Remove Sir Francis Drake statues in Tavistock & Plymouth in support of Black Lives Matter
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This petition calls upon Plymouth City Council and Tavistock Council for the removal of the identical statues of Sir Francis Drake in Tavistock, Devon and on Plymouth Hoe, in support of the movement Black Lives Matter.
Francis Drake and his cousin John Hawkins were not only slave traders, but pioneers of the British slave trade involvement.
I grew up in Tavistock, Devon, where there is a statue of Francis Drake. The shopping centre in Plymouth is called Drake’s circus. One of the houses at school was named after Drake. The statue in Tavistock is placed on a busy roundabout outside the main secondary and primary schools where nearly 2000 children pass each day.
In primary schools, children are taught about British history where Drake was a celebrated figure. The focus of these lessons are his circumnavigation around the world and his role in the victorious battle against the Spanish Armada.
The focus of these lessons should be: John Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake were England's first slave traders. In 1562 they sailed from The Barbican in Plymouth with three ships and violently kidnapped about 400 Africans in Guinea, later trading them in the West Indies. Between 1562 and 1567 Hawkins and Drake made three voyages to Guinea and Sierra Leone and enslaved between 1,200 and 1,400 Africans. According to slavers' accounts of the time this would probably have involved the death of three times that number. (Info from appx.1)
School children should be taught that these horrors outweigh any discoveries that Drake made or battles he helped win. They should know that his knighthood came at the cost of millions of black people’s lives, and the celebration of his so-called achievements are long outdated.
The statues are an example of systemic racism in our society. If I, a white person, am offended by seeing these statues on the streets of our hometown, just imagine what a young black person, already marginalised in a town with less than 2% people of colour (2011 census, appx.2) feels passing that statue everyday on their way to school.
For those of you who think that this is not an immediate issue, or that this is “just the way it has always been”: You are saying to people of colour that white history is more important than black history. You're saying that you don’t care what Drake did to their ancestors and you’re happy to look at a statue of him in honour anyway. For those saying “can’t we just celebrate him for reasons other than the slave trade”, we cannot continue to compartmentalise history. On visitplymouth.com it talks about Drake being a slave trader and commemorating him with a statue on the same page (See appx.3). It's hard to understand how this has been allowed.
It is people like Francis Drake who laid the basis for racism that we see today. There are plenty of things for BLM that need addressing right now, and this may seem like just a small action, but if the statues get taken down we are acknowledging the wrong of Francis Drake and his counterparts.
It is a privilege that white people just get to choose how we educate ourselves on racism in the future, rather than experience racism as black people have for centuries. Britain cannot change its past, but it has a responsibility in addressing the systemic crisis that has evolved in our society today.
From now on let’s make sure history is taught accurately. Plymouth City Council and Tavistock Council should remove these statues from our streets so that we no longer commemorate the painful atrocities of Britain’s past, and send out the important message that Black Lives Matter.
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