Lambeth Council has announced plans for a public debate on slavery-related monuments and street names in the borough.  

The ‘public listening exercise’ is set to feed into assessing and reviewing locations in Lambeth with historic direct and indirect links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade (TAST) and colonialism. 

In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of US police in May, the council announced it would be reviewing all public landmarks, statues, and works of art in the borough to identify any links to “slavery, colonialism, and oppression of black communities”.   

A council review group, commissioned by the cabinet member for equalities and culture,Councillor Sonia Winifred, found that a small number of Lambeth street names have “clear associations with TAST” and “historic exploitative economic expansion” during the early 18th century. 

The review noted that “a number of memorials and statues also commemorate key individuals’ who were involved in TAST, profited from TAST directly or via links with family”. 

It also found statues and tombs in cemeteries and across the borough “which mark families who were involved in TAST or profited from it, or similar economic policies which exploited people living in the Caribbean, India and Africa”. 

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Cllr Winifred is leading the review

Cllr Winifred said: “I announced the review earlier this summer following the appalling killing of George Floyd in the USA and the mobilisation of the 2020 Black Lives Matter campaign.  

“As a proudly diverse borough which has previously taken a lead on commemorating Black leaders in the late 20th century, we must now chart a new route forward to look at proposals to review existing troubling or historic links and assess whether we can legally suggest new names or commemorations to mark the lives and contributions to key people who have made Lambeth the place we know today.  

“We will establish a community listening exercise later this month.” 

The listening exercise is set to include invitations to Lambeth residents, community, faith-based organisations and the wider voluntary community sector to debate and discuss the past and develop potential new names and commemorations.  

There are also plans to review and amend the existing curriculum in schools around the history of slavery and how the British economy developed in the 17th and 18th century. 

This will include decisions such as the use of slavery, its eventual abolition in 1807, and then implemented across the British Empire in 1811. 

The process is expected to be confirmed in mid-October, with listening events set for later this month.  

Cllr Winifred said: “No one should assume this will be an easy process.  

“Renaming is often controversial and will involve a range of views on the road ahead.  

“There are also legal obstacles in the way that prevent a rapid re-naming of things like street names.” 

Cllr Winifred said it is “crucial” that the council engages as much of the community as possible. 

The full list of locations and place-names reviewed by the process will be made publicly available as the final announcement on dates and shape of the listening exercise and debate are agreed.  

In its submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission last month for the upcoming ward shake-up in 2022, the council proposed changing the names of Vassall and Thurlow Park wards over links with slavery.

It said later that it was also considering changing a third, Tulse Hill.