Calls to boycott Museum of Home until Geffrye statue falls
Julia Gregory, LDRS
- Credit: Julia Gregory
Campaigners are calling for a boycott of a Hoxton museum until the statue of a merchant “involved in an industry which contributed to the rape, torture and murder” of enslaved people is removed.
Hackney Stand Up to Racism is urging people to boycott the Museum of the Home until it removes the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye, who made his money from transatlantic slavery in the 17th century.
They renewed their call for a boycott at the Meeting House on Newington Green, which was associated with the campaign to abolish slavery.
They want teachers, youth groups and families to stop taking trips to the museum until the statue is taken down.
Dalston councillor Soraya Adejare said Robert Geffrye made his money on the back of the misery of others.
“It’s an affront to common decency,” she added.
She said it rubbed salt into the wounds of a community as diverse as Hackney to see the statue of a trader who benefitted from slavery and questioned the government’s intervention to prevent statues like this being removed.
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Cllr Sade Etti, Hackney Council’s No Place for Hate champion and mayoral advisor on homelessness, said: “Statues of those involved in slavery ought to be pulled down and removed. It is morally reprehensible to continue to support their existence.”
Subira Cameron-Goppy from the Claudia Jones Organisation, which is also supporting the boycott, considers Robert Geffyre’s involvement in slavery a hate crime.
She said: “As an African Caribbean community, how are we to see this statue?”
Removing it is “not removing history, it is truly telling the truth of history,” she added.
The sculpture stands outside the museum, which is housed in former almshouses which Robert Geffrye helped to fund. He is not connected to the founding of the museum or its collections.
David Davies from the Hackney branch of the National Education Union said: “We are not asking for the statue to be thrown into the River Lea. We are asking for the statue to be conceptualised.”
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said: “The entire history of slavery and colonialism were shameful eras. We should not be honouring the slavers and colonialists, we should be disowning them and disavowing them. We should also be teaching people about the most shameful aspects of that history.”
She told campaigners: “You have right and you have the future on your side. Geffrye must fall!”
The Museum of the Home told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “At present we have no comment to offer.”
It consulted people last year about the future of the statue and most of the 2,000 who responded said it should go.
Earlier this year, then communities secretary Robert Jenrick said there will be new legal safeguards for historic monuments at risk of removal or relocation.
Previously, the Museum of the Home said that it was doing work to explain the story of the statue.
A spokesperson said: “The first step has been to install a panel near the statue telling a fuller history of Geffrye, including his connections with the forced labour and trading of enslaved Africans, and acknowledging that the statue is the subject of much discussion."