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Val Potter
BBC - Val Potter
UK News

Plaque commemorating 18th century slave owner to be removed from church

by Kelly Valencia

A church in Dorchester has temporarily covered a plaque commemorating plantation owner John Gordon.

St Peter´s Council decided to remove the stone in a vote last month after campaigners raised concerns about its offensive description. But as the process of removal can take months, the committee decided to cover the plaque in the meantime.  

The stone celebrated how John Gordon had managed to suppress a slave rebellion in Jamaica.

Churchwarden, Val Potter, told Premier that the kind of language used in the memorial does not represent the values of today’s society.  

“This is not just about a wealthy person who made his money out of plantations using slave labour. It explicitly refers to an action he took about putting down a rebellion in which 450 enslaved people were killed and it used racial language that is totally unacceptable today."

She went on to say that although some church members proposed to leave the memorial in the church so people could “contemplate flawed humanity”, the majority felt that the educational message would be “better told in a museum than in the church.”

Anti-racist activists have been campaigning on statues and memorials increasingly since the start of the Black Live Matters demonstrations that saw a controversial statue of Edward Colston taken down.

Potter encouraged other churches that might have similar memorials to start a conversation with their community and involve them in the decision-making process.

“I think what churches need to do is talk to their local communities. We have, all the way through, spoken with all the relevant organisations, the multicultural network and Stand Up To Racism Dorset.”

The church is legally obliged to go through a long process to remove the stone, which Potter compares to “the church equivalent of a planning process.”

Campaigners have welcomed and praised the church council for their efforts to remove the stone.

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