Sadiq Khan has backed calls for a British slavery museum in London to tackle current-day racism in the UK.
The Mayor said understanding Britain’s role in the slave trade would “strengthen our commitment to fight racism and hatred in all its forms”.
London was one of three major UK ports – along with Liverpool and Bristol – to profit from slavery.
It is now among the most diverse cities in the UK, with 3.5 million black and minority ethnic residents making up around 40 percent of the population.
The Mayor described the museum proposal as “both welcome and timely” for the capital. He said: “It’s right and fair that all Londoners see themselves and their history reflected in our city’s museums and cultural institutions.
“Learning more about the uncomfortable nature of our city and our nation’s role in the transatlantic slave trade can serve to deepen our understanding of the past and strengthen our commitment to fight racism and hatred in all its forms.”
The museum proposal comes as part of a series of mayoral policy suggestions in a report from the Fabian Society. The Labour-affiliated think tank has laid out its ideas for Sadiq Khan’s second term as Mayor, if he is reelected next year.
In the report’s chapter on race equality, Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, a leading race equality think tank, said a slavery museum would help address present day race inequalities in Britain. He said: “It is time to add the history of enslavement to our commemorations.
“We gain greater moral reflection from considering the times in the past when we failed to live up to the values of humanity, freedom and democracy than we do we portray ourselves as always being on the right side of history.”
The Runnymede director said the Government and London’s financial sector would have a “moral obligation” to support the museum if the Mayor pursued the policy.
The proposal comes as racism is rising in the capital. There were 1,586 race or faith related hate crimes in London in June – up three percent on the previous month, and four percent in the last year.
Labour assembly member Florence Eshalomi said Londoners were not always aware of the history of slavery in UK, because black history is still missing from school curriculums.
She said: “Unfortunately there is a reality where some people still don’t understand what happened with the transatlantic slave trade.
“It’s important that history is captured and the truth of what happened is recorded.”
Ms Eshalomi also reiterated the call for museum funding from the central government.
She said: “It’s good the Government has apologised [for the impact of slavery] but they would be putting their money where their mouth is by supporting something as historic as this museum.”