“This is not about erasing history [...] this is about facing up to Britain’s colonial past”Chris Loades

A group of Jesus College alumni have written an open letter to the master of the College, supporting the College’s proposal to remove plaque of Vicar Tobias Rustat, who had involvement in the slave trade, from the college chapel.

The open letter shows support for the plaque to be relocated to a place “where it can be understood in its full context.”

Tobias Rustat, whose father attended Jesus College in the 1580s, was a significant benefactor to the College. He also had “financial and other” involvement in the Royal African Company (RAC), a slave trading company “over a substantial period of time including at the time when he donated to the College.”

Given Rustat’s involvement in the RAC, the letter states that the plaque is “completely incompatible with the Chapel and College as an inclusive space for the whole College community.”

Following the recommendation of its Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), the College announced in November 2020 that it had made a proposal to the Church of England authorities to remove Rustat’s memorial.

“We fully supported the recommendations from the legacy of slavery working party to remove the plaque from its current location as it represents a celebration of Rustat”, the letter states.

“This is not about erasing history”, it continues; “this is about facing up to Britain’s colonial past, understanding that times have changed and taking appropriate steps to contextualise artefacts and educate the community.”


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The letter also references the “number of alumni” who are in opposition to the College’s proposal and have used legal means to try to prevent the College from removing the memorial. The authors emphasise that they “want to make clear that these individuals do not speak for all alumni of Jesus College”.

It continues: “Over the last few years we have watched with interest as the College has embarked on the Legacy of Slavery Inquiry to address the College’s long-term legacies of slavery and colonialism. This work is long overdue and timely. It is important that the College faces up to all aspects of its history and takes the necessary steps to address it.”

“We will continue to voice our support for the removal of the plaque from Chapel to the relevant Church of England authorities to ensure that the College is able to take the necessary steps to fully address its history.”