Statue of slave trade investor may be removed from University of Cambridge
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A statue of a slave trade investor who was a prominent benefactor of the University of Cambridge may be removed.
Tobias Rustat, benefactor of Jesus College and Cambridge University Library, has been found by university researchers to have been a “major investor” into a 17th century slave trading company.
As a result, the university is making enquiries into removing the statue and redirecting income from the Rustat endowment into research into the slave trade and its legacies.
Dr Jessica Gardner, Cambridge University librarian, said: “The devastation caused by the Atlantic slave trade continues to affect millions of people globally to this day.
“We cannot effectively demonstrate solidarity with our black colleagues and students at Cambridge and with others around the world without first examining and understanding how we as an institution have benefitted from the proceeds of slavery.
Read More”As well as asking the inquiry to look into the Rustat benefaction, we also want to determine, with the critical help of our colleagues from the black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community at Cambridge, how the income generated by this historic donation is best dispersed going forward.”
Rustat earned much of his wealth from the Royal African Company, which was responsible for shipping more enslaved Africans to the Americas than any other institution during the period of the slave trade.
In 1667, Rustat gave the library 1000, to be spent on books of its choosing, and as a result he was memorialised by a 19th century stone statue on the library’s original site, at The Old Schools overlooking the West Court, near Trinity Lane.
The University’s Advisory Group on the Legacies of Enslavement, founded in May 2019, was asked by Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope to make recommendations on the future of the Rustat statue.
No decision has been made regarding the statue, but the university said preliminary enquiries are being made about the process for removing the statue from the exterior of a Grade 1 listed building.
The library is also looking at the Rustat endowment it receives, which generates income of around 5,000 a year.
It is looking into remodelling and renaming the fund to support active research into the slave trade and its legacies.
For the 2020 21 financial year, income from the fund will be spent on resources about the transatlantic slave trade and about the black diaspora.
More ideas will be identified by staff and researchers, but the final decision will be taken by the library’s Decolonisation Working Group.
Jesus College has also announced that it hermes briefcase replica
has decided to make changes wherever Rustat is explicitly celebrated in college.
Rustat was one of the college’s most significant benefactors, donating 2,000 for scholarships, which is the equivalent of around 300,000 today.
Regarding the Royal African Company’s work, slave trade historian William Pettigrew said: “The Royal African Company shipped more enslaved African women, men, and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade.
“From its foundation in 1672 to the early 1720s, the African Company transported close to 150,000 enslaved Africans, mostly to the British Caribbean.”
The historian is cited by Jesus College as evidence of the “brutal and sustained” work that investors like Rustat were aware of.
In May 2019, St Catharine College removed The Demerara Bell, which was donated in the 1960s by a former student who went onto work for a slave plantation in British Guiana. They believed the bell “most likely” came from that plantation.