All Souls College, Oxford has announced that it will “cease to refer” to the College Library as the ‘Codrington Library’ because of the name’s association with slavery on Caribbean plantations.
The decision is the latest step in a series of measures proposed by All Souls to tackle what it calls “the problematic nature of the Codrington legacy”.
Christopher Codrington (1668-1710) was a Fellow of All Souls and bequeathed £10,000 to the College upon his death for the establishment of a library in his name. In 1698, Codrington had succeeded his father as governor-general of the Leeward Islands, which include Guadeloupe and Antigua and Barbuda.
Codrington’s wealth came from his sugar plantations in Barbados, where his family owned slaves of African descent.
Previously, the College had erected a plaque at the Library’s entrance to commemorate “those who worked in slavery on the Codrington plantations in the West Indies”.
In a statement released on its website this Monday, the College also says that it has pledged to donate £100,000 to another institution founded in Codrington’s name: Codrington College in St. John, Barbados, founded in 1745. All Souls has also set aside £6 million to fund three studentships for graduates from the Caribbean.
While the College will leave in place the statue of Codrington in the Library, it will “investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation” which will “express the College’s abhorrence of slavery”.
The decision comes as the University of Oxford’s historic ties to colonialism and slavery are placed under renewed scrutiny by students and organisations.
This summer, Black Lives Matter protests in Oxford centred on the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College and were led by Rhodes Must Fall Oxford. According to its website, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (RMFO) was established to “decolonise the institutional structures and physical space in Oxford and beyond” and “challenge the structures of knowledge production that continue to mould a colonial mindset that dominates our present”.
Rhodes was a 19th-century diamond magnate and imperialist known for his belief in white supremacy. Rhodes’ estate funds Oxford University’s famous Rhodes Scholarship international postgraduate scheme, established in 1902. In June, Oriel’s governing body voted to remove the statue, but an independent commission will have the final say on the statue’s future.
In a statement on Wednesday, Common Ground Oxford says that it welcomed the College’s statement but criticised the decision to retain the Codrington statue as “a great disappointment to us”, 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”.
All Souls College, Oxford and Rhodes Must Fall Oxford have been contacted for comment.
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