Public square named after 16th century slave trader Sir John Hawkins will be renamed to commemorate 1920s Plymouth Argyle footballer Jack Leslie who was not picked for England because he was black
- A petition to rename the square after Jack Leslie was signed by over 500 people
- He scored 137 goals for Argyle and was fourth all time highest scorer for the club
- Footballer was set to represent England until selectors were told he was black
- Plymouth City Council leader said: ‘We are not saying we should forget Hawkins’
A public square named after 16th century slave trader Sir John Hawkins will be renamed after Plymouth Argyle footballer Jack Leslie who was not picked for England because he was black.
Plymouth City Council is taking the action after a petition to commemorate the only professional black player in England between 1921 and 1934 was signed by more than 500 people.
Council leader Tudor Evans said: ‘We are not seeking to rewrite history and we are not saying that we should forget Hawkins. He was without question an important figure in our national history.’
A public square named after slave trader Sir John Hawkins, right, will be renamed after Argyle footballer Jack Leslie, left, who was not picked for England because he was black
Leslie scored 137 goals for Argyle in 401 appearances – the fourth all time highest goal scorer for the club, nicknamed the Pilgrims.
He was about to become the first black player to represent England until selectors were told he was black.
Monuments glorifying slave traders and colonialists have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, as part of a broader movement inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that started in the United States following the death of George Floyd on May 25.
National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt previously said more than 130 officers have been ‘injured in one way or another’ in the demonstrations.
Some 137 people have been arrested, while others have been fined for breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Police forces in Avon and Somerset have come under fire for being unable to prevent protesters from tearing down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, with Home Secretary Priti Patel said to have had a ‘firm’ talk with police chiefs from the area.
Leslie, left, who played for Plymouth Argyle from 1922 to 1934, was set to become the first black player to represent England until selectors were told he was black
An information point is seen next to an empty street sign in the former Sir John Hawkins Square. The sign was removed in the aftermath of protests against the death of George Floyd
Since Colston’s removal, there have been calls for local authorities to intervene and determine whether monuments of historical figures should be removed based on questionable background related to the colonial era.
Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said police forces are supporting councils in assessing whether a statue should be removed, in a bid to avoid scenes such as those in Bristol.
The death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has seen swathes of protests take place across the United States, UK and across the globe.
Topple The Racists’ website has named 78 statues and monuments that ‘celebrate slavery and racism’.
A sign reads that Hawkins was a ‘key player in the beginnings of the African slave trade’ and says it is ‘important to recognise’ that, now, his ‘actions would be controversial’
On June 9, workmen tore down a statue of 18th-century slave trader Robert Milligan from its spot on West India Quay in London’s docklands.
That same day, over 1,000 demonstrators in Oxford demanded the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist who provided philanthropic support to Oriel College in Oxford University where the monument stands.
The college’s governing board has now decided they want to remove the statue, along with the King Edward Street Plaque, but an independent commission into the statue will be set up before any action is taken.
Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council, backed the removal of a statue of Sir Thomas Picton, a slave holder and military leader. He described the monument to the former governor of Trinidad as an ‘affront’ to black people.
Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey said he would feel ‘no sense of loss’ if a statue to Henry Dundas, who delayed the abolition of slavery, was removed.
Who was Sir John Hawkins?
Sir John Hawkins was an English naval administrator and commander and the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy.
Born in 1532 in Plymouth, he was a merchant in African trade before becoming the first English slave trader.
He sparked conflict with the Spaniards by transporting slaves from Guinea, West Africa, to the Spanish West Indies.
In one voyage he was forced to seek shelter near Veracruz in Mexico, and was attacked by a Spanish fleet in the harbour, but managed to escape.
He notified the government of a plot by the English Roman Catholics, with help from Spain, to depose Queen Elizabeth and seat Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, on the throne.
He took over from his father-in-law as treasurer of the navy in 1577 and played a part in designing ships that were used to fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588, during which he was third in command.
Who was Jack Leslie?
Jack Leslie was the only professional black player in England between 1921 and 1934 while he played for Plymouth Argyle.
He formed a legendary partnership with outside left player Sammy Black.
Leslie was about to become the first non-white player to represent England until selectors were told he was black.
Bob Jack, his manager, told him he had been selected but the invitation was later removed.
At the time, he told a journalist: ‘They must have forgot I was a coloured boy.’
Born in 1901 in Canning Town, London, he played for Barking Town before joining Argyle, playing at centre-forward.
Leslie scored 137 goals for Argyle in 401 appearances – the fourth all time highest goal scorer for the club.
He retired from playing professional football in 1934 and later became a boot-boy for a club in his area, West Ham United, and passed away in 1988.