Hackney road sign removed over slave trade links

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville (centre) with members of the Community Steering Group. Pic: Wayne Crichlow

The name sign of a road in Hackney was removed over the weekend as part of on-going initiative to rename public spaces in the borough named after slave traders.

Hackney Council began a review of street and park names following the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, which sparked a debate about the way historical figures with links to the slave trade are commemorated in the public sphere.

Situated close to Victoria Park, Cassland Road Gardens and surrounding roads – named after Sir John Cass, a 17th century philanthropist and slave trader – were one of the first areas identified by the review, along with the Geffrye Museum, which has since been renamed as the Museum of the Home.

Sir John Cass
Cass was born to in 1661 in London. In 1705 he was one of the leading merchants of the Royal African Company, which traded in gold, silver, ivory and slaves. He played a key role in developing the transatlantic slave trade.
Cass used his wealth to fund philanthropic causes, such as establishing free schools in Aldgate. Sir John Cass’s Foundation, a charity in his name, was established in 1748. The charity exists to this day, providing educational support in East London. Also named after him was Cass Business School, which is part of City, University of London.

“The names of slave owners and those responsible for taking the lives of so many Black people, should not be honoured in our community,” said councillor Carole Williams.

It is still uncertain what the name of the gardens will be changed to. An online consultation with Hackney residents is scheduled for December 9. During the consultation, residents will be able to discuss their concerns with members of the renaming committee as well as suggest ideas for new names.

This follows the launch of the ‘Naming Hub’, an interactive name bank where Hackney residents can submit their ideas for new street names. The suggestions so far have included the Hackney-born rock star Marc Bolan, as well as James Boston, a local bus driver and “community pillar” who ran Hackney’s Afro-Caribbean Citizens Club for decades.

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