Jesus College to remove memorial of slave trade investor Tobias Rustat

‘The Library is also considering remodelling the Rustat endowment fund’

Jesus College has decided to remove a large marble memorial dedicated to prolific slave trade investor Tobias Rustat from their college chapel. This decision comes after recommendations made by the chair of the Legacy of Slavery Working Party.

Rustat, who was a benefactor to the college, invested heavily in the Royal African Company which shipped more slaves to the Americas than any other institution during the transatlantic slave trade. In the 18th century, Rustat commissioned the memorial, which commemorates his ‘works of charity’ during his life.

In an update posted on the college website, Master of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, said: “The college’s council has considered all areas where Rustat is present in college and made a series of decisions in the honest spirit of acknowledging the past and shaping an inclusive future.”

A portrait of slave trader investor Tobias Rustat, a former benefactor of Jesus College (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons License)

Once removed, the college will instead install a commemorative plaque that acknowledges both Rustat and the college’s role in the slave trade, which will be placed at the main college entrance. The old memorial is said to be moving to a space for educational exhibition.

The Church of England, according to the College’s announcement, “is very supportive of our considerations and will make a decision about our proposal over the next few months.”

Rustat’s name will remain on the college’s wall of donors, and his coat of arms will not be removed from a 19th-century stained glass window. However, a portrait of him will be taken down and will only ever be displayed for educational reasons.

Last week, the University of Cambridge said that it is considering removing a separate statue of Rustat which stands at The Old Schools overlooking West Court near Trinity Lane, the original site of the University Library.

The Library is also considering remodelling the Rustat endowment fund which generates around £5,000 per year. Their aim is to redirect the fund in order to support active research into the slave trade and its legacy. Jesus College is now running an internship programme whereby eight students will research the college’s links to the slave trade.

Dr Véronique Mottier, Chair of the Legacy of Slavery Working Party at Jesus College, has said: “Our aim is not to erase Rustat from our history. We have taken a nuanced approach, considering where he is explicitly celebrated versus where he is mentioned in a factual manner. The LSWP will now support the work needed to carry out these decisions.”

Feature Image Credit: Peter Church (via Creative Commons License)