Activists cautiously welcome decision as Oxford college’s board supports removing Cecil Rhodes statue – by Paul Waldie (Globe and Mail – June 19, 2020)

Few statues in Britain have been more controversial than the stone figure of Cecil Rhodes that has stood in front of Oxford University’s Oriel College for more than a century.

The 122-centimetre depiction of the British diamond merchant has been sitting atop the Rhodes Building at Oriel since 1911 and has long been seen as a symbol of the country’s dark history of slave trading and empire building.

While Rhodes is best known as the creator of the Rhodes Scholarship and the founder of De Beers Group, he is also notorious for benefiting from slave labour and for his belief that the “Anglo-Saxon race” is “the best, the most human, most honourable race the world possesses.”

For years, Oriel’s governing body refused to remove the statue of its infamous alumnus despite repeated calls from students, faculty and the public. But now, amid the international outcry over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the college has relented.

On Wednesday, the board of governors voted to launch an independent commission “into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue” and supported removing the monument, as well as a plaque on another building that commemorates Rhodes.

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