London Metropolitan University has announced that it will be renaming The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design to remove the name of the prominent slave trader.
The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University, which is commonly known as The Cass, was named after a 17th-century slave trader. The organisation will now be renamed.
“Following consultation with the students’ union, staff, and our board of governors we have taken the decision to remove the name of Sir John Cass from our Art, Architecture and Design School,” said Lynn Dobbs, vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, in a statement published on the university’s website.
Use of Cass name contributes to his “redemption”
London Metropolitan University made the decision following an increased awareness in the UK over the treatment of slave traders, following the toppling of a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol at the weekend. Colston was a 17th-century slave trader who was responsible for the death of at least 30,000 people.
“We recognise that the use of Sir John Cass’ name contributes to the redemption of a man without acknowledging the enormous pain he caused as a major figure in the early development of the slave trade, and the legacy of this pain,” continued Dobbs.
“The use of his name is incompatible with our commitment to support the Black community and to actively oppose racism in all forms.”
The institution is named after Cass as it traces its routes to the Sir John Cass Technical Institute, which was established in 1899 by the Sir John Cass’s Foundation – a charity established after his death in 1748.
Through a succession of mergers in the 20th century the institution was renamed The Sir John Cass College and then The Sir John Cass School of Art, before becoming The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in 2012.
“We have a total commitment to oppose racism”
A new name for the architecture and design has not yet been decided upon.
“The school name will change in consultation with our students, staff, governors and alumni. Until we reach a decision, it will be known as The School of Art, Architecture and Design,” said Dobbs.
“I apologise that we haven’t taken this step before now. We have a total commitment to oppose racism and should have addressed the name of the school sooner.”
The architecture and design school was one of many institutions to be named after the slave trader. In London, these include Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City of London, Sir John Cass Redcoat School in east London and the Cass Business School, which is part of City University.
Following the removal of Colston’s statue, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced a review of statues and street names in the city. A statue of slave trader Robert Milligan was removed from outside the London Museum of Docklands yesterday.
The increased awareness in the UK follows a series of worldwide protests against racial inequality following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last week. Architects and designers have reacted in support of the protests by creating informative illustrations.
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