Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Black History Is For Everyone

I am a self-confessed history geek. It was my favourite subject at school. But as much as I loved History, I remember being regularly disappointed by the absence of 'Black'- more specifically 'Black British' history on the curriculum; I just didn't have the language to articulate it at the time. Endless repetition of the Elizabethans, Victorians (as fascinating as it was), Tudors, Stuarts and modern European history - primarily the two World Wars - were consistently viewed through the same colonial, beige-coloured lenses.

'Black' history, in all my 16 years of compulsory education, consisted of an abysmal, obligatory week long focus on the Ancient Egyptians; a brief overview of slavery - by way of the British Empire - and a whistle-stop tour of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. Forget 'Black' British history being marginalised; it was non-existent.

It never occurred to me that Black people lived in England as early as the 3rd century, or that the World Wars were as much a part of my personal history as my European peers. The contemporary history books failed to include these stories. And in some instances my family were also partially responsible, because they failed to share the relevant family history (I only recently discovered my maternal great grandad was a RAF fighter pilot during the first World War!)

The growth in popularity re. Black British history within mainstream culture is both encouraging and necessary as reflected in recent months. Partially overshadowed by Michaela Coel's BAFTA win (#BlackGirlMagicOverload), historian David Olusoga won a BAFTA for Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners, a fantastically well researched two-part documentary series - comprehensive, enlightening and, in some parts, harrowing - revealing the real reason for the abolition of the slave trade.