In support of Black Lives Matter

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation on behalf of Culture & Creative Industries

M Shed, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol Archives, Blaise Museum, Georgian House Museum, and Red Lodge Museum are all part of Bristol City Council.

Bristol City Council has taken a strong and proactive view concerning Black Lives Matter including Take the Knee and a public statement from the Mayor, Marvin Rees.

The exterior of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery at night lit with purple lighting in solidarity with Minneapolis

The museums and archives fully support the Mayor’s approach and the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Tuesday 2 June, we joined City Hall by lighting Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in purple in solidarity with the communities affected by the tragic death of George Floyd.

You may have seen that the Mayor has talked of M Shed as the place where the city will be able to commemorate the important events which took place on Sunday 7 June 2020. We are looking forward to exploring how to make change with our local communities, and shaping how this event can be presented at M Shed.

We have collected the placards from the Bristol Black Lives Matter event and will hold the statue of Colston when it is retrieved.

Behind the scenes we’ve been developing our digital offer so people can access accurate stories about the city’s history and working on a decolonisation project, which involves us scrutinising our buildings and collection to ensure transparency.

We will continue to support the Mayor’s aim to tell Bristol’s story so the city can better understand its history.

Internally, some of our recent activity includes working with Arts Council England on a programme of work called Creative case for diversity – and reflection on our own conscious and unconscious bias in order to make positive changes through our Inclusion and Diversity working group.

Below are some of our resources that will help us all learn more about Bristol’s past and current topics.

We have long been on a journey to collect and share Bristol’s story and the marathon continues…

Further reading

11 comments on “In support of Black Lives Matter

  1. Jennifer Dear

    Bristol is a beautiful city with a rich history. This doesn’t mean that people who profited from the slave trade should be held up as examples. These statues, building and street names are a constant reminder of generations of pain for black people that is still ongoing. Take them down. Your history will still exist.


  2. Heather Edwards

    It was with great joy that I heard Colston’s statue will not be replaced on the streets of Bristol. However, it was with great dismay that I heard on the Radio 4 today programme that you will be removing the graffiti from Colston’s statue. Yet again, history is being rewritten, effacing this important moment in history when people have shown they’ve had enough. Why not leave the graffiti on the statue? It is there representing the true feelings of people, what actually happened at this moment in time, and reflects an important surge in the Black Lives Matter movement. Not least, the graffiti could commemorate the passing of George Floyd.


  3. Lauren MacCarthy Author

    Hi Heather, we don’t intend to clean the graffiti off.


  4. John from Bristol

    This is a very positive statement, thankyou for doing this. It would be great if this was a turning point in Bristol’s acknowledgment of its past, and to change the language used.

    There are many examples of where Bristol must change its outlook. To give one example: John Cabot is still referred to as ‘discovering’ North America, in books published in Bristol and in at least one inscription on a statue. Clearly there were 100,000s of people who already lived in North America, and had been for thousands of years. Surely you cannot discover something if it is already so well known by so many people? Bristol needs to acknowledge that John Cabot set forth on intrepid sea voyages, but he was no discoverer.


  5. Kevin

    I’m glad to hear you are not planning to restore the statue – although it was reported on the BBC News today that Bristol Museum were planning to do just that. The graffiti and vandalism are now a part of the story of that piece and evidence of the historic act of its deposition whose importance far exceeds its artistic merits. The statue can now be used to much better purpose being testament to the long shadow of racism and the changing cultural values of Bristol people.


  6. Bernadette

    I entirely agree it is important to keep this moment of history. I also like the diversity in Parliament Square of Gandhi and Churchill, Mandela and Smuts, mentioned by the BBC. I would like to see a museum in Bristol dedicated to the history of Slavery and Colonialism.
    I think it is important that the need for justice and reparation does not destroy the records of oppression and cruelty.


  7. Jim

    John from Bristol
    Please spare us they clearly mean they discovered it for the rest of the world hence it is known as America
    You can’t re write that


  8. Lizzie

    The MShed is the first place I visited many years ago that gave me a factual and very sad understanding of the history of the slave trade and Bristol. I think it is absolutely the right place for Colston’s graffitied statute to be placed alongside the placards. Initially I was a bit shocked by the removal of the statue but on reflection I feel proud of the statement Bristol made. I don’t remember seeing much about the Bristol bus boycott at the museum and wonder how it is represented. I think Bristol can find a way to show the world how we can make it a better place for those who have been denied .


  9. Ralph Wright

    Studied and taught in the great City and County of Bristol. The only city in the UK to be given the status of a County as far as I know. Great to see the Black community acknowledged by the removal of Colston. He would sit nicely with accompanying explanation in either the M Shed or the City Museum. Re street names see what the Community thinks before acting too quickly. Think also about acknowledging the role of prominent abolitionists in Bristol. If the Merchant Venturers could sponsor a BLM cause it would help.


  10. Sarah smith

    It is great that the truth is going to be told. I would like you to include in this truth telling, how the people of Bristol were affected. My family have lived here for hundreds of years. Poor, bedminster, redcliffe backs. I have learned about slave compensation. It broke my heart to see the truth. Inflation rose. 50% govt spending. How my family and many others suffered. Workhouses cholera. Extreme poverty. While people like merchant venturers made their wealth. Even after slavery ended. How my grandmother who grew up in temple. Went to school on Victoria St temple Colstons school. Thought Colston was a kind man for helping the poor. They had no idea. Learning the truth has made me cry. They suffered too. While the rich and the disgusting slave owners their descendants profited. My family who worked laying railway tracks, labourers, sewers and sometimes when times got tough, workhouse. They had no clue about the truth. Or that despite their suffering, their descendants would be upset in this way. I am happy the truth will be told. But please, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. I do not want the name of my family who have lived in this city hundreds of years to have their name and mine tainted by this horrible stain. I will be offended if you dont tell the whole truth. Focus on the merchant venturers. Tell the truth. It wasn’t only the slaves who suffered was it? It was the ordinary people who continued to pay the taxes who were plunged into further poverty. Having no idea why they could never make ends meet. I bet none of my ancestors of that time knew anything about slavery. Please make sure you tell the story of how we paid until 2015 to pay the debt. Who profited and who financially paid the price when they couldn’t afford to, many of whom ended up in the workhouse. Some died of cholera. Others were sent on a ship to Australia for the crime of being poor. Thank you.


  11. Paul Lebby

    May I suggest that the now empty plinth where Colston once stood be used to commemorate the success of the Royal Navy West Africa Squadron in their suppression of the slave trade. The Squadron was established one year after the Abolition of Slavery Act and between 1808 and 1860 intercepted 1600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.


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