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US: University removes George Whitefield statue

August 2020

The University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn, has decided to remove a statue of the 18th century evangelical preacher George Whitefield from its campus.

The university issued a statement saying, ‘The case for removing Whitefield is overwhelmingly strong. He was a well-known evangelical preacher in the mid-eighteenth century, who notably led a successful campaign to allow slavery in Georgia. This is undeniably one of Whitefield’s principal legacies.

‘Honouring him with a statue on our campus is inconsistent with our University’s core values, which guide us in becoming an ever more welcoming community that celebrates inclusion and diversity.’

University authorities have also pledged to set up a ‘Campus Iconography Group’ to ‘advise us on further steps to ensure that the placement and presence of statues and other prominent iconography better reflects our achievements and aspirations to increase the diversity of the Penn community’.

But an article in the US edition of The Spectator said, ‘While it’s true that Whitefield accepted a donation of slaves to work his orphanage in Georgia, his advocating for the fair treatment of Africans was ahead of its time.

‘Whitefield regularly admonished slave owners for mistreating their slaves and failing to educate them in Christianity. He once purchased 5,000 acres in Pennsylvania to advance slave education.’