U.K. School to Ditch Name of British Slave Trader Whose Statue Was Thrown Into Harbor

A private school in England is among the many institutions worldwide that have vowed to change their names in solidarity with minority communities.

The governors of Colston's School, named for slave trader Edward Colston and established in 1710, made the announcement on Monday. According to the statement, current and former students, parents and staff will be able to help rename the school. The news comes a year after a statue of Colston was rolled into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests.

"What became clear is that the name Colston has become a symbol of the city's extensive links to slavery and will forever be associated with the enslavement and deaths of African men, women and children," the school's governors said.

Colston's School is not the only establishment in Bristol that has undergone a name change. In November of 2020, the Colston's Girls' School was renamed Montpelier High School. Like Colston's School, Montpelier was determined through a vote.

Although the school's name will be changed, its curriculum will not. The governors said that they have no plans to "erase the school's history," with the legacy of Colston and the slave trade remaining a critical presence in history lessons.

It is unclear whether any potential new names have already been proposed. However, the name change will go into effect next summer before the beginning of the school year.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Colston Plinth
A 311-year-old school in southwest England named for slave trader Edward Colston will change its name following a wide-ranging consultation. The governors of the fee-paying Colston’s School, which was established in 1710 in Bristol, said Monday that the school will be renamed next summer, with current and former students, parents and staff all having a say. Above, people walk past the empty plinth after a statue of Edward Colston was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol on June 8, 2020. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file

Colston, who was born in 1636 to a wealthy merchant family, became prominently involved in England's sole official slaving company at the time, the Royal African Company, and Bristol was at the heart of it.

The company transported tens of thousands of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean, mainly to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean and cultivate the tobacco fields that were burgeoning in the new colony of Virginia.

Bristol, as an international port, was at the center of the slave trade and benefited hugely financially—not just by shipbuilders and slavers, but also investors like Colston, who would buy a stake in the triangular slave voyage between England, West Africa and the Caribbean.

Colston gave a lot of money to local charities and that helps explain why his name has donned so many public buildings in the city, including educational and economic institutions.

Colston has been a figure of huge controversy in Bristol for years. Residents of the city, which has a big community hailing from the Caribbean, are ashamed of what Colston represents.

Colston's statue was later recovered by Bristol City Council and placed in a museum.

Britain formally abolished the slave trade in 1807 but slavery itself was only formally outlawed in British territories in 1834. Overall, more than 12 million Africans are estimated to have been sent to the New World, of whom around 2 million are believed to have perished on the way route.

The decision by the school follows a survey, which received more than 2,500 responses, including 1,096 from the general public. Though more than 80 percent of the members of the public who took part said Colston's name should be retained, the school said the vast majority of responses from people with links to the school thought changing the name would mark a positive step.