The Slave Trade and the British Empire: An Audit of Commemoration in Wales
Wales has a Black history going back at least 2000 years
Part of that history is Welsh associations with the slave trade and imperialism. Reminders of this are represented in monuments, street names and buildings in honour of people whose actions are now recognised as crimes against humanity. But Black history is not just of oppression and subjugation. There are numerous examples of contributions made by Black people to Welsh life and culture that are rarely commemorated in monuments, our built environment or in any permanent form.
In July 2020 the First Minister appointed a Task and Finish Group, led by Gaynor Legall, to audit public monuments, street and building names in Wales with the purpose of understanding where, why and how many are associated with slavery and the British Empire in Africa and the West Indies. It was also asked to research and identify historical figures of Black heritage in Wales, who may or may not have been commemorated for their achievements.
The findings of the group were published in The Slave Trade and the British Empire: An Audit of Commemoration in Wales (November 2020 and revised in December 2021).
The audit contains tables identifying 201 people who took part in the African slave trade, people who owned or directly benefitted from plantations or mines worked by the enslaved, people who opposed abolition of the slave trade or slavery, and people accused of crimes against Black people, notably in colonial Africa, along with biographical information and a brief discussion of culpability.
It found 56 monuments, 93 public buildings and places, and 440 street names associated with them.
The list of monuments identifies the person commemorated, and gives a brief description of the monument and its history. For public buildings and places and streets, the audit gives information on type and location and summarises the evidence of association – sometimes establishing that there is none.
The more positive aspect of the audit identifies 41 historically significant people of Black heritage in Wales, three of which are already commemorated here, and those others who might be commemorated in future.
The purpose of the audit was to gather evidence and capture information: It is not intended as a list of statues to be removed or of names to be changed, but to enable and honest appraisal of what we have inherited, and to help us to produce a balanced account of the past.