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The UWI agrees to change Milner Hall name; CRFP celebrates historic decision

“The spirit of Independence and the Treaty of Chaguaramas which created the Caribbean Community are not dead. It sends a clear message to the world that the people of this region have the capacity to understand their past, the courage to confront it and the will and moral character to choose a better future.”

The following is a media statement issued by the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project on The UWI’s decision to change the name of Milner Hall:

Photo: UWI’s Milner Hall.

After a successful series of meetings with students starting in 2016, on June 22nd, the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (CRFP) wrote to Professor Brian Copeland, Principal of the St Augustine Campus, calling for the University of the West Indies (UWI) to disassociate itself from the self-professed racist and imperialist criminal Lord Viscount Alfred Milner, whose name has for the last 90 years adorned the oldest hall of residence on that campus.

Today, some four months later, we are proud to share the historic news that the UWI has announced an official decision to do just that.

This tells us that the spirit of Independence and the Treaty of Chaguaramas which created the Caribbean Community are not dead. It sends a clear message to the world that the people of this region have the capacity to understand their past, the courage to confront it and the will and moral character to choose a better future.

Let us salute Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles for his astute and forthright leadership on this issue and commend all the stakeholders—from governments to graduates—who accepted the recommendation of senior management, backed by the report of Pro Vice Chancellor Professor of South African Studies, Allan Cobley, which concluded that “Lord Milner is not a fit and proper person to be revered by the University of the West Indies.”

According to a UWI official communiqué, this report sets out, among other things, “Lord Milner’s political identity as a self-proclaimed ‘British race supremacist;’ his role as a formulator of British racial theory in which he described Africans as ‘savages;’ the part he played as a founder of the criminal system of racial apartheid which was institutionalised in South Africa in 1948; the principal part he played as an architect of brutal Indian indentured servitude in the colony; his role as a proponent of military colonialism in Africa and Asia as the God-given right of the English; and his function as an aggressive imperialist who is known for his part in crimes against humanity committed in Africa.”

Photo: The late Viscount Alfred Milner.

Elaborating on a point previously highlighted by the CRFP’s campaign, the report also makes the connection between Milner’s plans for British global supremacy and the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA), which became the Faculty of Agriculture at UWI’s St Augustine Campus in 1963. The ICTA was not established, as some believe, to educate locals; it was designed to “train white colonialists, with a view to creating a pool of frontier farmers to settle on lands in the Empire taken from natives.”

Milner’s active political hostility to the human and civil rights of Africans, Asians and indigenous people is also cited as “propelling his anger” towards Indian nationalists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Caribbean Pan-Africanists such as Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey and Barbadian/Trinidadian Henry Sylvester Williams, whom he saw as “dangerous subverters of Empire.”

The CRFP has asked the University to consider Williams as an appropriate alternative to Milner, particularly since it was discovered that his travels took him to practise law in South Africa, where he opposed the efforts of Milner and his colleagues to establish their racialized system of oppression.

For the CRFP, this victory is momentous in and of itself but it is also momentous because of its potential to give impetus to other similar campaigns locally, regionally and internationally. The organisation will now focus more squarely on its efforts to remove all reverential statues of Christopher Columbus and replace the welcome sign at Lopinot Estate which invites visitors to pay homage to the slave master and his wife, described as “illustrious,” while ridiculing the people they worked until death as “loyal slaves.”

Photo: A statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence, Rhode Island.

It is our organisations firm belief that the continued public veneration of iniquitous colonial administrators and enslavers like Count Lopinot and those who committed crimes against humanity like Christopher Columbus and Milner are a burden not just on our history and our conscience but our character as well.

We look forward to a day when, to inspire future generations to greater possibilities, our best values, as exemplified by Caribbean heroines and heroes such as Sylvester Williams, will replace the heedless and unthinking celebration of colonial violence that abounds in our public spaces,

Further information on the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project can be had by visiting their website at crossrhodestt.com or their Facebook Page at Rhodes Must Fall Caribbean or by contacting directors Shabaka Kambon (868-468 3264) and Dr Claudius Fergus (868-498- 4095) or by email at s.kambon@gmail.com and claude.kf@gmail.com respectively.

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36 comments

  1. Wait. Hold on. There are people who have a problem with this???

  2. Someone told me that it’s dangerous to challenge the face of racism. They didn’t say why. I don’t know if that’s as dangerous as challenging the face of freedom. I suppose it depends on which holds more reverence.

  3. But the fact still remains, enslaved Africans rose up everywhere they were and rejected their oppression and their received Christian religions and massacred European armies everywhere they could. This argument contradicts that achievement in the region as it proves the slave masters so intrinsic to the Caribbean psychology that we built our academic institutions around even their barbaric reputations.
    The documentary film 1804: The hidden history of Haiti, about the Haitian revolution, is currently having its world release this month, November 2017. The Haitian revolution was in effect a Caribbean revolution which instigated the abolition of slavery all over the Americas. The film follows 80 years after CLR James brilliant Black Jacobins which itself followed 140 years after the fact. The information on the revolutions was victim of suppression by the British government for 100 years following, and then the book became unfashionable because of its academic attentions and institutional praise. For Makandal and Dutty Bookman and Toussaint L’ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines’ sake, it’s time.

  4. Imagine in this day and age . SMFH

  5. Next we will be pushing for reparation.