24 March 2022
Cambridge Green Party and Cambridge Young Greens have today written to the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Ely to express our disagreement with their recent decision regarding the Rustat plaque at Jesus College. The full text of our letter is below.
Open Letter from Cambridge Green Party and Young Greens to the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Ely, regarding the Jesus College Rustat memorial
24 March 2022
Dear Hon. Judge Anthony Leonard, Q.C,
We write to express in the strongest terms our disappointment with the conclusion of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Ely to block the removal of the Rustat memorial from Jesus College Chapel. We agree with recent comments from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby denouncing the obstacles faced by the relocation process, and reiterate our support for the removal of the plaque from the wall of the Chapel.
Following recommendations from the Jesus College Legacy of Slavery Working Party, the College took the decision in 2020 to request the relocation of a plaque commemorating Tobias Rustat from the wall of the Chapel to an educational display within the College. In the 17th century, Tobias Rustat was an investor of the Royal African Company, a trading company responsible for abducting many thousands of enslaved men, women and children and transporting them to the Americas, as well as an important benefactor of Jesus College. The proposal to remove the plaque comes as part of a larger effort from the College to examine its legacy in the context of slavery and racial injustice.
Rustat’s involvement in the slave trade is well evidenced and the opposition to the presence of his memorial in the chapel is well documented by Jesus College. We as a country, on the background of the British Empire and colonialism have ruthlessly profited from the enslavement of fellow humans via organisations such as the Royal African Company, the aftermath of which is still being felt today via widespread systemic racism which touches every aspect of our society.
The removal of memorials such the plaque dedicated to Tobias Rustat is the least that we should do as a society to face up to the atrocities our ancestors committed in the pursuit of profit. We applaud Jesus College for making a stand against the celebration of individuals who profited from slavery and urge the Consistory Court to reconsider its decision.
We encourage other Colleges to reflect on their historic links with the transatlantic slave trade in a similar way, in tandem with the University of Cambridge Advisory Group on Legacies of Enslavement, in order to progress from an uncritical celebration of supporters like Tobias Rustat to a more nuanced understanding of the University’s heritage.
We further call on everyone in Cambridge to critically reflect and engage in dialogue to end racial inequalities in this country, and globally to halt the progression of climate breakdown which will cause untold loss of life in the Global South.
Hannah Charlotte Copley (Green Party City Councillor) and Chloe Mosonyi (postgraduate students at the University of Cambridge)
on behalf of Cambridge Green Party and Cambridge Young Greens