, even though he may have contributed financially to Bristol, he plays a substantial role in the slave trade which still affects black people in today's society.
Cecil Rhodes was one of the leading figures in British imperialism at the end of the 19th Century, pushing the empire to seize control over vast areas of southern Africa, first as a businessman and later as prime minister of Cape Colony in what is now South Africa. Born in England, Rhodes attended Oriel College, Oxford, and left money to the college in his will. He established the Rhodes Scholarships in his will to enable young people from around the world to study at Oxford. Famous Rhodes scholars include former President Bill Clinton, former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, it can be said that he has contributed greatly to society and has allowed many disadvantaged people to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. On the 9th June, hundreds of protesters in Oxford took to the streets outside the famed university's Oriel College on Tuesday, to demand the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes. As one of his primary motivations in politics and business was his professed belief that the Anglo-Saxon race was, to quote a letter of 1877, "the first race in the world". Under the reasoning that "the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race". He advocated vigorous settler colonialism and ultimately a reformation of the British Empire so that each component would be self-governing and represented in a single parliament in London. He also supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa – from the wall of the college. The campaign also called for the university curriculum to be changed to reflect the diversity of thought beyond the western canon. Rhodes is someone who planned an assault on Africa and he is not worthy of exaltation, he does not deserve to be on a high street looking down on the people of Oxford. That history will never be erased, it’s a lived reality for people in southern Africa, but it needs to be contextualised, it needs to be accurately represented and not glorified in the way it is today. It is especially significant that this statue lies in the University of Oxford, a place that can be described as the centre of academic progress and where ethnic minorities make up 18% of the university’s population and for them, the statues serve as a reminder that of Britain displaying a certain side history. Celebrating the history of the oppressor and not acknowledging those who were oppressed.
As a society who is striving for equality among all ethnicities and backgrounds, it is imperative to understand that even though people such as Colston and Rhodes have contributed to society financially and have given people of lower socio-economic backgrounds a helping hand. We need to acknowledge that it was at the expense of millions of black people who were taken against their will and sold to the highest bidder. As a black girl living in the 21st century, it is particularly hard to see those being celebrated whose success has come at a cost of people’s lives. It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities to be pulled down. Instead of celebrating and idolising those who acted as an oppressor, we must celebrate the unacknowledged, those who have helped society better itself morally and have contributed towards the movement, not those who have acted against it.
‘It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities to be pulled down’. How far do you agree?
Since the Black Lives Matter movement engulfed the world in protests against police brutality and systematic racism, there has been a large rise in the number of statues being called to be taken down due to immoral activities carried out by the person the statue portrays. Whether it be the Lowenmensch which dates as far back as 40,000 years ago or the Statue of Liberty in 1876, there are a countless number of statues around the globe that can send out messages of remembrance, peace and can integrate the legacy of a prominent figure into our modern society. However, such prominent figures have many different aspects to themselves that perhaps are not portrayed through the statues. Whilst there are some figures who deserve to have statues, there are some who arguably deserve to have theirs pulled down due to their historic immoral activities, whether it be a role in the slave trade, a genocider or a ruthless dictator. Those who have a dark side to the light side embraced by the statues deserve to have their statues pulled down as by allowing the statues to remain, we appease and justify the actions carried out by those involved. Furthermore, the role that education plays within our society and the influence that the structure of a country’s education system plays is pivotal in further appeasing the atrocities that some statued figures have committed.
