British Black History
This week we're highlighting examples of British Black history to raise awareness of the contributions Black people have made to our society.
The history of the UK is not separate from the history of Black people. For many students, due to a lack of representation in the national curriculum, your knowledge many only extend to slavery and Windrush. That’s why we want to help raise awareness of some Black Britons who have impacted our history.
Throughout October, we will be celebrating Black Britons, by sharing ‘Black Britons you should know about’ everyday on our Instagram stories. If you miss a day, you can catch up on our story highlights.
Follow us @uniofyork_outreach on Instagram to help us celebrate and continue learning!
How Black History is taught at York
Watch the video below from the Department of History’s Dr Sam Wetherell, who teaches the course ‘Between the Empire and Me: Race and Decolonisation in Britain since 1930’ to first year history students. Hear his thoughts on Black history in the UK and how it is taught at York.
Black History highlight - Andrea Levy
Andrea Levy is best known for writing 'Small Island's and 'The Long Song' in which she explores racial segregation and the British Jamaican experience in the 20th century. She has also written numerous other novels centred around the ideas of race in the UK.
Levy was of Afro-Jamaican descent. Her father came to Britain on the HMT Empire Windrush in 1948, with her mother following later that year. Levy was born in Highbury, London where she initially went on to become a costume designer for the BBC. On her father's death she turned to writing, finding there were few books looking at the Black British experience. It was her fourth book, 'Small Island', that was her biggest success, looking at the immediate aftermath of the war and the subsequent experience of the Windrush generation settling in Britain and the discrimination they face. 'Small Island' won three awards, namely the Whitbread Book of the Year, the Orange Prize and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and has since been turned into a television series of the same title and a National Theatre performance to much critical acclaim. ‘The Long Song,’ her fifth novel was, also adapted by the BBC for a three-part series in 2018.
Levy's writing is nothing short of excellent and has recently become a studied text for some A Level students - showing the start of a much needed decolonisation of the A Level English curriculum. More than that, Levy’s writing is full of heart, humour and insightful comments on our society and its unjust treatment of the Black community.
Provided by the University of York History Society
Read, watch and listen
Explore these resources to further educate yourself about Bristish Black history:
- Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands. Political activist and sociologist Stuart Hall describes his life, of growing up in Jamaica and then moving to the UK where he established a life in a nation rife with racism and other challenges.
- Miranda Kaufmann, Black Tudors: The Untold Story. Many only think that Black history begins in the modern period but this book counters this long held misconception. By focusing on ten people, the author writes about the situations of many Black people who could have lived undocumented in history.
- Black and British: A forgotten history. Historian David Olusoga explores Black British history in this four-part BBC series. From origins in Africa, to sailors who fought for the Royal Navy and people who stood against British colonisation, this series seeks to uncover it all.
- Belle. Based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a British naval officer in the 18th century who is brought to the UK. Here, she has to come to terms with her identity, as well as her place in society and her impact on the eventual abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
- Timewasters. This ITV comedy series is about a four-member Jazz band who accidentally travel back in time to 1920s London. They find being young and Black in this age is a lot less fun than Downton Abbey made them believe as they struggle to find a way home.
- You’re Dead to Me. Hosted by York alumni and Historian Greg Jenner, this podcast series combines comedy and the past. Numerous episodes focus on Black history from the origins of Notting Hill Carnival, the underground railroad’s Harriet Tubman, the richest man ever Mansa Musa, the Haitan Revolution and more.
- Jimi Hendrix was an American musician, singer and songwriter and is regarded as one of the most influential rock stars in history. He changed the way musicians looked at electric guitars, pioneering new techniques of creating sound. In 2005 he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame and a Blue Plaque was placed at his London home. Have a listen to All Along the Watchtower.
- Keep your eye on our Instagram page where current students will be sharing what makes them proud to be Black.
- Find out more about student’s experiences of Black families and communities.
- Get an updated list of read, watch, listen recommendations.