Ben HaywardOctober 31st
2019

The University of Bristol has appointed its very first History of Slavery professor.

Professor Olivette Otele will begin in the role in January 2020, with one of her main tasks being to research both the university's and Bristol's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, reports the BBC.

Professor Otele’s will research the legacies of colonialism, understanding trauma, recovery and social cohesion, and a reluctance to address these issues.

Bristol University Appoints History of Slavery Professor

Her appointment comes after a number of institutions launched inquiries to discover how their institutions may have benefited from the slave trade.

Currently living in Newport, Wales, Professor Otele became the UK's first black female history professor when she was awarded a professorship and a chair in history by Bath Spa University in October 2018.

 The professor said she hopes the research project will be a landmark moment and will change the way Britain ‘examines, acknowledges and teaches the history of enslavement’.

Speaking about her new appointment, she said: "I hope to bring together Bristolians from all communities, and scholars, artists and educators who are willing to contribute to a stronger and fairer society.

Professor Otele Bristol University

"I want students to see me as a facilitator of a dialogue that needs to take place and that is about the role of the University of Bristol in the transatlantic slave trade.”

Professor Otele’s new role will include responsibility for working with staff, students and communities at the university in order to better understand its past and then use that knowledge to shape its future.

Provost and deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Judith Squires, said the University of Bristol was ‘proud to be appointing someone of Professor Otele's experience and standing’.

Professor Squires said: “As an institution founded in 1909, we are not a direct beneficiary of the slave trade, but we fully acknowledge that we financially benefited indirectly via philanthropic support from families who had made money from businesses involved in the transatlantic slave trade.”

Slave Trade Bristol University

“This new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to interrogate our history, working with staff, students and local communities to explore the university's historical links to slavery and to debate how we should best respond to our past in order to shape our future as an inclusive university community.”

A lot of Bristol’s initial wealth in the 17th Century came as a result of slave traders such as Edward Colston making vast fortunes through the trade of slaves - mostly from Africa to the colonies in the Americas - with their legacy still visible in the city’s streets, memorials and buildings.

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