Campaigners demand Rhodes primary school in North London change its name – despite referring to Cecil Rhodes’ great-uncle who died when the Victorian colonialist was just three
- Rhodes Avenue Primary is named after wealthy landowner Thomas Rhodes
- Thomas was great uncle of Cecil Rhodes and died when Cecil was 3 years old
- Activists say the Rhodes name ‘cannot be disentangled from the pursuit of white supremacy and the dehumanisation and subjugation of black people’
Campaigners want an ‘outstanding’ primary school to be renamed because of its links to a distant relative of Victorian colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
Historians believe that Rhodes Avenue Primary in North London was named after wealthy landowner Thomas Rhodes, who died when his great nephew Cecil was just three years old.
Despite no evidence that Thomas ever met infant Cecil, let alone had any colonial interests of his own, activists say the Rhodes name ‘cannot be disentangled from the pursuit of white supremacy and the dehumanisation and subjugation of black people’.
Earlier this year, campaigners hung a banner on the school’s railings with the message: ‘Rename your school after someone who isn’t a racist imperialist.’ An online petition was also launched by ex pupil Frances Browning and has attracted more than 600 signatures.
Campaigners want an ‘outstanding’ primary school to be renamed because of its links to a distant relative of Victorian colonialist Cecil Rhodes (pictured)
But Trevor Phillips, former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and now chairman of the ‘History Matters’ project at the Policy Exchange think tank, said: ‘I find it puzzling that the most important thing about this school is thought to be its name, which refers not to Cecil Rhodes, but to Thomas, who can hardly be held responsible for his great nephew’s actions.
‘Rather than trying to erase a tenuous link with the past, shouldn’t we be focusing on the black lives of the future?’
Born in 1762, Thomas Rhodes owned a 470-acre dairy farm between what was then the villages of Muswell Hill, Wood Green and Hornsey.
After his death in 1856, aged 93, parts of the estate were sold and later transformed into Alexandra Palace.
The school was built on the former site of the farmhouse and its Grade-II listed portico remains on display in its grounds.
The Rhodes Primary school was built on the former site of the farmhouse and its Grade-II listed portico remains on display in its grounds
The campaign has won the apparent support of Joseph Ejiofor, Labour leader of Haringey Council, who said: ‘If we were naming roads today, we would never choose Rhodes Avenue, which is named after Thomas Rhodes, great uncle to Cecil, an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist.’
Campaigners say the primary school should now be renamed after anti-apartheid campaigner Oliver Tambo, who lived in the area during his years in exile from South Africa.
‘The fact is that when most people hear the name Rhodes they think about Cecil Rhodes and Rhodesia,’ they said on Facebook. ‘When children learn about Rhodes, they will make that link to their own school.’