Newcastle Students will vote on renaming the Armstrong Building

Armstrong sold arms to slaveowners in the American Civil War

Students are being given the opportunity to vote on whether the Armstrong Building should be renamed or contextualised, the Students’ Union has announced.

The vote affords three options for students: to keep the name of the building but provide a plaque with further information on Armstrong’s history, to change the name, or to abstain from the vote completely.

Students will be given until 12pm on Monday 22nd June to vote. Although the vote will not change things directly, it will be used to inform the University on student opinion and advise them on further action.

The link to the vote can be found here.

The controversy surrounding Lord William Armstrong (whom the Armstrong building is named after) comes from his history as an arms trader and his links to the slave trade. Armstrong was a 19th-century industrialist and arms manufacturer who sold his guns to both sides in the American Civil War. Thus, he supported the slave-holding Confederacy as well as the slave-freeing Union – and made a fortune from doing so. Armstrong furthermore founded Jesmond Dene, the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Hancock Museum and has therefore been an influential figure in Newcastle’s history.

The Black Lives Matter movement has prompted an increased awareness surrounding the glorification of British colonial figures, sparked by protestors in Bristol tearing down a statue of slave-trader Edward Colston.

In a post on the Students’ Union website, the NUSU President and NUSU Welfare and Equality officer stated: “The Black Lives Matter Movement has stimulated and promulgated action towards equality, and here at Newcastle University we must do more.”

“As a University that prides itself on social justice- helping to educate and fight against global issues and injustices like racism and war- and being student-led in many forms of its action, part of this process calls to action a re-evaluation of what we deem to be the correct form of remembrance, and for the student voice to be recognised here.”

More information on Armstrong’s history can be found on the Students’ Union website.

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