Efforts to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford University owing to his white supremacist views gained momentum over the past year but the statue may be saved—with the help of philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke.
The “Rhodes Must Fall” effort began at the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 2015 and subsequently developed at several universities around the world, including Oxford.
Facing resistance to the removal of Rhodes’ statue by some within Oxford University, as well as the possibility of new laws that may make it difficult to remove historical statues, the group tasked with studying Rhodes and settling the status of his statue is reported to be considering an alternative to its removal, namely, the commission of a statue of Alain Locke to be placed near the one of Rhodes.
Why Locke? It’s not just that he is known as “the Father of the Harlem Renaissance” or that he wrote, among other things, about philosophy, race, and culture. According to The Daily Mail, “he was denied entry to several Oxford colleges because of racial prejudice.” Eventually he was admitted to Hertford College—on a Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarships had been created just five years earlier, in 1902, at the direction of Rhodes’ will.
Those who favor a “more speech” response to the expression of highly objectionable views might see the proposal of an additional statue as an analogously welcome move. Others may not, such as an anonymous Oxford academic who told The Daily Mail that in regard to the removal of Rhodes’ statue, “Oxford has followed due process and it will not be stopped from doing this.”