The school, named after slave trader Edward Colston, has decided that they will not change their name despite controversy.
‘A violator of human rights’, Edward Colston, whose legacy is very much still alive in important parts of Bristol, earned his fortune as a merchant and slave-trader in Bristol and London, trading human lives, sugar and wine, until his death in 1721. He donated much of his fortune to hospitals and schools which earned him his fame throughout Bristol, however there is no mention of his involvement in the slave trade on his bronze statue in the city centre.
The legacy of the slave-trade in Bristol, has been passionately debated for years, notably British-Nigerian historian, David Olusoga stated that ‘No British city is more wilfully blind to its history than Bristol…the biggest lie of all was given literal solidity when it was cast into bronze and affixed to the pedestal upon which stands the statue of Edward Colston’.
Colston Girls School commented that it, ‘existed today because of the financial endowment from Colston’ and so have decided not to change their name despite controversy amongst the community, including Bristolian Gabriel Osbourne, who has said ‘no one wants to honour Edward Colston’. However, ex-pupil of Colston Girls’ School Jane Ghosh, argues that ‘we cannot change history, and that place names give us a link to the past’. The school further stated, ‘by enabling our students to engage thoughtfully with our past, we continue to encourage them to ask questions about present-day moral values and to stand up for what they believe is right’.
However, the school have decided to remove reference to Colston on their traditional commemoration day. On November 3rd, Colston Girls’ School’s traditional celebration of the founding figure, broke from their usual celebration of Colston and instead opted to raise awareness of the ‘damage done by slavery’.
Colston Music Hall, Bristol’s home of music, has decided to drop the name following refurbishment in 2020. The name will be subject to a private auction.
Ultimately, for Colston Girls School the decision to keep their name is final and taken in the month celebrated across the UK as Black History Month, it will continue to spark hot debate concerning human rights and Bristol’s identity.
By Will Dyke