Bristol University to ask students their suggestions for renaming buildings linked to slave trade

Seven uni buildings are in the consultation including the Wills Memorial Building, Goldney Hall and Wills Hall

The university has launched an online consultation to listen to student opinions on whether seven university buildings whose names are linked to the transatlantic slave trade should be renamed.

Buildings included in the consultation are the Wills Memorial Building, Goldney Hall and Wills Hall.

In addition to university building names, the consultation also asks students to voice their opinion on the university logo and whether it should be changed to reflect the University of Bristol as a modern and diverse institution.

The logo could be considered controversial due to its features of Colston, Wills and Fry symbols.

Consultation answers are anonymous, and findings will be made available by February 2023, so check out the consultation and have your views heard.

The Wills Memorial Building and Wills Hall are particular points of controversy due to the influence of Henry Overton Wills III, a prominent founding donor of the university, in 1909.

Wills’ fortune was partly made in importing and selling tobacco from plantations in the US where enslaved labour was used.

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor and President, understands that the consultation findings “will be painful and difficult for many within the university”.

She promises to “reflect on how racial inequalities impact our communities today and put in place the effective actions that are needed to do to be a truly inclusive 21st-century institution.”

The university will also be planning in-person events during December to broaden the scope of the consultation.

The consultation comes after the 2020 Bristol anti-racism protests, which saw the Edward Colston statue thrown into the harbour. It is also a product of research undertaken in January 2020 by Professor Olivette Otele, appointed the university’s first Professor of the History of Slavery.

The two-year research project and the report that has been produced looked at documents and financial papers from as early as the 1860s.

These documents show how the university profited from the transatlantic slave trade and that its founding was financially supported by families involved in the slave trade.

You can find and fill out the online consultation here. 

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