Statues can indeed teach us about history, but they can also hide certain aspects of history from the viewer as the statue represents the symbolism of an ideology and way of life that existed within a certain community at a specific point in the past. Whilst it is undeniable that many communities and civilisations, including that of the British Empire, have represented views and a means of life that could be seen as discriminatory or prejudiced, the simple fact is that the time they lived in was not as socially accepting of different social groups as we are now. Whilst in 2020, two men or two women can legally be married in the United Kingdom, this was not the case a mere 10 years ago. This shows the significant improvement in social acceptance as those with views which aren’t associated with the norm of society are facing less backlash for their views and beliefs. Outside the Houses of Parliament, arguably the greatest symbol of democracy in Europe, lies a statue of Sir Winston Churchill unveiled in 1973. Winston Churchill undeniably played a crucial role in maintaining Britain’s position in the Second World War. However the means of which he was able to do so often escapes his actions. Up until 1943, Churchill had been sending supplies to the British territories in Bengal, but decided to reroute the supplies meant for Bengal to the soldiers fighting the war. Ordinarily this might not be seen as immoral but rather as a tactical decision to help in the push for an Allied Victory, but the context behind and around Churchill’s decision is disgraceful to say the least. Bengal had been on the verge of a serious famine as Bengal was already facing many issues at the time such as economic stress and poor harvests. This tells us that Churchill willingly denied Bengal of the supplies the lives of their people depended on as he chose to supply the troops on the frontline. The eventual Bengal Famine in 1943 caused the deaths of 2-3 million people out of a population of 60.3 million, with millions of others left impoverished. Churchill refused to accept responsibility for the famine, instead blaming it on the Indians who he claimed ‘breed like rabbits’. Not only does this show the price of which Britain’s victory was achieved by, it shows the disgraceful attitudes Churchill held against the Bengali people, dehumanising them as animals and allowing them to starve without accepting any responsibility. In this case, the argument of views that matched the society in which the person lived cannot apply to Churchill here in its simplicity, Churchill effectively contributed to the deaths of millions of innocent lives. The argument here is not to claim Churchill wasn’t key to Britain in the war, that we are all certain of, but the structure of our education system chooses to glorify people such as Winston Churchill as heroes and good valued figures. Our education system is intentionally flawed to provide us with the view of the victor rather than of the neutral. The topic of the slave-trade and civil rights in America is taught in Secondary schools across the UK, however the role that the UK played is often overlooked or left to be interpreted by the textbooks. If our education system chooses to glorify acts and events carried out by a particular group or person, then it is our responsibility to correct this issue and by pulling down the statues of such immoral figures, we demonstrate that the views and actions made in the past should not be upheld or justified due to the societal context at the time.
There are of course other solutions to fix the grievances many people now have with such statues. The plaque that accompanies each statue could easily be changed to meet the demands of the people, mentioning that whilst the person the statue is of may have done some good, the bad needs to be represented in a proportionate means to that of the good. However, this would not entirely solve the case as the statue would then serve no purpose. If the statue of Winston Churchill mentioned his role in the Bengal famine, what would the reasoning for the statute being there be? That he was a good war leader, but a merciless racist at heart? No.
The first step in beginning to present history in a balanced way is to first remove all the bias that obstructs this goal, and that is what the statues and our education system essentially represent, a historical bias from one perspective that is only one side of the coin and in order to restore the balance we so desperately need, these statues need to be pulled down and the history books and textbooks need updating
‘It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave Trade) to be pulled down’. How far do you agree?
It is hard to deny the pleasure of seeing Edward Colston, the slave trader, being thrown into the river in Bristol. It was spontaneous, yet felt right, and something people from the city had been asking for many years. Colston was a merchant from the 17th century who got all of the money for his town from the slave trade. He enslaved over 84,000 Africans, including 12,000 children, and was responsible for 19,000 deaths. His statue was put up in 1895, to mark his contribution to the city, including the money he gave to hospitals and important buildings, yet all of this money was tainted. It seems to me, and to those present at the scene of his toppling, that memorialising him felt out of date and insulting, and therefore was taken down. However, should we continue doing so, with more ambiguous leaders?
Statues are a marker of history, and it may not be on the good side, but we shouldn’t deny the presence that they have shown in the world. By taking down a statue, are we saying the past is forgotten, or that it is simply looked at in a different way? Though saying this, statues are designed as very large, and made from stone, a heavy, strong material, or bronze, an expensive material. So when seeing a statue, they are made to look bigger, grander and more powerful than you, and a constant reminder to people whose ancestors were used as slaves, that these statues are superior.
But what can we do as a marker of something in between these two points. My idea was to change the plaques underneath the statues. Instead of just saying the good things they did, why not also the bad things? So when people look at them, they can be more informed.
