Vandals smash two graves marking Bristol burial site of African slave

Vandals smash two graves marking Bristol burial site of African slave and scrawl ‘put Colston’s statue back’ on paving nearby – 10 days after toppling of city’s controversial memorial to 17th century trader

  • The headstones mark the burial place of African slave Scipio Africanus
  • Chalk message in the churchyard suggested the vandalism was in revenge
  • Police are currently investigating and want witnesses to come forward 

Vandals have desecrated the grave of an African slave before demanding ‘Put Colston’s statue back’ in a sick revenge attack.

Two headstones marking the burial place of ‘Scipio Africanus’ were damaged in the apparent protest in Bristol.

It came after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in the centre of the city earlier this month during Black Lives Matter protests.

But a message left in chalk near the grave in the Henbury area appears to show that not all are happy with the change in attitudes.

Vandals have targeted the graves of Scipio Africanus in an apparent revenge attack sparked by the toppling of the statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston

It reads: ‘Now look at what you made me do. Stop protesting. Leave Elliott’s grave alone. Put Colston’s statue back or things will really heat up.’

It is thought that the words ‘Elliott’ is music hall star GH Elliott, who used to perform in blackface as the ‘Chocolate Coloured C**n’.

It was reported last week that the Archdeacon of Brighton and Lewe wants to remove the ‘deeply offensive’ stage persona from his headstone in East Sussex.

It has been covered up while officials from the churchyard try to trace any next of kin.

The two graves in Bristol paid tribute to the slave and are seen here (left) in better times, before the damage by vandals (right) left them unrecognisable

The councillor who represents the relevant ward in Bristol is now appealing for anyone who witnessed the ‘latest vandalism’ to contact the police.

Sharing a photo of the desecrated spot on Facebook, Cllr Weston said: ‘Sadly late last night the listed grave of ‘Scipio Africanus’ in St Mary’s Churchyard, Henbury was badly damaged.

‘This looks like a retaliation attack for the recent events involving the Colston statue. I am deeply saddened by what is happening.

‘We have seen war memorials defaced and statues vandalised and I have to wonder where this will end.


St Mary’s Churchyard in Henbury, Bristol, where the two graves have been hit by vandals yesterday in an apparent revenge attack

‘Our history is not simple, and a person’s actions are rarely clear cut. Our nation’s past is an intricate web of greatness, atrocity, heroism and villainy.

‘We have good people that do bad things, bad people that occasionally strive for redemption and everything in between.

‘This confusion becomes especially evident as we apply the lens of modern morality to the actions of centuries past.

‘If anyone has any information on this latest vandalism then I would urge you to contact the police.’

The statue of Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the river during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bristol on May 25

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees called for the public to refrain from ‘tit for tat’ racially motivated attacks during a question and answer session on Wednesday.

He said: ‘[Scipio’s grave] is an iconic piece of Bristol’s history and that has been smashed in two with a message left scrawled on the floor around that.

‘We just don’t want to go down the route. We don’t want to go down this tit-for-tat invisible attacks on each other.’

Avon and Somerset Constabulary is said to be investigating the tombstone damage.

Vandals’ target: Who was Scipio Africanus? 

Historians believe Scipio may have been born into the household of Charles Howard and was the son of an enslaved West African woman.

Howard was the seventh Earl of Suffolk and had a large house in the Henbury area.

Scipio was named by his ‘owners’ after the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.

It is thought that the 18-year-old was a well-loved member of the household because it was rare for an enslaved person to have a formal grave within a churchyard – let alone such an ornate one.

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