LONDON (AP) – British officials said on Thursday that the grave of an enslaved African man was destroyed in an apparent “retaliatory attack” after anti-racist protesters in the city of Bristol toppled the statue of a prominent slave trader.
Two gravestones in memory of Scipio Africanus, who lived in Bristol in the 18th century, were destroyed. A nearby chalk message asked to restore the statue of Edward Colston.
“Look what you made me do … put the Colstons statue back, or it will get really hot,” the report said.
Earlier this month, protesters attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration knocked over a bronze statue of Colston from their plinth in central Bristol. The statue was dragged to the harbor and dumped in the water.
The wrecked grave, a brightly painted memorial in a graveyard in Henbury, Bristol, is listed as a structure of historical interest that must be preserved.
“This appears to be a retaliatory attack on the recent events with the Colston statue,” said local official Mark Weston.
“I am absolutely upset. The listed grave is part of the history of the community. To see it damaged intentionally has upset many residents,” he told Sky News.
Police said they received reports of criminal damage to a monument in Henbury Parish Church. It said it believed the incident occurred on Tuesday or Wednesday and that everyone came forward with information.
The Diocese of Bristol said it was “shocked and sad” to hear about the damage.
“We are in contact with the municipality and the police about the incident and are praying for peace and reconciliation,” said a statement.
Historic England said the grave was valuable evidence for research into the “cloudy early history of black people in England.” It said the grave was an early example of a memorial to a man born into slavery who ended his life as a servant in an English aristocratic household. He died on December 12, 1720.
During his lifetime, Scipio Africanus was a servant of Charles Howard, the 7th Earl of Suffolk.
“We know very little about the lives of individual men, women and children brought to England as slaves. Graves are one of the few forms of tangible evidence regarding the existence of slaves in England, and such graves are rare; the vast majority died without a trace, “Historic England said on its website.
“This account of the history of Scipio Africanus reminds us of the many histories that have been lost.”
Monuments and statues around the world related to colonialism and the slave trade have become flashpoints amid global anti-racism protests.
Bristol officials have picked up the statue of Colston and said it will be on display in a museum, along with signs of the anti-racism protest.
On Wednesday, Oxford University’s Oriel College said its governing body voted to remove a statue of the Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes after a long running student campaign to remove it.
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