Denbigh Will Vote to Decide What to Do with Stanley Statue25 Jun 2020
Debate surrounding the nature of statues of colonial-era British figures continues in light of the on-going Black Lives Matter protests. The latest statue to come under scrutiny is that of Henry Morton Stanley, a Victorian adventurer who opponents say had links to slavery.
With opponents pushing back by claiming that Stanley was opposed to racism, Denbigh Town Council announced that they will hold a public vote on what to do with his statue. They also announced that another monument related to Stanley, an obelisk in St Asaph, would be amended to better reflect the current climate.
Stanley had “little respect for the natives of Africa”
The debate around the removal of the statue of Henry Morton Stanley in the Denbigh town centre started when opponents of the statue filed a petition with 7000 signatures calling for its removal.
It stated that Stanley, a Victorian adventurer from Denbigh, had a history of “excessive violence, wanton destruction, the selling of labourers into slavery and shooting Africans indiscriminately”.
Among those calling for the removal of the statue is the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who said that Stanley had “little respect for the natives of Africa”.
Although the petition was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and the UK and the removal of similar statues, the debate around Stanley, who gained fame for his work as a journalist, soldier, politician, his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary David Livingstone, is far from new.
When the statue was installed in the town centre in 2010, a group of 50 eminent people including travel writer Jan Morris and poet Benjamin Zephaniah signed a letter in protest, saying that his expeditions contributed to the racist ideas of the day.
Stanley “loved Africans”
The moves to remove the statue, however, faced pushback from supporters, including Denbighshire Councillor Gwyneth Kensler who was involved in the installation of the statue in 2010.
Kensler said that Stanley was not a racist and was, in fact, sacked by King Leopold II in 1884 and added that had Stanley been a racist, she would not have supported a statue of him.
“He loved Africans, was vehemently against the slave trade and wrote articles to that effect. He cannot be linked to the slave trade in any way,” Kensler said.
The future of the statue will be decided with a vote
As a result of the apparent deadlock between the two sides, the Denbigh Town Council announced that it would hold a public consultation about the removal of the statue on Wednesday.
It also announced that another monument to Stanley, an obelisk in St Asaph, would remain but may be given new wording.