Church memorial to 18th-century plantation owner John Gordon is covered after BLM protests

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A memorial stone commemorating an 18th-century slave trader and praising his “bravery” in quelling the slave rebellion in Jamaica, has been withheld due to its offensive significance.

A whiteboard was placed on the plaque of St Peter’s Church in Dorchester, Dorset, which was dedicated to the owner of the plantation John Gordon, who died in 1744.

The wording of the 5-foot memorial praises the Scottish slaver’s work in suppressing a Caribbean slave uprising in which 500 of them were killed.

He says: “He played an important role in suppressing a dangerous rebellion on this island (Jamaica) in 1760.

“A large number of n ***** that his bravery had repelled, finally giving in to their confidence in his humanity.”

A whiteboard was placed on the plaque of St Peter’s Church in Dorchester, Dorset, which was dedicated to the owner of the plantation John Gordon, who died in 1744

Wording of 5ft memorial salutes Scottish slave owner’s ‘bravery’ and ‘humanity’ in suppressing a slave rebellion in Jamaica in which 500 of them were killed

JOHN GORDON: THE OWNER OF AN 18th CENTURY PLANTATION PRAISED FOR HIS “BRAVERY” AND “HUMANITY”

John Gordon was born in Sutherland, Scotland, in 1728.

He was a lawyer for the Ellis family in the 1750s and, together with another lawyer, took over the administration of the Greencastle and Newry plantations in Jamaica which produced sugar, rum and molasses.

He used this position to start his own business as a plantation owner, perhaps buying or renting land from John Ellis.

In 1760, the slaves organized a rebellion against their ill-treatment, leading to one of the most brutal suppressions of its time.

Gordon returned to Great Britain and died in Dorchester in October 1774, at the age of 46.

The plaque in his honor can be found on the wall opposite the southern entrance door of the 15th-century church and is quite prominent, with a carved urn on top and the family’s coat of arms below.

The plaque reads: “He was instrumental in suppressing a dangerous rebellion on this island (Jamaica) in the year 1760.

“A large number of n ***** that his bravery had repelled, finally giving in to their confidence in his humanity.”

Accounts from the time suggest that the consequences were anything but human.

Some rebels were killed instantly while others were taken prisoner and then horribly executed.

The plaque sparked complaints from anti-racist activists following the Black Lives Matter protests.

Church authorities last week voted to remove the memorial, but that decision must go through an ecclesiastical planning process that will take several months.

In the meantime, workers had put in place a temporary blanket to censor the controversial text.

The cover is foam board which is held in place by friction without impacting the ancient walls or monument.

It covers the section on the slave rebellion but leaves the name and details of John Gordon exposed.

A notice explaining why the rest is covered has also been posted. He indicates that the wording under “commemorates actions and uses language which is totally unacceptable to us today”.

The church’s 15 committee members voted to move it to a museum, but she is legally obligated to submit the decision to public consultation before the memorial can be removed.

Other options considered were that it be left in place with accompanying material giving its historical context or moved to a less prominent place in the church.

Church keeper Val Potter said, “After the parish church board’s decision to add a temporary blanket, our practical people suggested a foam board blanket that we put in place.

“It’s temporary and there is no impact on the walls or the monument, so we didn’t need formal permission for it.

“The cover shows John Gordon’s name and details, but not the section on his role in the rebellion.

“The notice on the cover indicates why the monument is covered and describes the CCP’s decision.

“We are very grateful to the Black Lives Matter campaign for raising the urgency of the issue, we have been thinking about what to do about this for some time.

“The only negative comments we receive in our visitor box are for this memorial.”

Once the plaque is removed, it will be exhibited in a museum.

Church authorities, pictured, voted to remove the memorial last week, but that decision must go through an ecclesiastical planning process that will take several months

Church authorities, pictured, voted to remove the memorial last week, but that decision must go through an ecclesiastical planning process that will take several months

John Gordon was born in Sutherland, Scotland, in 1728.

He was a lawyer for the Ellis family in the 1750s and, together with another lawyer, took over the administration of the Greencastle and Newry plantations in Jamaica which produced sugar, rum and molasses.

He used this position to start his own business as a plantation owner, perhaps buying or renting land from John Ellis.

In 1760, the slaves organized a rebellion against their ill-treatment, leading to one of the most brutal suppressions of its time.

Some rebels were killed instantly while others were taken prisoner and then horribly executed.

Gordon returned to Britain and died in Dorchester in October 1774, at the age of 46.

The plaque in his honor can be found on the wall opposite the southern entrance door of the 15th-century church and is quite prominent, with a carved urn on top and the family’s coat of arms below.

David Rhodes, of Stand Up To Racism Dorset, said: “We commend the church board for this decision, and in particular the church director’s efforts to guide the church’s decision-making process.

“We believe the board made the right decision. It is good for the church to take steps to recognize our “shameful past”.

‘The Gordon plaque congratulates and celebrates the actions of John Gordon in suppressing a rebellion by slaves fighting for their freedom in Jamaica in 1760.

“It’s a celebration of white supremacy and racism.”


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