In a visit to Bristol this week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said schools should teach children about colonialism, slavery and the legacy of the British empire, and give greater weight to the “immense contribution” black Britons have made. He also unveiled plans for an Emancipation Educational Trust, which would educate future generations about the impact of slavery and “tell the story of how slavery interrupted a rich African and black history”. Local civil rights activist Paul Stephenson, who played a central role in the Bristol bus boycott in 1963, should be as well known to British schoolchildren as Rosa Parks. Read more here and two opinion pieces here ("Corbyn's right") and here ("Thank you, Jeremy Corbyn – what you said about colonialism was spot on.").
An AQA GCSE sociology textbook that describes Caribbean men as "largely absent" from family situations has been withdrawn by the publisher. The main criticism is that this statement is made without any social or historical context.
Tamu Thomas from ‘Motherhood Reconstructed’ commented: ”I couldn't imagine what it would feel like if you were a black child, sitting in class and reading a statement like that. I do acknowledge that the number of families with absent fathers is higher in the black community, proportionally. But when something is put forward as fact like that without explaining the historical reasons why that might be the case, without any context, that's really dangerous. If we had an educational system that actually studied and analysed the black experience, including the impact of the slave trade and racism in society, it would be different.”
Read the full article on the BBC website.
In this article Paula Akpan laments the selective version of British history she was taught at her school. "...that I had to go looking for significant moments in black British history suggests to me that I had been kept ignorant." In school she learned about the US Civil Rights Movement, Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and found herself wishing for such movements and heroes in her own country. This focus on racial tensions and struggles elsewhere "relieves this country of accountability".
Akan says she and many others have had to discover the history of black people in the UK for themselves through social media, discovering books such as Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. Olusoga traces this history back to Roman times, confronting the idea that black people only came here in the 50s, and states: “The denial and avowal of black British history, even in the face of mounting documentary and archaeological evidence, is not just a consequence of racism but a feature of racism.”
Read the full article here.
Dr Robert Beckford is delivering a lecture "Is God a white racist? 'Woking' Gospel music in Britain" at Manchester Metropolitan University on Wednesday October 10, 5-6:45pm.
"How might we meaningfully reflect on the church’s complicity with racial terror in the Caribbean? And what is the role of British gospel music in articulating the memory of slavery, its continued impact and its overcoming? Entangling ideas from theodicy (the problem of evil), pentecostal epistemes (prayer, singing) and Christina Sharpe’s “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being” (creative and critical cultural production) this practice-based presentation explores the sources for a new urban ’social gospel music’ genre."
Admission by ticket only. Book here. Part of Black History Month 2018.
This Guardian article from 2015 outlines a walking tour of key sites of Manchester's radical history. This of course includes 'Peterloo' in 1819 where sword-wielding cavalry charged into a defenceless crowd who had gathered to call for parliamentary reform, leaving 15 dead and more than 600 injured. Several of the speakers were also involved in the fight to abolish slavery, one of a number of parallels in Manchester's history. “It was the largest crowd ever gathered at that point in British history,” says radical historian Michael Herbert. “The sight of the British army attacking its own people was unusual, almost unprecedented. It was a really shocking event with reverberations that went on throughout the nineteenth century.”
Those reverberations can still be felt and echoes of Peterloo can be heard today. As Herbert has said more recently, the event: "was about political reform as a response to hunger, unemployment and poverty, which has inescapable parallels with food bank Britain in 2017." Peterloo has been described elsewhere as "a war on the emerging working class movement".
With Peterloo's 200th Anniversary coming up on 16 August 2019, this walking tour would be a good way to familiarise yourself with Manchester's history of political protest and campaigning for economic and social justice. An extra stop to find out more about Peterloo and other significant events would be the People's History Museum (on the map on Bridge Street to the West of point D).
The Government’s Race Disparity Audit, published yesterday along with an Ethnicity Facts and Figures website has revealed significant differences in the life outcomes of British ethnic minority and white people. The report reveals that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are twice as likely to be unemployed than white British adults and that white British pupils on free school meals perform worse in school than any other group. The Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomed the report saying that "focused action" was now needed. Others have pointed out that many of these statistics were already common knowledge – see for example MJR's research into educational attainment – and "decades of reports" and talking needed to become action. Kimberley Macintosh of the Runnymede Trust commented: "With the Race Disparity Audit bringing injustice and inequality out of obscurity and into the mainstream – raw and exposed – it’s time to act." The Runnymede Trust have also just published a report showing that austerity is hitting Black and Asian women the hardest.
Read more from the Guardian and Independent. Download the Race Disparity Audit and visit the website.
Manchester prospered from the horrors of slavery for much of the 18th century. Yet by the end of that era the growing, newly-industrialised town was leading the campaign for its abolition. The turning point was a meeting held at the Manchester Collegiate Church (now Manchester Cathedral) on 28 October 1787 led by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.
Find out about Clarkson and others such as Bright, Cobden, the Gregg and Heywood families and the unique relationship with Abraham Lincoln on this guided walk around Manchester city centre. October 18, 2-4pm. Tickets available here.
Also, on October 12, 6-30 to 8.30pm, there will be a talk: 'Slavery and Abolition in Manchester' at the Portico Library. Tickets and more information available here.
The Beatfreeks Collective is a group of companies using creativity for good, based in the heart of Birmingham. Their arts initiative, Free Radical, has just won an award as part of the Heritage Lottery £10m 'Kick the Dust' fund. This will fund a 3 year Radical History project: "a landmark opportunity for young people in Birmingham and The Black Country to decolonize the history of the region by connecting them to the stories of the areas they live in. RHP will also support young people in taking their seat at the table and having a say in how heritage organisations work."
Birmingham's history is one of huge growth during the Industrial Revolution, but as happens so often the telling has been selective. "The sad truth is that [Birmingham's] canals were used to carry guns from the Gun Quarter and chains from the Black Country to the UK’s ports, and then to African and American colonies to subjugate slaves and oppress peoples. We need the city’s heritage organisations to tell all of these stories to make sure that the history they are presenting, represents everyone who lives here." This will be an important project educating people about their hidden history and legacy. Read more here...
A forgotten part of the history of black people in Britain is to be revisited with an exhibition revealing how some of the most celebrated black fighters in the early struggle against slavery were once held in a British prison. During the wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, when Britain’s black population numbered no more than 10,000, some 2,000 African-Caribbean people were held as prisoners of war in Portchester Castle in Portsmouth Harbour. Read more here.
The exhibition, 'Black Prisoners of War at Portchester Castle', opens on July 20. More details here.
A session from Dr Nicholas Draper's recent course 'Remembering Slavery' at the Gladstone Library which looks at the Gladstone family links to the slave trade has been made available as a free audio download here.
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