Romy - 7R
I agree with this statement for the most part. Statues are very important to the way we see people. Take Nelson's column in Trafalgar square, his statue is only there because he was rich and was killed in war. I wouldn’t know anything about him if he didn’t have a big statue in the middle of London that I have passed many times.
Statues are built usually to show off an important person who helped a person or a place or just changed the world. Think about Nelson Mandela. Do you know who he was? Do you know what he did? You probably do even if you didn’t remember his name. Nelson Mandela was South African but all over the world there are statues and things named after him. Even though he was a very good man who changed the world for the better. Should we have statues of him here in London.
Following the accidental death of George Floyd a 46 year old black man in Minnesota. While he was being arrested for using a counterfeit $10 bill a white police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds. The incIdent sparked many protests and arguments about black lives and even the slave trade. Where white people took black people from their homes and sent them around the world to be traded and made to work for nothing in extreme circumstances. In protests people have pulled down statues of people who killed or got money from black people suffering. Personally I think that pulling down statues even if they are extremely controversial is a bit far because you need to accept that that is our history and they were put there at a time when what they did was acceptable. I think there are some other ways that we could show our history through statues without removing them.
One way would be to take down the statues and move them into a less public place, say a museum or park. So people could still see them and appreciate the fact that they were built; so the people who don’t think they are bad can still see them. But also you could put some more information around them. When I visited Mosco, Russia we went to a park that had many statues of Stalin and Lenin that had been taken down and moved from all around Russia. That meant that they hadn’t gone completely to waste.
Another way would be to leave the statues where they are and counterbalance them with new statues that go with who are important now. They could be females or black people and everyone could ask for who they want to be put there. Outside the houses of parliament for many years there were just men, white men. Then a few years ago the first female was put there Millicent Fawcett, who was a suffragette for female rights and the rights to vote. There is a statue of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who are both not white, but should they be there because neither of them are British or even from England.
In conclusion I think that tearing down statues that are hundreds of years old is not the smartest decision, even if it is in protest. I think that there are many other options that will give everyone for years to come to appreciate them. On the other hand there are stories behind statues because of what the person did to be there and what they did with the rest of their life. So are statues really good should we have statues of people in the first place or should we just have artistic statues?
I fully agree that it is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities, like the slave trade, to be pulled down because we should no longer be celebrating people who did atrocious things, we are re-educating ourselves, and we are taking action against institutional racism.
Firstly, as a modern society, we should not be celebrating slave owners and those involved in other immoral activities in our cities. We put up statues to celebrate, remember and idolise people. Although we should remember the atrocities of the slave trade, we should not idolise and celebrate those who caused them. For example, the bronze statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader, which until a few weeks ago, stood in The Centre, Bristol was put up in 1895, to commemorate his philanthropy. For 125 years Edward Colston was celebrated, idolised for the money he gave to Bristol. The money made by African slaves 5000 miles away from him. We should pull the statues down because if a person committed mass murders in our modern society, we would put nothing up to remember them but something to remember the victims. Applying that to the statues of slave owners, even though people put them up centuries ago, they should have been pulled down by now. However, maybe removing some statues means we should take all statues and monuments down, as how do we know for sure that the person or people that they are commemorating didn’t take part in activities similar to those like the slave trade or active racism. Students and teachers walk past the bust of Ms France Mary Buss, the founder of our school, but how do we know, for sure, that she wasn’t a racist. We should celebrate the good work and legacy that a person has left behind, but we should also remember and take into account the thoughts they may have been thinking privately while creating that legacy. Many people, their work or ideas timeless and revolutionary, were racist because of the place and time they lived. The most obvious example is Winston Churchill, but there are many more. Emmeline Pankhurst wasn’t fighting for black women’s right to vote, even many Slavery Abolitionist viewed black people as lower than them but just not low enough that people should treat them like animals. No human is perfect, so maybe no human should have a statue made of them.
