In the Media

Rhodes must fall, but who should stand in his place? (Financial Times)

Ann Olivarius op-ed, Financial Times – 6/15/20


A Zambian civil-rights activist and the first African-American Rhodes scholar would be worthy inheritors

In 2003, Nelson Mandela addressed a rapt audience in Cape Town to inaugurate a new programme administered by the Rhodes Trust at Oxford. The annual initiative would provide university tuition, leadership development and other supports for a cohort of young African changemakers.

The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship was controversial. But the anti-apartheid revolutionary, who became South Africa’s first black president, hoped that associating his name with a champion of racist imperialism would help southern Africa heal. At the time I agreed and, in my capacity as a lawyer, advised him as much. I was less convinced about letting Cecil Rhodes’ statue remain in its place above the gate to Oriel College, Oxford, but I concluded that it was better left in place to provoke a conversation about Rhodes’ conduct and legacy. 

Having tried to listen and learn from the global Black Lives Matter movement, I have changed my mind. I now think Oxford should dethrone Rhodes and install two rather different figures. One male, one female, both black, they would stand for an Oxford that still honours its legacy but also welcomes, along with so many people marching and kneeling today, a diverse future.