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Teaching Black and Asian History in Schools


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#31 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 13 July 2003 - 02:17 PM

In the UK parallels could be drawn with the contribution made by people of the British Empire and Commonwealth in WWI and WWII.

There is part of the Imperial War Museum North website that covers this topic:

http://www.iwm.org.u...ether/index.htm

I have some trouble with the concept of one month set aside for focusing on the history of such a large group of pupils.


I wholeheartedly agree, and have also made an attempt to make my schemes of work and lessons more inclusive. However, at the moment I think that Black History Month is absolutely imperative. If teachers/schools/LEAs are encouraged to participate then this could spark of an interest, which will motivate more teachers to create an inclusive curriculum. If BHM is not used then the status quo remains.

positive discrimination is discrimination


Currently we have discrimination, so what is the difference? positive discrimination or quotas should only be needed in the short term until a 'critical mass' has been established - if you look at the moves by the Labour Party to positively discrimate in favour of women MPs it has been pretty successful, especially in Wales which now has 50-50 male-female members of the welsh Assembly, the first time anywhere in the world!

NB I have just found out that I have been given a grant of £250 for my school's Black and Asian History Month. I would like to get some Asian drummers / dancers to perform in my school. If anyone can make any recommendations it would be most helpful.

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 13 July 2003 - 02:21 PM.

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#32 John Simkin

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Posted 14 July 2003 - 05:54 AM

Maybe the History Forum could celebrate Black History Month by producing some online teaching materials on the subject. For those wishing to do so I would recommend the following books.

Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (Pluto, 1984)

Gretchen Gerzina, Black England (John Murray, 1998)

Jeffrey Green, Black Edwardians (Frank Cass, 1998)

Jagdish Gundara (ed) Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain (Avebury, 1992)

Paul Edwards, Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade (Macmillan, 1983)

Jack Gratus, The Great White Lie (Monthly Review Press, 1973)

Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole (Falling Wall Press, 1857/1984)

David Bygott, Black and British (Oxford, 1992)

#33 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 14 July 2003 - 05:09 PM

I think that is a great idea John, and I will certainly post up any work that I do for Black History Month.
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#34 John Simkin

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 09:38 AM

It seems like there is a relative consensus from most contributors about the importance of integrating Black and Asian british History into the curriculum (there don't seem to be any postings arguing that it is not necessary), so I was wondering how many people actually practice what they preach?

There does appear to be a consensus about how we study black history. However, if we look deeper into what actually goes on in the classroom I think we will indeed find some disagreement.

In another debate on the forum about the teaching of the British Empire, John D. Clare has argued: “The role of the professional History teacher in this, I would suggest, must be to frame relevant and appropriate questions, to guide the pupils towards reliable data, to make sure that both sides of the issue are fairly addressed, and to ensure that the debate is correctly conducted and that the pupils form opinions not prejudices as a result.”

http://www.schoolhis...topic=1497&st=0

On the surface this seems a very sensible approach. However, I think it raises two important issues that are worth discussing.

First of all, how successful are teachers in making sure “that both sides of the issue are fairly addressed”. Anybody who has produced New History type materials knows that you have to make judgements about the topics you are going to cover or the sources you are going to use. This involves issues such as “will this interest the students”. However, it also involves thinking about the possible political impact the material will have on the students. For example, when I wrote my book on Hitler I did a source-based activity on Racism in Nazi Germany. I used ten sources. Five of the sources had been produced by Nazis. There were two cartoons ridiculing Nazi racist ideas, a photograph of two Germans accused of breaking Nazi laws, an extract from a German religious leader attacking racism and a statistical account of the number of Jews killed in Europe. In theory this was a “balanced” approach. However, it was not, and I did not intend it to be. I carefully selected the five sources putting forward racist ideas. I was worried that some students might find these ideas attractive and would provide evidence for their own deeply held prejudices.

The possible consequences of using certain sets of statistics were also taken into account. I could of used statistics of the number of Jews who successfully left Germany during the 1930s. Instead I chose the use the statistics that showed the percentage of Jews that died in each of the different European countries.

I decided against using Nazi cartoons putting forward racist ideas but did use two anti-Nazi cartoons. Once again this decision was motivated by my assessment of what impact these sources would have on the student. The Nazis were very good at producing images to encourage racist views. There was no way I would give them the opportunity to continue this work in my classroom.

Although I selected an equal number of primary sources that appeared to reflect the two sides of the question, it was far from being a balanced approach, in the sense that I could not predict what point of view the student would take on the issue after they had completed the assignment. I clearly wanted them to end up feeling repulsed by what the Nazis did to the Jews during this period. Would it not have been immoral of me to do anything different?

