In this article Elliot Ross says Scotland should take responsibility for the major and highly lucrative role it played in the transatlantic slave trade. He refers to a recent BBC documentary, Slavery: Scotland's Hidden Shame, which followed the publication of a major book. It gave a thorough and critical expose of an aspect of Scottish history that has often been ignored or else reduced to little more than a footnote beneath grander and more comfortable narratives about Scotland's distinctive scientific and intellectual contributions to modernity. Recent emphasis on Scottish participation in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade has come at the expense of a proper understanding of the ways in which Scottish institutions and elites were enriched by chattel slavery. This "structural amnesia compounds the original injury and extends the contempt for black life that made the transatlantic slavery economy possible to begin with." Read the full article here.
In this article in today's Independent, Deana Heath, senior lecturer in Indian and colonial history at the University of Liverpool argues that the school curriculum must stop whitewashing the British empire and start being honest about the subjugation and exploitation of millions of people.
Heath says his students come to him having been educated through a school history curriculum that focuses almost entirely on English political and religious history, and knowing “practically nothing about empire and its legacies – including in Britain. The histories they have studied and texts they have read were virtually all about or by white men, so they also know nothing about the history of women or the histories of people of colour, either.”
Referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s recent proposals that British school children should be taught about the history of the realities of British imperialism and colonialism, Heath says this would “begin to redress the phenomenal gulf between academic history and the English school curriculum.” Criticism of Corbyn's proposals from people such as Jacob Rees-Mog is based in a "state of denial about empire" and demonstrates “a profound ignorance about British imperial and colonial history, particularly about the impact of empire on not only the colonised but also the colonisers as well.”
Heath's students’ experience has been that being able to interrogate difficult histories, such as that of empire, has given them “a much better understanding of themselves and their place in the world”. Which is, surely, what education is supposed to do.
Read the full article here.
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.
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.
An article by Dr Lawrence Brown claims the origins and spread of HIV can be seen as a legacy of Belgian colonisation in the Congo. "We now know that HIV-1 emerged from Leopoldville in the 1920s and spread first among African people. The colonization of the Congolese by King Leopold II and the Belgians helps explain how the virus became a global pandemic".
It also comments how the disproportionate effects of HIV on sub-Saharan African people is "... precisely because European colonization exacted tremendous violence, extracted critical resources, disrupted social structures, and weakened the health of indigenous populations. European nations broke their promise to protect and promote the welfare of the indigenous African people. Instead the Belgians dehumanized and debased African societies producing the social determinants of death that gave rise to deadly infectious diseases. HIV-1 was ignited in Leopoldville, but the resulting HIV global pandemic is also the apparition of a grotesque and horrific legacy—the European infection of mass historical trauma and the devastation of Congolese health wrought by King Leopold II, the Force Publique, and Belgian colonisation."
Read the full article here.
A new Legacy museum has been opened in Montgomery, Alabama by the Equal Justice Initiative. The museum traces the history of enslaved black people in America from the horrors of slavery to the terrors of lynching, the humiliation of Jim Crow and the current crisis of police brutality. Nearby a National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also opened last month, becomes one of the country’s first memorials dedicated to more than 4,000 victims of lynching.
Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said the country cannot heal until it confronts the truth of what happened, especially in the South.
“This landscape is littered with a kind of glorious story about our ‘romantic past’,” said Stevenson, a lawyer who has helped overturn the convictions of more than 125 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. “You can’t say that if you fully understand the depravity of human slavery, of bondage, of humiliation and rape and torture and lynchings of people.” Read more in this article. Visit the museum website.
In this hard-hitting blog for the William Temple Foundation, Greg Smith considers white, male privilege and the role of the Church in a world still beset by racial inequality. Despite some progress in the past forty years Smith laments that still "so little has been achieved in the struggle against oppression and the legacy of colonialism and slavery", and that being white, male, middle-class and university educated (as he readily admits he himself is) still confers significant social and economic privilege over all others.
"Despite all the enquiries and reports, and equality and diversity policies, institutional racism remains in place and life chances in education, employment, income, the criminal justice system, health and housing are significantly higher for white middle and upper class people living in the south of England than for any of the minority ethnic communities. Violent hate crimes are frequent and tend to peak when political events give permission for racist thuggery, verbal and online abuse goes on unchecked and subtle forms of racism expressed in a look, body language or unfavourable customer service are an everyday experience."
As for the Church, again while there is much work and progress to be commended, still for the most part there is white male domination, particularly of leadership, and unwillingness to address issues of legacy. “Conversations about colonial history in white-led evangelical circles often begin and end with a self congratulatory, virtue signalling narrative around Wilberforce and the abolitionists, plus a mention of the great Christian leadership of Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu.” Read the full blog here.
On Monday September 11 MJR held its second gathering to present research into aspects of the legacy of slavery. Called 'Talking Legacy', presentations were made by Nigel Peacock ('The Legacy of Slavery: Towards an Aetiology of African-Caribbean Mental Health') and Alton Bell ('Physical Health Research: The outcome of African Chattel Enslavement circa 1500-1800. A presentation of the suggested link between the legacy of the enslavement of Africans in the Caribbean and the propensity of their descendants to develop debilitating diseases'). These can now also be downloaded from our Resources page. A lively discussion followed with a number of interesting comments and questions that might suggest future research (such as: What about the other side of the legacy of enslavement i.e. that left on the white population?)
The day also included the MJR AGM with reports on activities over the last year and some exciting plans taking shape for the future, which we hope to be able to go fully public on soon.
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Today is the 198th anniversary of one of the most significant events of British history with regard to the legacy of industrial oppression passed down to the present day that MJR was formed to address. The Peterloo massacre took place on August 17, 1819 when a cavalry charge was ordered into 60,000 people who had gathered peacefully at St Peter's fields, Manchester, to protest for greater parliamentary representation. 18 died and 700 were seriously injured. Historian Michael Herbert has said the event: "was about political reform as a response to hunger, unemployment and poverty, which has inescapable parallels with food bank Britain in 2017."
John Edward Taylor, the founder of the Guardian, was present that day. Read his eye-witness account here.
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