Yesterday, during the Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol, activists tore down the city centre’s controversial bronze statue of Edward Colston – an infamous 1600s slave trader whose presence is felt strongly throughout the city. There’s a road, a school and a major venue all named after Colston because of Bristol’s mercantile history.
Calls to remove Colston’s statue (erected in 1895) and erase the celebration of slavery in Bristol have been ongoing, but have had limited success (after initially announcing plans to change it in 2017, Colston Hall have now confirmed the venue will have a new name by autumn). In light of the widespread protests about police brutality and racism, protesters at Bristol’s Black Lives Matter demonstration took direct action to remove a representation of the city’s dark past. While politicians, from Priti Patel to Keir Starmer, have criticised taking down the statue by force, most of those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement felt elated to see Colston’s statue was pulled down, rolled down the road and dunked into the harbour.
Protests and activist movements such as yesterday’s aren’t new to Bristol. The 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott forced racist bus companies to lift their ban on hiring “coloured people”, which contributed to the formation of the Race Relations Act. This year is the 40th anniversary of the St Pauls uprising, which saw racial and policing tensions reach a historic peak with 130 arrests and 90 charges.
In celebration of yesterday’s small victory, here’s a guide to Bristol’s activism.
Broadcasted in 1980, six months after the uprising.
In this short seven-part series, former Bristol Poet Laureate Miles Chambers celebrates the seven founders of the St Pauls Carnival.
David Olusoga follows the lives of the residents of an 18th-century house in Bristol.
The cooperatively owned local publication The Cable explores the good, bad and downright strange the aspects of Bristol’s history.
Activist and journalist Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley details how the transatlantic slave trade shaped Bristol as we know it today.
Anushka Asthana interviews Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol and the first black mayor of a British city, about the historic boycott.
Bristol Uncomfortable Truths Podcast
The Uncomfortable Truths Podcast details conversations surrounding the uncomfortable truths behind museum objects. Hosts discuss how they were collected, what they represent and the difficult pasts that are hidden behind them.
This blog post gives a brief overview of protests and civil disobedience in Bristol, from 1812 to the present day.
Memoires of a Black Englishman
Paul Stephenson OBE – a leading Black Bristolian civil rights activist – tells his story.
This blog post details the long and fraught history between Bristol’s black and white populations.
An illustrative journey through the inhuman aspects of early trade, slavery, piracy and struggles for social justice.