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LONDON – The Bank of England has stopped displaying artwork depicting several former governors and directors after a review found they were linked to the transatlantic slave trade.

Oil paintings and busts of seven central bank figures between 1698 and 1814 – James Bateman, Robert Bristow, Robert Clayton, William Dawsonne, Gilbert Heathcote, William Manning and John Pearse – were removed after he It was established that they had ties to slavery, the bank said in a statement Friday.

The move was the latest in a difficult calculation that has taken place at long-standing museums, galleries and institutions in Britain and other European countries that have started to reframe their exhibits to more explicitly recognize the connections with slavery and colonialism. Criticism that many had not done enough intensified after Black Lives Matter protests around the world last summer following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States.

The British Museum in London modified several exhibits last year to highlight links to colonialism and slavery. A museum dedicated to Jane Austen included details of her family’s connections to the slave trade. And academics at Oxford University boycotted one of its colleges because it has a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes on its facade.

The Bank of England, which has its own museum, said it had appointed a researcher to “explore in detail the Bank’s historical links with the transatlantic slave trade”, adding that the information would be used to inform future exhibitions on the history of the institution. . The central bank apologized last year for the role of some senior officials in the slave trade.

In the review, staff members inquired whether the subjects of the works of art had any direct connections to West Indian merchants who used slaves on plantations or other businesses associated with the slave trade. The figures were also cross-checked with a database of British slave owners compiled by University College London.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, downplayed the importance of removing works of art, given the bank’s crucial role in facilitating an economic system of which slavery was a part.

“You cannot separate the Bank of England from slavery,” he said, adding that focusing on the past of a few directors was “symbolic nonsense.”

“The Bank of England should get involved and say, how do you redistribute this wealth that has been stolen to the people who need it? Professor Andrews said, referring to measures such as reparations.

The move came after the Bank of England said last month it had not made enough progress in creating an ethnically diverse and inclusive workplace. Another review, commissioned last fall, found that non-white employees suffered from disparities in promotion opportunities compared to their white colleagues.

Between 2014 and 2019, employees from ethnic minorities were 25% more likely to leave the bank in any given year than white employees. They were also more likely to receive lower performance scores, which were also linked to lower bonuses.

“The experience of colleagues from different ethnic backgrounds has not reflected the kind of institution we want to be,” Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, said after the journal’s publication, adding that the he institution would make diversity and inclusion a priority. . The reforms included higher targets for the representation of black employees and ethnic minorities at senior levels, the bank said.

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