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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Ninian Wilson

Scottish university installs plaque to recognise its legacy of slavery

A PLAQUE has been installed on the grounds of the University of Aberdeen to recognise the institution’s legacy of slavery.

The plaque is located by the Powis Gateway in Old Aberdeen, which was funded by the Leslie family after they received compensation when slavery was abolished in Britain’s Caribbean colonies in 1834.

The Lesley family received more than £7000 (worth in excess of £600,000 today) for the loss of their “property”.

Part of Aberdeen City Council’s Commemorative Plaques Scheme, the installation looks to demonstrate how proceeds of slavery flowed from the Caribbean to the northeast of Scotland.

A more detailed interpretation board is currently in the works which will take input from students and the local community. The board will look to add greater detail about the history of the gateway and the legacy of slavery in Aberdeen.

Dr Richard Anderson, a lecturer in history of slavery at the university, said: “Powis Gateway is the most tangible link between the University of Aberdeen and slavery-derived wealth.

“It is important that this history is reflected more clearly so that all those who pass through the gates can better understand their legacy and the erection of this plaque is one step in this work.

“We recognise that much more is still required both in contextualising the history of the Powis Gateway, understanding and addressing the benefits which still exist today which were built on wealth from slavery and in decolonising our curriculum.”

The plaque looks to demonstrate how proceeds of slavery flowed from the Caribbean to the northeast of ScotlandPowis Gate in Old Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen Student Union president Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo, said: “We consider this plaque as a puzzle piece to understand our university; as a piece of valuable evidence to help us trace and navigate the academic practices, culture, and knowledge that are embedded in the history of empire.

“The plaque invites us to engage in conversations of the legacy of empire in the university today. It gives us an opportunity to link the anti-racist and decolonial resistance in our community in 2022 to hundred years back as something that haunts us to this day.”

Councillor Alexander McLellan, convener of the council’s City Growth and Resources Committee, said: “The Powis Gateway is a significant landmark in Old Aberdeen and I’m pleased that this commemorative place plaque has been installed as part of a wider commitment to recognising the legacies of historic slavery in Aberdeen.”

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