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Jesus College host legacy of slavery talks with the UN Working Group

The UN visit Jesus College to discuss the legacy of racism and slavery


Last week, Jesus College was visited by members of the United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African descent as part of a UK-wide fact finding visit, critically examining the situation of people of African descent in the UK and any present problems and offering up recommendations. Jesus hosted a talk in College, discussing the continuous impact of African Chattel slavery, as they also explored recommendations for reparatory justice.

A discussion was also had about the return of a Benin Bronze to Nigeria by the College in October 2021. Jesus was the first institution to do so, thereby setting a precedent for others. The delegation also visited the memorial in the College’ chapel to Tobias Rustat, who was a benefactor of and invested in the slave trade and had been involved in the slave trading company e Royal African Company, during which time he made donations to the College.

In February 2022, this memorial was subject to a high-profile Consistory Court case, and the College was denied the permission to move it to a more appropriate exhibition space. Following this, the College called for the urgent reform of Church of England’s process to ensure cases of contested memorialisation are dealt with in the correct and sensitive manner.

Master of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, thanked the UN Working Group for the “opportunity to contribute to this fact-finding exercise which seeks to improve the human rights situation for people of African descent who continue to experience racial discrimination and the ongoing effects of the legacies of the trade and trafficking of enslaved people.”

She also stated that, “As members of an academic community, we were able to offer our perspective on access to and thriving in education, cultural rights, restitution, reparatory justice and good examples of positive actions.”

The UK-wide fact finding visit takes place every decade and the delegates present are also visiting Manchester, Birmingham, London and Bristol. There they will meet with Government representatives, national institutions, people of African descent, lawyers, civil society organisations and individuals working on issues of racism and racial discrimination.

The preliminary findings and recommendations were announced on the 27th of January, followed by the publication of a detailed report, which shall be presented by the Working Group to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September of this year.

Featured image credits: Jesus College, Cambridge