It will be argued that studying Nazi Germany is different from other subjects and that it is the one case where the teacher should not take a balanced approach. I disagree with this view. I think there are numerous cases where teachers do not attempt to provide a “balanced view”. For example, I doubt very much if teachers provide a balanced account of Stalin’s Purges or the Hungarian Uprising. Nor, do I think they should do. What is important is for the students to understand why these events took place?

Should we as teachers provide a balanced view of the British Empire? Most would no doubt argue that we should. After all, the people behind the British Empire cannot be compared to figures such as Hitler and Stalin. Maybe not, but I believe the long-term consequences of the British Empire are comparable to those of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. The major difference is that Hitler and Stalin were not British and therefore can be looked at critically without implications for our view of ourselves.

As I have argued earlier in this debate, it is very difficult for teachers to be completely objective when teaching about subjects such as the British Empire and the Second World War. We are the products of a culture that has encouraged us to be proud of our past. That we have a collective national consciousness of the past. Although we are aware of such crimes as Amritsar or the bombing of Dresden, we see this as part of a much larger picture concerning the overall merits of our country’s behaviour. We are willing to take a critical view of these events as long as it is balanced with a look at the positive aspects of the topic. This may be an acceptable approach when studying the Second World War but I don't think it is when we are dealing with the British Empire.

The main reason for this is that we teach in a multicultural society. In our classes will be the descendants of those who suffered as a result of the British Empire. As a result we have to think very carefully about how we teach this subject. I do not think it is appropriate for teachers to take a conventional “balanced” approach. In fact, I think we should take an approach similar to that taken when studying Nazi Germany. That is to say, that by the end of the topic, very few students, if any at all, do not approve of what happened in Nazi Germany.

When studying the British Empire we need to challenge the way this subject has been interpreted by British historians. This includes the real reasons why slavery was brought to an end and why countries within the empire gained their independence. We need to compare the different theories about why the British Empire was created and why change took place (economic factors/Christian morality, etc.) and the roles that individuals and different groups played in this. Most of all, we need to look at the long-term consequences of the British Empire. If we do that, I don’t think our students will approve of the British Empire. Hopefully, it will also go some one in undermining the racial stereotypes that traditional teaching of the subject has in the past has helped to develop.

#35 Richard Drew

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 08:00 PM

out of curiosity how much welsh history do teachers to the east of offa's dyke cover in their lessons:

~ do you teach the norman partial conquest of wales?
~ do you teach life on the welshie when you do medieval village life?
~ do you teach Edwards I's conquest of Wales: i) at all? ii) in the context of covering the impact on wales as well as from the perspective of Edward and the English?

and those are just a few examples from medieval times.

the reasons i ask this is i feel that John's comment about being a minority in a dominant culture, and other comments made about needing a wide knowledge of all of the groups that inhabit your society are very pertinent ones. and as such
i am keen to ensure that this takes account of all groups - welsh, scottish, irish, black, asian, european, south american etc etc.

if we are truely to accept the notion of teaching history that covers the origins of all of the mix of people that inhabit our country then this surely needs to cover the history of all of these groups.

if your school teaches little or no welsh history then i would ask you to consider whether this is any less acceptable than neglecting black or asian history?
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#36 neil mcdonald

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Posted 16 July 2003 - 07:22 AM

Very good point Richard - it is remarkable how little we respond to the histories of our people.
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#37 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 16 July 2003 - 04:34 PM

out of curiosity how much welsh history do teachers to the east of offa's dyke cover in their lessons:

~ do you teach the norman partial conquest of wales?
~ do you teach life on the welshie when you do medieval village life?
~ do you teach Edwards I's conquest of Wales: i) at all? ii) in the context of covering the impact on wales as well as from the perspective of Edward and the English?

and as such i am keen to ensure that this takes account of all groups - welsh, scottish, irish, black, asian, european, south american etc etc.

if we are truely to accept the notion of teaching history that covers the origins of all of the mix of people that inhabit our country then this surely needs to cover the history of all of these groups.

if your school teaches little or no welsh history then i would ask you to consider whether this is any less acceptable than neglecting black or asian history?

You raise some valid points Richard and I am glad that you have steered clear of the 'reducto ad absurdum' idea of saying that we must represent every single ethnic minority grouping in our teaching - it would be impossible in my school; there are over 50 different languages spoken! - I did think about the Welsh history that I teach and cover a couple of the areas that you mention, but not in any great detail (that seems to be a recurring theme in this discussion - where do we fit in all of this fascinating and important history into 1 hour per week?). I fully support your point that it is important to teach an inclusive history - but, and here I may be on dodgy grounds (and representing an anglo-centric point of view), there seems to be a greater integration of Welsh, Scottish and Irish history in our curriculum than Black and Asian British History - We have had Welsh princes (I always tell my students about the prince who was locked up in the tower and fell to his death escaping from the window) and Scottish Kings, and there is always plenty to discuss / teach about Ireland - the same has not applied to Black and Asian British History.

