The grave of an enslaved African man has been vandalised in an apparent “retaliation attack” after protesters in the city of Bristol toppled the statue of a prominent slave trader.
Two headstones in memory of Scipio Africanus, who lived in Bristol in the 18th century, were smashed. A message scrawled in chalk nearby called for the statue of Edward Colston to be put back or “things will really heat up”.
“This looks like a retaliation attack for the recent events involving the Colston statue,” local official Mark Weston said.
The memorial, in a churchyard in Henbury, Bristol, is listed as a structure of historical interest to be preserved.
Historic England said the tomb provided valuable evidence for research into the “clouded early history of black people in England”. It said the tomb was an early example of a memorial to a man born into slavery and who ended his life as a servant in an English aristocratic household. He died on December 12, 1720.
During his life, Scipio Africanus was a servant to Charles Howard, the seventh Earl of Suffolk.
“We know very little about the lives of individual men, women and children brought to England as slaves. Graves represent one of the few forms of tangible evidence regarding the existence of slaves in England, and such graves are rare; the vast majority died without trace,” Historic England said on its website.
“This record of Scipio Africanus’s history serves to remind us of the many histories which have been lost.”
Police said they have received a report of criminal damage to a monument at Henbury Parish Church. It said it believed the incident took place on Tuesday or Wednesday, and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.