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Anti-racism group to hold fourth protest against Hoxton museum’s statue of slave trader Robert Geffrye

PUBLISHED: 13:09 30 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 30 October 2020

A previous demonstration against the Robert Geffrye statue outside the Museum of the Home. Picture: Dean Ryan

A previous demonstration against the Robert Geffrye statue outside the Museum of the Home. Picture: Dean Ryan

Archant

A fourth protest demanding the removal of a slave trader’s statue is set to take place outside a Hackney museum tonight.

Hackney Stand Up to Racism (HSUTR) will be holding another #GeffryeMustFall protest outside the Museum of the Home on Kingsland Road, formerly the Geffrye Museum, at 6pm.

The group is asking for a statue of slave trader Robert Geffrye, which sits above the door of the chapel among a row of alms houses funded using wealth accumulated from his involvement in the East India Company and the Royal African Company, to be removed in recognition of his history.

READ MORE: Hoxton’s Geffrye Museum renamed Museum of the Home

It comes after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June.

Despite most respondents to a consultation called for the Geffrye statue to be removed, in July the Museum of the Home announced it would stay put.

It was later revealed culture minister Oliver Dowden had written to the chair of the museum’s board of trustees, Dr Samir Shah, asking them to be “mindful” of the government’s stance, which is though “we may now disagree” with historical objects, “they play an important role in teaching us about our past, with all its faults”.

The letter also reminded Dr Shah the museum is a “government-funded organisation”.

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READ MORE: Government ‘pressured’ Hoxton museum into keeping slaver statue, documents reveal

A statement released by HSUTR noted the British Museum is an institution to remove a statue of its founder Hans Sloane, who profited from the slave trade.

It said: “Those of us who are calling for the statue to come down have been accused of wanting to ‘cancel culture’ and ‘rewrite history’ but it is Dowden and the British establishment who have distorted and obscured history.

“Geffrye’s statue shows him as a powerful, civilised and wealthy man. It says nothing about how he made his wealth.

“We want more history – not less. We want the whole story to be told – not just a partial history which tells us Geffrye was a ‘philanthropist’ but not how he made his money.”

The group asks for the statue to be exhibited in the museum, alongside Geffrye’s “full story, open and transparently”.

This comes after red paint was used to scrawl a message on the Museum of the Home’s gates, which read: “The blood on Geffrye’s hands is the blood of our ancestors.”

READ MORE: Graffiti sprayed on Hoxton museum’s slave trader statue

A spokesperson from the museum said the public’s response has caused the board to “reflect and discuss” its decision: “The board and museum team are continuing to review and discuss the response with community, creative and funding partners and are exploring a number of options for the statue that are curatorially best suited to the museum and its communities.

“As part of this ongoing process, museum director Sonia Solicari gave evidence at a DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) select committee meeting on October 6, looking at how decisions are made around physical heritage and how the different interests of property owners, local authorities, government and communities are balanced in the decision making.”

The protest will take place outside the museum at 6pm tonight.


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