Published: 14:44, 03 July 2020
| Updated: 14:47, 03 July 2020
A petition has been launched demanding a controversial plaque commemorating the life of a well-known blackface minstrel be preserved and not removed.
It comes just a day after Thanet District Council agreed to permanently take down the memorial from Victoria Parade in Broadstairs due to its "racist overtones".
But in what is the latest development in the divisive saga, campaigner Brook Perkins has now started a petition calling for the decision to be overturned.
It has so far been signed by 190 supporters backing Mr Perkins, who says people need to be listened to about the preservation of local history.
In the petition, he states: "A vocal few have overridden public sentiment, the democratic vote of Thanet district councillors and historical justice in order to destroy a central part of the identity of Broadstairs.
"If Uncle Mack goes today then Charles Dickens will go tomorrow. We therefore stand up against the decision to remove this plaque and stand up for old Uncle Mack himself, an entertainer who simply wanted to make the people smile."
Minstrel shows originated in 19th century America, where white men would cover their faces with grease to perform racist depictions of black people on stage.
Uncle Mack led a troupe that performed in black face paint in a number of venues across Broadstairs between 1895 and 1948.
The plaque says he "brought joy and laughter" to residents and visitors to the town.
But a petition calling for its removal was launched last month by activist Rachada Suesat, who said it acts as a "monument to colonial-era bigotry and racism".
He added: “Like similar entertainment at the time, Uncle Mack and his band blacked up in a crude, cruel and demeaning caricature of black people.
"The histories that we choose to celebrate define us as a society, and racism has no place in Broadstairs, Thanet, the UK or the world."
A box used to cover the plaque during a recent peaceful Black Lives Matter march was also daubed with pink graffiti.
Pressure has been mounting on Thanet council to axe the memorial to Uncle Mack, real name James Summerson, and it was covered as part of a review into the status of statues and commemorations in the area.
Council leader Cllr Rick Everitt announced yesterday that it would be permanently taken down next Wednesday.
A local authority notice reads: “It could have stayed in place since the plaque presents what was acceptable a hundred years ago.
“However, this might give the mistaken impression that the council condoned this offensive entertainment and its racist overtones.
“It is also important that the leader and the council sends out a clear message to the Thanet community, that it listens and will act to maintain and foster good relations in the community.”
The notice lists the “raised sensitivities as a result of the Black Lives Matter campaign” as a reason for Cllr Everitt’s decision.
“This plaque has given rise to offence and hurt,” the notice continues.
“The entertainment celebrated by it involved a black-and-white minstrels troupe, in which white entertainers blacked up their faces and behaved with distorted African-American stereotypes.
“Once removed, consideration will be given to the future of the plaque and whether it can usefully be put on display in a museum setting which describes its historical context to act as a lesson for the future.”
Councillors have until next Tuesday to refer the Labour leader’s decision to the overview and scrutiny committee.
The petition by Mr Perkins will be presented to the council once it reaches the required number of signatures.
More by this authorMarijke Hall
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