On Saturday 21 August 2021 Hackney Stand Up to Racism and their allies will be protesting outside the Museum of the Home to demand their statue of the C17th slaver Robert Geffrye comes down.
Hoxton’s Museum of the Home reopened in June 2021 after a three-year closure for renovation. The Museum of the Home used to be called The Geffrye Museum because it is based in 18th century alms-houses by Sir Robert Geffrye (1613 -1703).
A statue of Robert Geffrye has stood over the building since 1912.
Geffrye made his fortune from his involvement in the North Atlantic Slave Trade. He had shares in the Royal African Company and part-owned the slave ship CHINA MERCHANT. The Royal African Company sent more than 500 slave ships to West Africa between 1672 and 1713 enslaving people from their homes in Benin, Nigeria, Gambia, and the Gold Coast who were sold to plantation owners in Barbados, Jamaica, Nevis, Virginia, and Antigua. Historian Dr Sean Kingsley has studied 279 voyages undertaken by the Royal African Company between 1672 and 1713 and has found of the 65,411 Africans trafficked to servitude in the Caribbean, 14,668 died in the crossing.
The Museum of the Home acknowledges that Robert Geffrye “profited directly from the buying and selling of human beings.”
The removal of the statue of the 17th century Bristol slaver Edward Colston by BLACK LIVES MATTER protesters on the 7 June 2020 led many institutions to re-evaluate their monuments to slavers. The board of trustees of the Museum of the Home opened a public consultation in partnership with Hackney Council over what should be done with their statue of Geffrye.
71% of those who responded to Museum of the Home’s consultation said they wanted Geffrye’s statue taken down. The government, via culture secretary Oliver Dowden, bullied the Museum’s board of trustees to keep the statue of Geffrye standing.
In January 2021, the housing, communities, and local government secretary Robert Jenrick showed what the government believes is the “right approach” when he announced legislation was being drawn up to “protect” statues of slavers from “baying mobs” and “woke worthies.” People who forcibly take down statues of slavers face up to 10 years in prison if the Police, Crime, Sentencing Courts Bill becomes law.
But ours is a movement that won’t be stopped. The Guardian estimates 30 statues, plaques, and other memorials to those who profited from slavery have been removed since Colston’s statue fell. They include the statue to the 18th century slave trader Robert Milligan which was removed from its place outside the Museum of London Docklands in June 2020 when officials realised that “it was no longer acceptable to the local community.”
In August 2020, The British Museum announced they were removing the bust of their founder Hans Sloane and were putting it on display in the museum where his involvement in the Jamaican slave trade would be fully exposed. On 21 January 2021 legislators in the City of London announced they were removing the statues of the slavers William Beckford and Sir John Cass from the City’s Great Hall and Guildhall. If the City of London and The British Museum can remove monuments to slavers, then why can’t The Museum of the Home?
Those of us who say #GeffryeMustFall have been accused on wanting to “cancel culture and “re-write history” but it is Dowden and Jenrick and Boris Johnson’s government who want a distorted and obscure history. Geffrye’s says nothing about how he made his wealth. We want more history – not less. We want the whole story to be told – not a myth which tells us Geffrye was a “philanthropist” but not how he made his money. We say the trustees of the Museum of the Home should take the statue down and display it in the Museum with his involvement in the slave trade made open and transparent.
Join us at noon on Saturday, 21 August 2021 to tell the trustees of the Museum of the Home that #GeffryeMustFall.