Cass: Famous business school in name-change over slavery


Anti-racism protesters Image copyright PA Media

The prestigious Cass Business School, in London, is changing its name because of its associations with Sir John Cass, a 17th Century merchant and proponent of slavery.

The school, part of City, University of London, was named after the figure in 2002, after a donation from the foundation that bears his name.

The foundation will also change its name as it is “no longer appropriate”.

Both organisations acknowledged the hurt caused by the association.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation was set up as an educational charity in 1748. It funds work across London, concentrating especially on projects for young people.

On the Foundation’s website Sir John Cass is described as “a merchant and politician, whose wealth posthumously was used to create the Foundation to deliver educational benefits to disadvantaged children”.

However, he was also a major figure in the early development of the slave trade and the Atlantic slave economy, directly dealing with slave agents in the African forts and in the Caribbean.

The university said on Monday that following broad consultations, its governing council had decided unanimously that continuing to use the name “was incompatible with City’s values of diversity and inclusion”.

For now, the business school will be be referred to as City’s Business School pending consultations about a new name.

Julia Palca, head of the City Council, said: “We acknowledge the great pain and hurt caused to members of our City and business school community and to many black people by the association of the wchool’s name with the slave trade.

“Any continued use of Sir John Cass’ name would be seen as condoning someone whose wealth in part derived from the exploitation of slavery. This is incompatible with our values of diversity and inclusivity. We have therefore taken the decision to remove the name.”

‘Hurt and anger’

The move comes amid intense debate about the honouring of people with links to the slave trade, which has included some successful demands for the removal of statues.

A statue of Edward Colston, a fellow slave trader, was also toppled in Bristol in the wake of international protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US in May.

A spokesman for Sir John Cass’s Foundation said the charity was also now “committed to a name change”.

A spokesman said: “We also continued to celebrate Sir John Cass without explaining or acknowledging his connection to slavery and human exploitation or the hurt and anger this has caused amongst our beneficiaries and our community.

“We recognise, acknowledge, seek to understand, and apologise for the public hurt and anger. So let us be clear: we no longer consider the Sir John Cass name appropriate to represent us and the work that we do in this century or in the future.”