We need to prove that we have moved on from slavery and that we are never going back. Some people say that all monuments and statues of historical figures, good and bad, should be kept up to remember the people and acknowledge the atrocities they committed. However, I believe that people put up a statue or monument to celebrate a person and the things they did and so does the dictionary; the definition of a monument is “a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event”. It is right for statues of people involved in immoral activities, like the slave trade, to be pulled down because nearly 200 years after we abolished the slave trade we are, as a society, celebrating and commemorating slave owners and traders by keeping their statues and monuments up.
Secondly, by removing the statues we are re-educating ourselves about the slave trade and our history. Removing the statues, to avoid celebrating slavery and slave owners, is different from destroying them. Many say that removing the statues is “whitewashing” history and shows that we are trying to erase our history instead of accepting it. In an article for the Guardian, Charlotte Lydia Riley wrote: “some people in Britain are uncomfortable with any critique of Britain’s past.” Much of that is visible in our history education; until I came to secondary school, when I thought of slavery I thought of slaves working on plantations in the Caribbean and the southern states of America. The thought that slaves had walked through places I had visited, like Bristol, never crossed my mind. However, taking down the statues isn’t contributing to this problem, in fact, since Edward Colston’s statue was thrown into the Bristol harbour, the history of slavery and racism has been in the media much more than before. A few of the headlines in the newspapers the week that Black Lives Matter protestors threw the Edward Colston statue into the Bristol harbour were: “No slave trader should have his own statue, says minister Nadhim Zahawi”, “It’s about discussing history not rewriting it” and “Priti Patel: toppling Edward Colston statue ‘utterly disgraceful’” The effects of racism and the actions taken in the past have been shouted in our ears since the Abolition of the Slave Trade and now we are finally listening, educating ourselves which in turn will lead to others doing the same. It is right for statues of slave traders to be pulled down because by doing that, we are re-educating ourselves and others about our history and that slavery were, and will always be, part of it.
The final reason, I believe that it is right for people to pull down statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) is that by doing so we are taking action against institutional racism in schools, universities and workplaces. For example, Rhodes Must Fall was a protest movement campaigning against a statue in the University of Cape Town of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes was a white British mining businessman, a politician in southern Africa and the 7th Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. He believed that the Anglo- Saxon race was “the first race in the world”, “the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race”. He was a white supremacist. The statue, which stood for 81 years, was pulled down on the 27th March 2015 yet in Oriel College, Oxford University another statue of him remains, along with the institutional racism at Oxford University. We should pull down the statue because they stand as a sign to any black, Asian and other ethnic minority students that that building and that education was not made for them. In 2014 Oxford University accepted 27 black men and women out of an intake of more than 2,500: BME students made up just 13 per cent of the total. You are 60 times more likely to see a professor who looks like you at Oxbridge if you are white than if you are black. On average, 24% of applicants of white British origin received positive responses from employers compared with 15% of BME applicants with identical CVs. Institutional racism is alive and thriving. Although taking down the monuments won’t fix the problem entirely, it is the first step towards more equal schools, universities and workplaces. It is right for people to pull down statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade) to down because by doing so we are taking action against institutional racism in schools, universities and workplaces where there are statues of slave traders, fascists and imperialists. People who would turn in their graves to see that we are finally transforming, into an integrated society, in which a black child has just as much chance of becoming a lawyer, doctor or even Prime Minister as a white child.
In conclusion, I fully agree that it is right for people to pull down statues of people involved in immoral activities (like the slave trade)for several reasons but most importantly because we should no longer be celebrating people who did atrocious things, by taking them down we are re-educating ourselves, and taking action against institutional racism. In 1807 the Slave Trade was abolished in the British empire, in 1833 Slavery was abolished, in 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) was founded, in 1940 Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar, in 1965 the Race Relations Act was passed, in 1987 we had our first black MPs, in 2009 Barack Obama became the first black President of the USA. Yet, in 2020 statues of fascists, imperialists and racists, people who stopped all these landmarks in history from happening earlier are being celebrated. We are not educated about our history and still practising institutional racism. Pulling down the statues moves us one step closer to a more equal, integrated society.