Nelson should be commemorated, says Alan Bailey. So should William Cuffay, suggests Keith Flett. Plus Mary Russell on how Dublin’s Nelson’s Pillar was blown up in 1966
Afua Hirsch (Why not topple Nelson?, 22 August) has the argument back to front when she says the purpose of statues to “figures like Nelson” is to energise “white supremacist groups”. On the contrary, it is those agitating to remove such statues who are trying to import into the UK the US “frenzied debate”, in the hope of stirring up conflict and hostility, even though our “white supremacist groups” are insignificant at present, thanks to what she calls our “inertia, arrogance and intellectual laziness”. Her anger would be better directed at current discrimination, not at absurd historical claims such as the suggestion that “the brutalisation of black slaves made Britain the global power it then was”. Sure, it played a part, and should be commemorated – but so should Nelson.
• Afua Hirsch is right that consideration should be given to how appropriate memorials to Britain’s imperial past now are. That is not about rewriting history, but gaining a better understanding of exactly what empire actually meant. At the same time she is right that the “subjects” of that empire are almost forgotten from history when it comes to memorials, let alone statues. For example, London still lacks a public reminder of the work of William Cuffay, the black tailor and son of a slave who was the leader of London Chartism in 1848 and found himself transported to Tasmania for fighting for the right to vote.