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Islington campaigner kick starts fundraising for statue of trailblazing Black footballer

PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:00 01 July 2020

There are plans to put a statue of Jack Leslie outside Plymouth Argyle's Home Park stadium. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA

There are plans to put a statue of Jack Leslie outside Plymouth Argyle's Home Park stadium. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

An Islington campaigner has called for a trailblazing Black footballer to be immortalised in statue form.

Canning Town-born Jack Leslie was a Plymouth Argyle FC player in 1925 when the England selection committee signed him up.

However, just days after he was told the news, Jack’s name disappeared from the team sheet.

Jack is reported to have said: “They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy.”

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With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum all around the world, former Islington councillor Greg Foxsmith has co-launched a crowdfunding campaign toward a bronze statue of Jack outside Home Park in Plymouth.

It needs at least £100,000 to reach its goal.

Greg said: “At a time when people are recognising that Black Lives Matter and statues of slave traders are coming down, we believe that putting up a statue is a more positive way to celebrate Black achievement and challenge racial stereotypes.”

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Speaking to the campaign, Jack’s granddaughter Lyn said: “My sisters - Lesley, Jill and I - remember Jack as a wonderful granddad who looked after us and told us funny stories.

“We and the wider family are delighted that he is now being recognised for the sporting achievements he was so modest about.”

Supporters of the campaign include The Football Association (FA) and Plymouth Argyle, for whom Jack scored 137 goals in 401 appearances between 1921 and 34.

Islington councillor Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) said: “This is such a positive and timely campaign, particularly when we are thinking about the impact of racism on so many lives from Jack Leslie’s time to the current day.”

MP for Islington South and Finsbury Emily Thornberry added: “I was very sad to hear about what happened to Jack Leslie, and fully support the campaign for a statue.”

Former Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn agreed: “I think it is entirely appropriate that somebody who was selected for England but never played for this reason should get a statue.

“Well done to everyone in Black Lives Matter for bringing this up and there are not enough monuments around the entire country to record the massive contribution of the Black community.”

View the campaign at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign


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