All Soul’s not to remove slave owner’s statue

Image description: Inside the Codrington library. 

All Souls College has refused to take down the statue of slave owner Christopher Codrington. Despite not removing the statue, the college has confirmed that the library in which it sits will no longer be called ‘the Codrington Library’.

Christopher Codrington was a Barbados-born colonial governor who attended Christ Church College in 1685 and was subsequently made a fellow of All Souls College in 1690. In his will, Codrington left All Souls College £10,000 to build a library and £6,000 worth of books to furnish it with. In the middle of this library there is a statue of Codrington scultped by Sir Henry Cheere.

All Souls College reviewed its connections to the slave owner in response to the Black Lives Matter movement which gained force last summer. The College announced the decision with a post on their website:

“At a recent meeting of its Governing Body, All Souls College decided to cease to refer to the College Library as ‘the Codrington Library’.”

“The College also decided that the statue of Codrington which stands at the centre of the Library will remain there.”

All Souls College justified its decision to not take down the statue writing that they will instead, “investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation within the library, which will draw attention to the presence of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery.”

The statement also said that the college wants to “investigate some further academic initiatives that would address the issue of the Codrington legacy.”

All Souls College also pointed out previous actions it had taken to deal with Codrington’s legacy:

“Over the last three years the College has taken several steps to address the problematic nature of the Codrington legacy. It has erected a large memorial plaque at the entrance to the Library, ‘In memory of those who worked in slavery on the Codrington plantations in the West Indies’. It has pledged a series of donations to Codrington College, Barbados (a theological college also founded by a bequest in Codrington’s will) to a total of £100,000. And it has set up three fully funded graduate studentships at Oxford for students from the Caribbean; in effect, £6 million of the College’s endowment is now set aside, on a permanent basis, to produce the income that funds these studentships.”

But student campaign groups say the moves don’t go far enough. The campaign group Common Ground Oxford released a statement saying that the decision was, “a great disappointment” to them, adding: “We believe the College needs to go beyond acknowledgement if it truly wants to express its ‘abhorrence of slavery’ and stand in solidarity with those affected by colonial injustice”.

The choice not to remove the statue also come in the wake of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign. The statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, which stands at Oriel College, has long been the topic of heated debate.

Oriel college launched a commission to look at ways to deal with the statue last June. The findings of the inquiry are set to be released in, “early spring 2021” according to a spokesperson for the commission.


Image Credit: Biker Jun