Bristol University to remove slave trader Colston’s emblem from logo

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But it's not changing the names of its buildings named after Wills and Fry despite calls to do so  

The University of Bristol has announced plans to remove slave trader Edward Colston’s dolphin emblem from its logo.   

The decision is part of a new £10m ‘Reparative Futures’ programme by the university to tackle racial injustice and inequality.  

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The ten-year programme has been set up following consultation asking if seven university buildings connected to families and figures associated with enslavement should be renamed.     

But the university has decided not to change the name of its buildings, including those named after Wills and Fry, despite calls to do so.      

The university says it received mixed feedback from more than 4,000 respondents to its building renaming consultation over the past 12 months.  

It says respondents felt it was ‘crucial to acknowledge and explain the past, explaining the historical significance of these figures in terms of their relationships with the university.’  

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Following the consultation, the university has decided to remove Edward Colston’s dolphin emblem from the university logo.  

The university received no funding from 17th century investor in the slave trade, who died nearly 200 years before the university was founded, but his personal emblem – the dolphin – formed part of the institution’s crest and modern logo.      

The university says the sun symbol of the Wills family and the horse emblem of the Fry’s will, however, remain on the logo, reflecting the wider decision around retaining building names.  

It has decided to retain all current names of buildings, including Wills and Fry, but says it will ensure their full stories and historic connections to the university are made visible.  

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The Wills and Fry families helped found the university in the early 20th century through substantial financial gifts. 

While the families did not own or traffic in enslaved people, the products that their 18th and early 19th century predecessors dealt in - such as tobacco, sugar and cocoa - were connected to enslaved labour. 

Professor Evelyn Welch, Bristol University vice-chancellor and president, has written an open letter explaining the decisions in more detail and apologising to those who have experienced racism and racist behaviours at the university. 

She said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to our survey both online and at in-person sessions, including several powerful and impactful events that were led by local Bristol communities of African and Caribbean descent.  

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“Throughout, I heard many distressing stories from those who had experienced racism and racist behaviours while engaging with, working at, or studying at the University of Bristol. What began as a consultation on our history and building renaming became a powerful platform to expose deep hurt and frustration with our slow progress and commitment to racial equity. 

“I am deeply sorry for these damaging and hurtful experiences which continue to the present day, and I apologise to everyone impacted by those injustices. We aspire to be an inclusive institution and we must do better.   

“I know that some of these decisions will not please everybody – but we have listened carefully. We must tell our history in an honest, open and transparent way, while at the same time putting our full weight behind substantive action to address the broader issues of systemic racism and inequality here in Bristol and beyond."

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