Glasgow could form new links with Jamaica in a bid to deal with its history of slavery and “atone” for its past
Glasgow could form new links with Jamaica in a bid to deal with its history of slavery and "atone" for its past, it was hoped.
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A report, the Glasgow Slavery Audit, identified eight statues commemorating people involved with the slave trade and 62 streets named in connection with it.
The report, commissioned by Glasgow City Council, showed how the city’s wealth and growth stemmed from its involvement in the slave trade.
Historian Dr Stephen Mullen, an academic from the University of Glasgow, penned the report which said that gifts from those linked to the trade amounted to more than £300 million in today’s money, with a bequest that would amount to £110m for the Mitchell Library in 1874.
Monuments to Colin Campbell, William Gladstone, John Moore, David Livingstone, James Oswald, Robert Peel Jnr, James Watt and King William III are all highlighted in the report.
Between 1636 and 1834, 40 out of 79 lord provosts nominated to Glasgow Town Council had some connection to Atlantic slavery, and some sat in office whilst owning enslaved people.
Hopes are high that Glasgow can “atone” for its past by listening to the views of people impacted by slavery, as well as Glaswegians - and could even form links with Kingston, Jamaica.
Councillor Graham Campbell, chairman of the council’s cross-party working group on slavery, said: “What I hope the report will do is give people the facts and that is really where Dr Mullen comes at with this.
“You deal with the historical facts and what the archives show was the involvement of our merchants in tobacco, sugar, cotton, etc.
“It is there and celebrated in the forms of street names so the visible evidence surrounds us.
“Then it is a question of what do the citizens do with that knowledge.
“The council slavery agreement working party has now spent more than a year meetings with historians, cultural archivists and the city heritage trust.
“We are consulting with communities impacted by racism and also the wider city.
“When this committee later reconvenes for the new term, we hope the new councillors who are elected will take on board the work we have started.
“What has perhaps been polarising in other places is not having preceded it with a grassroots, organised conversation from below backed up with scientific evidence.
“Once the report is more widely circulated, hopefully we will have a result which impacts upon the country’s and the city’s history of itself that we can correct and some of the misconceptions that are out there about the history of it.
“It starts with awareness raising, atonement, acknowledgement and maybe then we might start to think about apologies.
“We don’t want to have a tokenistic approach and that is the end of it.
“It would be pointless without an ongoing, engaging process of looking at that history and responding to it in some way such an anti-racism policy for the city, acknowledgement in our museums and our streets and also in the projects that we chose to run, cities we chose to link with.
“Maybe linking with Kingston, that is one thing I would love to see us do.”
Nelson Cummins, communities and campaigns officer for the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, praised the report which he says shows how transatlantic and chattel slavery have been at the core of Glasgow as a city and its development as a city as well.
He said: “We are still a city which struggles with racism in our key institutions and I think a report like this that gives us this historical context, it can almost create a thread where we can link it to present day issues that we have as well.
“The actions to be taken on the back of this report are up to the people of Glasgow to decide.”