As demand grows to review and remove statues of people linked to the slave trade in London and across the UK, calls to erect a memorial in the capital to victims of the transatlantic slave trade have been reignited.
Since 2002, the charity Memorial 2007 has been fundraising and seeking planning permission to build a 14-foot bronze statue in Hyde Park’s Rose Garden depicting the story of the transatlantic slave trade. It would be the first national memorial in the UK to commemorate enslaved Africans and their descendants.
The memorial statue, designed by sculptor Les Johnson, who was selected after a public competition, will feature seven larger than life figures, each representing a part of the slave story. Johnson said: ‘It will honour those who were captured and forced to work, creating enormous wealth for Britain and Europe. It will acknowledge the slaves’ own widespread resistance in the fight for freedom, and it will record the ongoing legacy.’
Its plinth, which will be wheelchair accessible, will explore the history of the transatlantic slave trade, with Braille used where possible. The Rose Garden will be landscaped so the three continents of Europe, Africa and America – the triangular slave route – will be reflected in the flora.
Unesco has endorsed the statue, wanting it to form part of its World Slave Route Heritage Project which will link key global sites associated with the slave trade. In 2008, then London Mayor Boris Johnson publicly announced his support for the statue and planning permission was granted to build it in 2016. However, this expired in autumn last year after the government refused to provide funding for the statue.
As Black Lives Matter protests across the world start mass conversations about systemic racism and calls for better education about black history, Memorial 2007 has relaunched its fundraiser to build the statue.
Since being reactivated on Monday, its GoFundMe page has raised more than £4,000 of its £4 million target. Memorial 2007 promises planning permission for the statue will be resubmitted when this total is closer to the goal, saying: ‘This Memorial will give public recognition and acknowledgement to millions of unnamed Africans who were victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and fulfil the aspirations of present and future generations. This is everyone’s history and crosses the ethnic divide as all are beneficiaries of the legacy.’
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