- Students at Oriel College, Oxford who are part of the “Rhodes Must Fall” group are campaigning to remove the Cecil Rhodes statue present at Oriel College’s site.
- Rhodes was a racist colonialist who formed Rhodesia, otherwise known as Zambia and Zimbabwe today, during the 19th Century.
- Rhodes is widely viewed as a racist and misogynistic colonialist.
- The “Rhodes Must Fall” group are hoping to encourage greater racial diversity amongst its students and academics through symbolically removing Rhodes’s statue and plaque.
In recent months the “Rhodes Must Fall” group at Oxford University has hit UK headlines and become a topic of conversation around the dinner table as well as among our tour guides at Oxford Walking Tours. However, despite the continual support supporters have received from colleges, academics, and the general public, very little has been done to meet the movement’s demands.
Initiated at Oriel College in March 2015, the “Rhodes Must Fall” group have critiqued the presence of Cecil Rhode’s statue and plaque at the college’s site. At Footprints Tours, and even during our Oxford Walking Tours, we have witnessed how the group has become a prevailing topic of conversation for Oxford students these last few months.
As a former student of Oriel College in 1873, Rhodes went on to become a colonialist, businessman, and politician in Southern Africa. Rhodes and his British South Africa Company formed the southern African territory of Rhodesia, otherwise known as Zimbabwe and Zambia today. Many students have questioned Oxford University’s continual support for Rhode’s legacy despite his immoral treatment of the Rhodesian people in the 19th Century. This included the displacement of millions of native people and their land in the name of industrial development.
As of the 1st February, the”Rhodes Must Fall” group has listed 7 non-negotiable demands on their facebook and twitter pages. Actions include: the removal of statues and portraits of those associated with racism; the decolonising of the curriculum; and the renaming of buildings named after colonial individuals. The group has also called for greater representation of people of colour at all levels of university.
The group’s demands and actions have gained consistent support from other societies, colleges, and notable individuals. In particular, the Oxford University Labour Club and the Students’ Union Council have supported the “Rhodes Must Fall” group. Outside of Oxford, intellectuals like Naom Chomsky have released messages of support. Chomsky spoke of how he was ‘glad to learn of what [the movement] was doing’ in terms of raising awareness of disgraced colonial figures. Prime Minister David Cameron has also responded to debates by declaring that Oxford is “not doing enough” to ensure those from diverse racial backgrounds attend. He particularly emphasised how only 27 black British
students were accepted at Oxford last year.
The group has successfully shifted the attention of parliament and the media onto the lack of representation within our academic institutions. However, it is still unclear as to whether the statue of Rhodes will be taken down. Irregardless, the “Rhodes Must Fall” group has created a community of unified students determined to make change to racial attitudes in the walls they study in today. At Footprints Tours and during our Oxford Walking Tours, we’re excited to see what this means for Oxford University in the upcoming months!
To find out more about the Rhodes Must Fall group and its impact on Oxford University, book today with Footprint Tours and get an insider view with our Oxford Walking Tours.
(Sources: BBC, The Telegraph, Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford's Facebook, Twitter and WordPress Sites / Images BBC TwainQuotes)