Bristol Uni’s History Society rejects university crest due to slave trade links

The society said the crest ‘is at odds with the values of our committee and also the wider community’

The University of Bristol’s History Society has decided not to add the university’s crest to its fleeces due to its links with slavery.

While all other society fleeces display the crest, History Society has chosen to replace it with its own logo as it believes it glorifies families who profited from the slave trade.

This comes after a year-long public consultation recently resulted in Bristol University altering its crest by removing the dolphin emblem of Edward Colston, who was heavily involved in a mercantile company that transported enslaved Africans to the Americas during the 17th century.

However, it was decided that the sun symbol of the Wills family and the horse symbol of the Fry family would remain on the crest.

While the families neither owned nor trafficked enslaved individuals, both dealt with products, such as tobacco, sugar and cocoa, that were connected to enslaved labour.

Bristol Uni’s decision to keep their symbols, due to the “substantial financial gifts” the families provided to help establish the institution, is what prompted History Society to reject the crest.

Discussing their decision on Instagram, History Society said: “We have chosen to use our society’s logo instead of the university’s, due to the glorification of family names who profited from enslaved trafficking, labour and products.

“We decided this as a committee before the university announced they would remove the Colston dolphin from their logo.

“This is not limited to just Colston; the Wills (Sun) and Fry (Horse) families also have problematic histories regarding the trafficking of enslaved persons.

“We do not want to exhibit the crest, knowing this history, as it is at odds with the values of our committee and also the wider community.”

Speaking exclusively to The Bristol Tab, it added: “We posted what we believe is important to say about the university’s crest and our reasons for not using it in our merchandise.

“We are proud of our decision and hope to emphasise the problematic histories of the Wills and Fry families, not just Colston.”

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “The University of Bristol Students’ Union, democratically led by students, is home to over 350 sports clubs and societies, including the History Society, and it is their choice how they use their clubs and societies logo.

“We announced last November, following a public consultation with students, staff and local communities, that Edward Colston’s dolphin emblem will be removed from the university logo. The sun symbol of the Wills family and the horse emblem of the Fry’s will remain reflecting the wider decision around retaining building names.

“We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision. But we cannot forget our connection to our founders – even if that connection is uncomfortable. Because it is through education and awareness that we create positive change.”

The University of Bristol Students’ Union has been approached for comment.

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