The Students Union at Machester University has painted over a wall displaying the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, replacing it with Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.
Sara Khan, Liberation and Access Officer at the Union, denounced Kipling in a Facebook post on 16th July, “We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for.” The backlash towards Kipling comes from criticism of his colonialist attitudes, shown in his poem, The White Man’s Burden,in which he encourages America to colonialize the Philippines during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). Kipling was considered to be an English spokesman of his time and was a member of the War Propaganda Bureau.
According to Khan, Kipling “sought to legitimate the British Empire’s presence in India and de-humanise people of colour… We replaced his words with those of the legendary Maya Angelou, a black female poet and civil rights activist.”
A University of Manchester Students’ Union spokesperson said: “Student leadership is absolutely paramount in the development of The University of Manchester Students’ Union. Without it, we can’t uphold our principles of inclusivity, fairness and empowerment.”