Rhodes Trustees reflect on the legacy of Cecil John Rhodes
Debates about Cecil Rhodes
During 2015 there has been significant discussion and debate surrounding the legacy of Cecil Rhodes. This started at the University of Cape Town in the form of the #RhodesMustFall movement, and subsequently there has also been student activism in Oxford. These events were catalysed by a concern about the rate of transformation in South African universities, as well as wider debate concerning the role universities have in promoting racial equity. This has included a movement to broaden curricula and to increase the diversity of faculties in both countries.
The legacy of Cecil John Rhodes has been a subject of discussion in Oxford and beyond for many years. The Rhodes Trust community – current Scholars, senior Scholars and Trustees – has always participated fully in these discussions. At present, a group of current Rhodes Scholars in Oxford, called Redress Rhodes, is engaged in thinking through issues of legacy. The presence of Rhodes Scholars in Oxford helped start the original process of diversifying Oxford’s student body, and principles of racial equality are central to our values and our sense of purpose. The Rhodes Trust exists to develop leaders who can propagate these values in the work they choose to do: in politics, business, health and other areas of public service.
The current vision and ethos of the Rhodes Scholarship programme stands in absolute contrast to the values and world view propagated by Cecil Rhodes and much of his generation. But whatever the sources of his money, Rhodes decided to use some of it to launch the first international postgraduate scholarship programme. Generations of students from Africa and elsewhere have benefited from this in their personal and professional lives. Whilst this does not redress the balance, Rhodes Scholarships have at least ensured that something lastingly good has come from it. An analogy can be drawn to the good work of the Nobel Prizes and the historic facts concerning Alfred Nobel, who was a munitions manufacturer and the inventor of dynamite. Like Alfred Nobel, Rhodes was a complicated man who left his wealth to create an important institution that makes the world better.
The Rhodes Trust is a future-facing organisation. While we do not neglect our past, our most important commitment and our most pressing ambition is to continue to support the Rhodes Scholarships to create positive social change, to produce the next generation of thinkers and leaders, and thereby to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of communities around the world.
The Rhodes Trust and Africa
South Africans of all ethnic groups (as well as students of many other nationalities) have benefited in countless ways from the extraordinary educational opportunities offered by the Trust. The Rhodes Trust has a strong commitment to Africa, and many Scholars from that continent have already been profoundly influential, at home and abroad. Examples include Lucy Banda-Sichone who formed the Zambia Civic Education Association; Dr Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Edwin Cameron, Justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court; Dr François Bonnici, Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation; Dr Tariro Makadzange, whose research focuses on perinatally infected children and adolescents with HIV; and Yusuf Randera-Rees, founder of the Awethu Project. The list is a long one, and spans all areas of work and engagement in society
Rhodes Scholars set up ‘Rhodes Scholars Against Apartheid’ in the 1980s and more recently the Rhodes Scholars' Southern Africa Forum (RSSAF) aimed to enact positive change in Southern Africa. RSSAF's mission is three-fold; to increase awareness of social, political and economic issues in Southern Africa, to raise and distribute funds to support small-scale community development (whilst also providing non-monetary support through a Scholar-led consultancy program) and to stimulate discussion about the historical relationship between the Scholarship and the region.
Nelson Mandela partnered with the Rhodes Trust in 2003 to create The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, aimed at developing young leaders for Africa. This has enabled hundreds of Africans from over 18 countries to take a masters or honours year in South Africa. Nelson Mandela saw there was a chance to reconcile different historical traditions and at the time he spoke about closing the circle of history. His words about the partnership can be read here. At the Rhodes Trust we are very proud of all that has been achieved by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation and continue to support them in the terrific work they are doing. Articles on the #RhodesMustFall debate have been published by Shaun Johnson, Executive Director, and Judy Sikuza, Programme Director, as well as a piece by Professor Njabulo S. Ndebele, Shaun Johnson, and Judy Sikuza entitled 'Mandela Rhodes in a time of statues' which can be read here. For content from The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, click here.
The Bodleian Library in Oxford is one of the leading repositories of materials such as those relating to the history of South Africa, the papers of Cecil Rhodes, the anti-slavery movement and the anti-apartheid movement (including the Rhodes Trust's role in that). Please see the links below:
Anti-Apartheid Movement Archive: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/aam.html
Anti-Slavery Society Papers: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/anti-slavery-society.html
Papers of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/huddleston.html
End Loans to Southern Africa Archive: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/eltsa.html
Bishop Ambrose Reeves Trust Archive: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/bart.html
Namibia Support Committee Papers: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/namibia-supp-comm.html
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Cecil Rhodes can be read here.
An article which addressed some of the historical claims relating to Cecil Rhodes can be read here.
Online catalogue featuring papers relating to Cecil Rhodes:http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/rhodes-cj7.html
Brief descriptions can be found here:
Other relevant collections catalogued here: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/online.htm#blcas
Uncatalogued collections include:
Papers of Rev. Michael Scott (1907-1983), Anglican clergyman and campaigner for racial equality. In particular, campaigned at the United Nations for Namibian independence. 227 boxes
Papers of Bishop Colin Winter (1928-1981), Anglican bishop of Damaraland (Namibia) and vocal opponent of apartheid. Deported from his diocese in 1972 and continued as bishop in exile. 130 boxes.
Papers of Ethel de Keyser (1926-2004), executive secretary of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and director of the British Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. 247 boxes.