History in the news: George Floyd protest in Bristol – Colston statue toppled

Primary History feature

By Paul Bracey, published 2nd November 2020

George Floyd protest in Bristol – Colston statue toppled

The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25 May 2020 sparked off protests against the way in which black people are treated both in America and many countries across the world. Thousands of people attended an anti-racist demonstration in Bristol. A group of the protesters surrounded the bronze statue of Edward Colston, which honoured a man whose ships sent approximately 80,000 enslaved men, women and children from Africa to the Americas between 1672 and 1689. It was the financial success of the transatlantic slave trade that enabled Colston to be the benefactor that he became in Bristol. Ropes were tied around the stone monument and it was pulled to the ground. It was then dragged across a short distance and thrown off the quayside into the water. (See www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-52955868

Implications for the primary history curriculum

The toppling of the slave trader Colston’s statue in Bristol was followed by challenges to other figures associated with slavery and imperialism including Cecil Rhodes who has a statue at Oxford. This reflected wider concerns about the experiences and treatment of black people now and throughout history. The disproportionate impact of covid-19 in Black communities added fuel to existing historic concerns that had a contemporary impact, such as the treatment of the Windrush generation who had faced difficulties in claiming citizenship. These events over a range of issues have led to an outpouring of grief and concern for the life chances of people in black communities now. 

In the wake of this a group called the Black Curriculum has written to the Secretary of State for Education calling for more Black history to be taught in schools...