What’s happening in Black British history?

Hello loyal followers and casual visitors alike,

I will write more soon with an update on recent activity as well as a glimpse at new items we have coming up. But first I wanted to let you know about some exciting work being done in Black British history showcased at a conference this past weekend at Goldsmiths College. While I can’t summarize all the papers there, let me draw your attention to a few I thought particularly exciting.

  • Laura Hampden from the Greater London Archaeological Advisory Service (GLAAS) opened the conference with a brief survey of UK archaeological sites relevant to Black British history that could be used in schools–as you’ll know a particular interest of this site. She pointed to some that may be familiar, like Ivory Bangle Lady (York) and Beachy Head Lady (Eastbourne), as well as two that I had not heard of before: Roman Southwark Burials and Fairford Woman (Gloucestershire). Check ’em out, and if you’re a teacher, it’s worth thinking about these as ways to start conversations with your students, especially given the recent controversies over the BBC Roman history cartoon.
  • Emma Craddock from and Carole Pierre from New Cross focused our attention on 1981, the blind spots of the Scarman Report and the New Cross fire respectively. Craddock gave us an insight into Scarman’s assumptions about whose accounts were valid, e.g. the police versus members of the local community, despite contradictions and inconsistencies that might have been resolved by paying attention to the fuller range of available testimony. Pierre showed the lack of official interest in the fire and the necessary efforts by locals to comfort those affected, to ask pressing questions, and to pressure officials to pursue an inquiry. In doing so, she illustrated the importance of local history.
  • Finally, current PhD students Kesewa John (who also ran the conference) from Chichester and Molly Corlett from King’s College London showed that we have a lot to look forward to in coming years. John spoke on Caribbean radicals based in London, like George Padmore,  who made the case against joining the war against Nazi Germany on the grounds that they were being used by an empire that had no interest in their liberty. Corlett focused in particular on the case of an Antiguan servant caught up in a marital dispute that reached the House of Lords, and she used it to highlight the interconnections between the racial regimes of Britain and its Caribbean colonies.

And for those who want to know more, be sure to check out a conference organized by Miranda Kaufmann and Michael Ohajuru this coming Thursday (26 October 2017). Miranda and Michael will talk about sixteenth-century Britain along with American historians Cassander L. Smith (Alabama) and Imtiaz Habib (Old Dominion). Historian Catherine Fletcher (Swansea) and BBC producers James Van Der Pool and Colin Grant will talk about the challenges of broadcasting Black History. Renowned historian and broadcaster David Olusoga will give the keynote, and, best of all, students from the BRIT School in Croydon will give their perspectives Black History and the curriculum. Further details can be found here. Don’t miss it!

Happy exploring,

Jeff

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