A petition to rename the Black Boy in Headington, Oxford, was launched on Change.org after an article in The Oxford Mail claimed Everards had refused to rename the pub amid suggestions on social media that it is “outdated” and inappropriate.
The petition, which claims Everards threw out appeals to change the pub’s name for reasons relating to the site’s history, had 253 signatures of a target of 500 at the time of writing.
It stated: “It is petty to some people who just see it as just a name, but for others who are aware of racial oppression and have felt it in some form, this will appear to be an inappropriate and uncomfortable display.
“People concerned have liaised with the directors currently running the pub. However, as they do not hold the power to change the name themselves, they would consider agreeing to the name being changed by Everards who do hold the power.”
However, the operator of 175 pubs across the East Midlands has moved to clarify that rather than being interpreted as an outright refusal, its stance is that there is no quick response to the issue given the pub’s historic identity and that it would seek further consultation with locals before any alterations are made.
Need for consultation
As reported by The Oxford Mail, calls to change the pub’s name were sparked on Facebook after one user posted: “I’ve driven past ‘The Black Boy’ pub countless times, and have always wondered why a pub would have this name.
“I did my research and seen there is a racehorse with that name, totally understand.
“But in this day and age with a multicultural setting, I wouldn’t describe it as appropriate.
“I’m a black man, and I have never been inside all because of the thought of feel[ing] comfortable inside a building called ‘The Black Boy’. Would any white men feel comfortable going to a place called ‘The White Boy’?
“I’m not being passive aggressive. And I want to make it clear that I don’t know the owners so can’t describe them as people and have no negativity towards their livelihood.”
In response to the hundreds of comments the post generated, Everards stated: “We are an independent family business, which purchased the Black Boy in 2013. It is a 16th century pub, which was rebuilt in the 1930’s and therefore is an important piece of local heritage.
“We understand the pub has been called the Black Boy since at least 1805 and wherever possible we prefer to keep each pub’s history alive and retain the original name. More recently, the pub has brought in the horse imagery and this features on the signage as well as inside the pub.
“A pub name is often a very special part of the story of the local area (as you state. in this instance being linked to a horse) so whenever we consider a change of name we do have to take some time to consult with a wide range of audiences.”
Everards added the site’s current tenants did not choose its name and have been helping their local community during the Covid-19 outbreak by running a takeaway service and local shop.
“While Everards owns the pub building, it is run by independent business owners who have continued to support their local community throughout the Covid-19 crisis by running a takeaway service and a local shop.
“This has been well received and they look forward to reopening when it is safe to do so and welcome the whole community.”
According to its website, the pub has previously faced and responded to questions of its name and signage.
While its exterior is currently bedecked with images of a black racehorse, as mentioned, when the site was rebuilt in 1937 it featured a figure of a black servant above the entrance.
However, according to the Black Boy’s website, this was “smashed” and replaced by a painting of a chimney-sweep’s boy on the grounds that it was more politically correct.
Nonetheless, in 1997 there was an unsuccessful attempt by Oxford students to get the pub’s name changed on the grounds that it was offensive.
Renewed efforts to change the pub’s name come after anti-racism campaigners called for pubs named ‘the Black Boy’ to be renamed amid the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser, the operator of the Black Boy in Retford, Nottinghamshire, recently chose to remove an antiquated sign amid fears it could see the venue targeted by anti-racism protesters.
What’s more, a petition has also been launched to change the name of Wrexham pub the Elihu Yale in light of its namesake’s involvement with the East India Company in Madras and its Indian Ocean slave trade.