Liverpool streets to be considered for slavery memorials

Plaques could be placed around the city to acknowledge its central role in slave trading.

The Liver Building in Liverpool
The Liver Building in Liverpool

The first of 20 streets in Liverpool have been named for consideration for plaques to explain their links to the city’s involvement with the slave trade.

The streets are all linked with slavery in some way, such as being named after slavers or places connected with the trade.

Liverpool City Council agreed in January to place plaques and other notices on statues, buildings, monuments and street names to explain the city’s heritage.

The city grew immensely wealthy of the back of the slave trade, becoming the most important port in Europe involved in the business.

Joe Anderson file photo
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson (Peter Byrne/PA)

Announcing the move to mark Slavery Remembrance Day on Sunday August 23, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present. I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past.

“It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about these issues.

“We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city feels about it.

“As we understand our past we can also focus on our future for the black and BAME communities in our city.”

The death of George Floyd while being arrested by US police in May sparked international condemnation and spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting historic injustices
suffered by African Americans and black people across the world.

It led to a re-examination of Britain’s historic role in slave trading and a mob tearing down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Black Lives Matter protests
Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol (Ben Birchall PA)

An advisory panel in Liverpool recommended the creation of Eric Lynch Slavery Memorial Plaques, named in honour of Eric Lynch, an honorary Ghanaian chief who is a descendent of African slaves and spent his life drawing attention to the city’s slavery history.

His son, Andrew Lynch, said: “These plaques are a tribute to Eric’s long years of work as a black community activist and educator, teaching the people of Liverpool to acknowledge and understand their historic inheritance in an honest and open way, and uncovering the true contribution made by black people throughout the growth and life of our great city.”

Suitable locations for plaques are now being looked at in each of the streets.

Michelle Charters, chairwoman of the advisory panel, and Eric Lynch’s son, Andrew, in Falkner Square, one of the places being considered for a slavery memorial plaque (Liverpool City Council/PA)

Dr Richard Benjamin, head of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, said: “We are witnessing debates about problematic monuments, decolonising museum spaces and education systems, and social movements such as Black Lives Matter are rightly gaining global attention. Museums need to be at the forefront of these conversations.

“We will continue to work closely with the council, local communities, historians and other cultural partners to make sure that Liverpool leads the way in acknowledging its past – so that as a city we can progress.”

From about 1500 to the mid-1860s, millions of Africans were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic by Europeans and Americans to work, especially on plantations.

Liverpool became the centre of the trade in Europe, with major merchants and citizens of the city, including many of its mayors and MPs, profiteering from slavery, while Liverpool’s Custom House became the single largest contributor to the British Exchequer.

The International Slavery Museum estimates Liverpool ships carried about 1.5 million slaves, half of the three million Africans brought across the Atlantic by British slavers.

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