Making History by Reclaiming ‘Black History’

February 22, 2013 in Papers

This short paper is my contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of Black History Month in the UK.  It is in response to the ‘Position Paper’ written by Nubian Jack for discussion at the meeting on African Heritage Month International at the Africa Centre, Covent Garden, London, on 22 February 2013. 

Nubian Jak has provided a useful potted history of the origins and development of Black History Month (BHM) in Britain, a story that even after 25 years is unfamiliar to many.

During the last 25 years, much has happened that in my view calls into question the provenance and trajectory of BHM, thus making it necessary for us to question our connectedness with it and how we are fashioning it for the current and future generations in the same way that the early pioneers laid the foundations for us. Read the rest of this entry →

Repeating the lessons of History by failing to learn from them

January 11, 2013 in Blog

On Monday 29 December 2012, just as many in the nation were reflecting on the closing year and hoping that better would come in 2013, the Daily Mail published an article indicating that worse would continue and be compounded.

In that article, Jonathan Petre commented on ‘leaked drafts of the new history curriculum to be published in the New Year’ under the headline:

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Highlights of the article included:

• Historic figures, including Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson will again feature in history lessons;
• The ‘back-to-basics’ shakeup will see overhaul of social reformers like Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole;
• Fears that the reforms, spearheaded by Education Secretary Michael Gove, could anger equality rights activists;

The Daily Mail was itself fuelling the ‘war with equality activists’ by singling out Mary Secole and Olaudah Equiano and making them and ‘politically correct’ teachers who teach about them in the history curriculum the thrust of its story.

‘The likes of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill had been dropped from history lessons under the last Labour Government in a move critics said was driven by ‘political correctness. But under a new ‘back-to- basics’ shake-up, pupils will again have to study these traditional historic figures – and not social reformers such as Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole and former black slave Olaudah Equiano, who were introduced into the 2007 curriculum’.

Directly beneath this statement, however, are the images of Mary Secole, William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson, Olaudah Equiano and Florence Nightingale.

Commentary I have seen and heard about these proposed changes to the curriculum have rather missed the seriousness of what Michael Gove is seeking to do, i.e., to write out of history the evidence that we do not all subscribe to the narrative of history involving Britain that this nation and its schooling and higher education system has been ramming down our throats for generations. Read the rest of this entry →

History… Whose story?

October 23, 2012 in Blog

One does not to drill down too deeply to find the connection between the racist and most brutal murder of Anthony Walker in 2005 and the central thrust of Benjamin Zephaniah (pictured) ’s lecture in his home city of Birmingham on Friday 19 October 2012. History teaching in British schools does a disservice to children of African and Asian heritage no less than to white British children.

Anthony was murdered by white young men in a manner reminiscent of the gratuitous hounding, lynching and killing of Africans in the southern states of America. What is more, the instrument of their murderous savagery was an axe, that most powerful metaphor of white domination of Africans whom colonialism and imperialism defined as sub-human and less worthy of honour, dignity and respect than the horse that ‘massa’ and his slave-drivers rode.

The use of the axe to routinely punish enslaved Africans for daring to seek freedom from bondage or to protest against the inhumane treatment that characterised their daily living is part of the story of what connects African heritage children with their white counterparts in British schooling and education. Read the rest of this entry →