Europe

Anti-racism campaigners launch boycott of London museum

Campaigners demand removal of statue of slave trader Sir Robert Geffrye from Museum of the Home

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal   | 20.10.2021
Anti-racism campaigners launch boycott of London museum

LONDON 

An anti-racism group on Tuesday launched a boycott of a London museum, demanding that a statue of 17th century slave trader Sir Robert Geffrye be removed.

The group Hackney Stand Up To Racism gathered in a private hall to launch their boycott of visits to the Museum of the Home, located in the Hoxton area of east London.

The boycott, which received the support of local teachers unions, aims for teachers to stop organizing field trips to the museum until the statue is taken down, according to the campaigners.

Hackney Councilor Sade Etti, who was present at the launch of the boycott, described the campaign to bring down the statue as a “very good” one.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Etti said: “It's a campaign that we have been supporting for a very long time. And we must continue.”

“We have to say a big thank you to Hackney Stand Up To Racism, and also to Islington as well, for coming together today with regards to this company,” she added.

She urged: “That statue must come down. There has been a consultation. The community has spoken. Nobody wants to see this statue.”


Parents, children unaware Geffrye was slave trader

Ken Muller, a spokesman for the Islington branch of the National Education Union who also joined the boycott launch in Newington Green, said: “The museum obviously depends on people coming to it, and a lot of the people who come to museums are schoolchildren because schools organize trips.”

Muller said parents bring their children to the Museum of the Home without being aware of the statue or the slave owner it represents.

“I'm a Hackney parent myself and brought my kids before I realized who Sir Robert Geffrye was,” he explained.

“And I think if we can get the word round, get people to understand what the background of the campaign is and who Sir Robert Geffrye was, I think most decent people in this country ... wouldn't want their kids or their schools to have anything to do with supporting it, and I really think that if we can expand the boycott and extend it, I think we can force the museum.

Muller argued that the problem is the Conservative government “putting pressure on the museum to keep it up, and they threatened to cut the funding.”

He urged action against this tactic, saying: “We need to put (on the) council pressure to say to them, well you might get the funding from the government, but you won't get people coming to visit your museum.”


Fortune on the backs of slaves

The boycott launch, which coincides with Black History Month, was also supported with a message from Labour MP Diane Abbott – Britain’s first Black member of parliament.

The Museum of the Home until recently was known as the Geffrye Museum because it is situated in former 18th-century alms houses –built for Britain’s poor and needy – funded by Sir Robert Geffrye (1613-1703).

The statue of Geffrye – a 20th-century copy of the 1723 original – has stood above the museum entrance since 1912.

There is also a memorial for Geffrye and his wife inside a small chapel located in the museum, based on his will.

In July 2020, following the destruction by protesters in Bristol, southwestern England of a statue of slave merchant Edward Colston, the public was asked its views – called a public consultation – on the possible removal of the Geffrye statue.

Geffrye’s fortune came largely from trafficking Black people with the East India Company and Royal African Company in the 17th century.

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20.10.2021

Anti-racism campaigners launch boycott of London museum

Campaigners demand removal of statue of slave trader Sir Robert Geffrye from Museum of the Home

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