THE controversial Cecil Rhodes statue in Oxford has been recommended to be taken down by Oriel College.
The famous college made the recommendation after an outcry over his links with Britain’s colonial past by Black Lives Matter protesters.
⚠️ Click here for the latest news on Black Lives Matter
The Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign group had called for the image of the controversial mining magnate and empire builder to be removed from Oriel College, arguing the university has “failed to address its institutional racism”.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered in front of the Rhodes statue on the High Street in Oxford recently as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will chair an independent commission into the issue.
Announcing it was launching an independent public inquiry into the key issues surrounding the statue, a statement by the College said: “The Governing Body of Oriel College has today voted to launch an independent Commission of Inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.
“They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque.
“This is what they intend to convey to the Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Who was Cecil Rhodes?
CECIL Rhodes was a 19th century mining magnate who helped Victorian Britain colonise much of Southern Africa and held opinions that now offend modern values.
Rhodes was one of the era’ most famous imperialists, with Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe and Zambia – named after him.
Born in Bishop’s Stortford in 1853, he was a sickly child before
heading to Africa aged 17.
He grew cotton before moving into diamond mining, founding the De Beers firm.
As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896, his government restricted the rights of black Africans by setting financial qualifications for voting.
He attended Oriel College in 1873. On his death in 1902 the Rhodes Scholarship was set up to help non-British students study at Oxford.
Rhodes Scholars include Bill Clinton and three former Australian PMs.
Students campaigned to have the figure of Victorian empire builder torn down in 2016 over claims he was a racist.
But Oriel College decided to keep it following threats from wealthy donors to withdraw £100million in funding.
“Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection, and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.
“The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st-century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.”
An open letter from campaigners to the university’s vice-chancellor claimed the institution has only made “inconsequential inroads” into tackling the material legacy of imperialism, adding it “is not enough”.
Thousands of people signed two petitions calling for the statue of colonialist Rhodes at Oriel College to be taken down.
A student at Oriel in his youth, Rhodes left the college money and also endowed the Rhodes Scholarships, which have allowed more than 8,000 students from countries around the world, including former US President Bill Clinton, to study at Oxford.
The mining magnate was a central figure in Britain’s colonial project in southern Africa, giving his name to Rhodesia, present-day Zimbabwe, and founding the De Beers diamond empire.
It comes amid a wider “decolonise” movement sweeping universities across the world in recent years.
The Rhodes Must Fall movement was established in 2015 at Cape Town University, and later spread to Oxford, where students demanded the statue of Rhodes was removed from Oriel College.
In 2016, Oriel College decided to keep the statue following threats from wealthy donors to withdraw £100million in funding.
Elsewhere today work started in central London to remove the metal boards covering Sir Winston Churchill’s statue ahead of the French president’s visit to London tomorrow.
Sir Winston’s statue, along with those of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, was boarded up on June 12, after it was defaced with graffiti saying he was a “racist” during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
The news comes after a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped into Bristol Harbour during a recent Black Lives Matter protest.