A former councillor has claimed responsibility for scrawling “Dickens Racist” across a museum dedicated to the celebrated author.
Ian Driver, 53, was pictured daubing local landmarks in his hometown of Broadstairs, Kent with black paint and Victorian author Charles Dickens felt the brunt of his anger.
The carer wore a denim jacket and cream shorts as he took to the streets in the dead of night to campaign against what he claims is “institutionalised racism” in the seaside town.
One of Ian’s targets was The Dickens House Museum and a nearby sign for Dickens Road on Saturday evening.
He blacked out the road name while scrawling “Dickens racist, Dickens racist” on the cottage which had originally inspired the home of Betsey Trotwood in his popular novel David Copperfield.
The white-bricked home used to belong to Mary Pearson Strong, who Dickens used to regularly take his son Charley to see for tea and cakes in the parlour.
It now houses the Victorian novelist’s writing box and mahogany sideboard, along with letters he wrote about the area and early editions of his novels.
The celebrated author was known to frequent the seaside town after he first visited in 1825 and later bought Bleak House, a seven-bedroom Grade II listed mansion on the cliffside which is currently up for sale for £2.5million.
Broadstairs also holds its own Dickens Festival every June and some of the writer’s views have been classed as “outdated”.
Mr Driver, who was a Green Party councillor for four years until 2015, said: “I have been campaigning for quite a long time about what I regard to be institutional racism in Thanet and Broadstairs in particular.
“The Broadstairs Folk Week allow, encourage and fund Morris dancers to black up but won’t do anything about it. I think it is quite demeaning towards black people and there is no justification for it.
“But after the Black Lives Matter protests and seeing people learn their local history like the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, I decided to do some digging into my hometown of 12 years.
“Charles Dickens is celebrated in Broadstairs like a local hero and money maker just because he wrote a few books here. In reality, he was a notorious genocidal racist and should be depicted as such. That’s the real Dickens.
“He supported the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica in 1865, the suppression of the Indian rebellion in 1857 saying their race should be wiped out and also referred to black and Asian people as savages.
“There is no defending him yet there is a whole museum dedicated to him on my doorstep with no mention of his other life as a racist.
“The National Portrait Gallery even has a few paragraphs explaining this other side of history. I think it’s important to get both sides and a balanced view.”
But the father-of-three says he has “no regrets whatsoever” over his demonstration and is expectingpolice officers to knock on the door of his Broadstairs home “any minute.”
He added: “I will go to court and fight my case. If I had my way, the museum would be shut down.
“The council is not listening and has no intention of addressing these issues. I believe that Broadstairs is Racism-on-Sea.
“The Black Lives Matter campaign is uncovering history we shouldn’t be celebrating. Some of the things these people said and did would be appalling even in their own times – it’s not just outdated views.”
The Oxford Dictionary of English Literature also describes Dickens as “nationalistic”.
And in his 1990 biography of the Great Expectations and Hard Times novelist, Peter Ackroyd wrote: “In modern terminology Dickens was a ‘racist’ of the most egregious kind, a fact that ought to give pause to those who persist in believing that he was necessarily the epitome of all that was decent and benign in the previous century.”
Arguably the most debated piece of his extensive work is the portrayal of Fagin in Oliver Twist, who is frequently referred to as “the Jew” despite no other character’s race or religion being emphasised.
In an 1857 letter regarding an uprising in India against the British Empire, Dickens also expressed his desire to “exterminate the race from the face of the earth”.