Foundation named after slave trader Sir John Cass to change its name after 300 years

A foundation named after a slave trader is to change its name. Sir John Cass's Foundation announced

A foundation named after a slave trader is to change its name. Sir John Cass's Foundation announced the move today (June 16). Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

A foundation set up using the fortune of a slave trader is to change its 300 year old name.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation, which has a secondary school in Stepney Green, has also apologised for the public “hurt and anger” its celebrations of the merchant’s life have caused the community.

A statement on the funder’s website states: “It is clear to us now, that while firmly committed to combating racism, we failed to consider whether our own 300 year old name and history compounded the problem.

“We have also continued to celebrate Sir John Cass without explaining or acknowledging his connection to slavery and human exploitation, or the hurt and anger this has caused amongst our beneficiaries and our community.

“We recognise, acknowledge, seek to understand, and apologise, for the public hurt and anger”.

The foundation’s statement adds that it wants beneficiaries to be proud to benefit from the opportunities its grants provide.

“[W]e no longer consider the Sir John Cass name appropriate to represent us and the work that we do in this century or in the future. We commit to a change of name”, it reads.

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Sir John Cass was an English merchant regarded as a major figure in the development of the slave trade. He died in 1718 aged 57 before the foundation was set up.

It has supported Sir John Cass Red Coat School in Stepney Way. City University’s Cass Business School, London Metropolitan University’s the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design and a faculty of education at the University of East London (UEL) are some of the institutions bearing his name.

However, UEL and London Metropolitan have already announced they will remove the name.

The moves follow the removal of statues to slave owners and traders including those of Edward Colston in Bristol and Robert Milligan in West India Quay following Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death in police custody of George Floyd.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation has said its new name should reflect its beliefs, charity work and remain relevant “through the next 300 years”.

It is to consult on the new name before undertaking the legal steps to officially change it.

“[W]e remain dedicated to educational projects to challenge and eradicate racism, discrimination and inequality.

“We welcome these major steps we are taking to evolve while we continue to serve our beneficiaries, changing their lives for the better and enabling them to benefit from the excellent projects and schemes our partners provide”, the statement ends.