Have you any plans to celebrate the Black Welsh community of Tiger Bay in Cardiff?
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#38 John Simkin

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 06:53 AM

If your school teaches little or no Welsh history then I would ask you to consider whether this is any less acceptable than neglecting Black or Asian history?

As someone with a Welsh grandfather I have always taken a keen interest in Welsh history. In fact I have written a great deal about it (don’t tell Welsh teachers but I am the author of a large percentage of the history materials on the Cymru's Virtual Teachers’ Centre website.

http://www.ngfl-cymr...0-ks3/40357.htm

However, we must make sure we are not side-tracked from the issue of teaching Black History. I have been disappointed that so far we have not really taken part in a debate on this subject. For example, when I criticised the way we teach topics like William Wilberforce and slavery no one came back at me. Am I to assume that everybody agrees with me and are already addressing this problem?

#39 BlackPresence

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Posted 18 July 2003 - 05:55 PM

My thanks to John Simpkin...for pointing me to this site.


I would also like to thank Dan Lyndon for posting the URLS on the first page of this thread without them..I would have been painfully in the dark!!!

I have discovered that my site has been ripped off by the government. :crazy:


1n 1998 I was studying at Staffordshire University. Whist there I decided that I would build a website about the black history in Britain

The Black Presence in Britain

Website was my idea and was written and edited and built solely by me!!!


Whilst I am glad that people are finally taking notice of Black British contributions, I am disgusted to find I have been so blatantly "removed from the equation".

Since this site started back in 1998 It has gone from strength to strength, winning awards and rave reviews from Newspapers, Magazines and Broadcasting companies.

The Black Presence in Britain Website

It seems as though this site is achieving its aim, which is to bring black British History to the mainstream attention.

In recent years Black History Month has arrived in the U.K and so people are finally starting to take an interest in parts of British heritage they never knew existed. However, despite this upsurge in interest Black Presence aims to go further.

As the Editor, designer and writer of this site, it is my aim to make sure that teachers in both junior and primary schools have access to this site and the wide range of resources it links to. Black British history is a very real part of British history and culture, it belongs to us all, and that is why I believe it sholud be taught in schools as part of the National Curriculum.

I'm not suggesting that teachers should shoulder the burden of a brand new subject, simply that black British history should be integrated into lessons to provide a more balanced picture of todays multicultural Britain.

All too often we hear the debate about a lack of black role models to inspire the youth of today. Well, there are plenty out there, its just that many of them have been overlooked or forgotten.

Black Presence will continue to work hard to uncover and honour as many of these people as possible.

Edited by BlackPresence, 18 July 2003 - 06:04 PM.


#40 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 18 July 2003 - 07:10 PM

I have discovered that my site  has been ripped off by the government. :crazy:

Thanks for your contribution and I hope that you have found the debate interesting and positive. I am not sure what you meant by the quote above - if you are referring to the Public records Office website Black Presence Asian and Black History in Britain, can I assure you that as one of the contributors to the site that there was absolutely no intention to 'rip off' anyone - the lead Historian who wrote the website spent over 5 years researching the material that was used in and each gallery was meticulously checked by a panel of advisors. If you wuld like more information then you can PM me to discuss this further.

Whilst I am glad that people are finally taking notice of Black British contributions, I am disgusted to find I have been so blatantly "removed from the equation".


I have been aware of your website for a while now, and was at the debate at the Tabernacle on Black History Month hosted by BBC London, where we both spoke in the debate (I am guessing it was you), and I am sorry that I did not post your website on my seminar, there was no deliberate intention to remove your valuable contribution from the debate.

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 18 July 2003 - 07:13 PM.

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#41 John Simkin

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 04:02 PM

The National Archives has taken a massive lead in producing an almost definitive guide to the pre-1850 presence of Black and Asian people in Britain:

http://www.pro.gov.u...story/index.htm
The National Archive, pathways to the past, Black presence: Asian and Black History in Britain 1500-1850.

I have spent some time looking at this website recently and it is overall very disappointing. The individual biographies have virtually all edited versions of the text from Peter Fryer’s Staying Power. The writer has at the same time tried to remove Fryer’s Marxist analysis of the people he wrote about. They have also played down or ignored the racial prejudice the individual endured in Britain. For example, in its biography of James Peters it ignores the fact that several officials of his rugby club in Devon resigned in protest when he was recruited. Nor did the writer mention that he was not picked for England for several years for racial reasons or that he was dropped when the team played South Africa. Ironically, the Rugby Union official website does include this information.

The entry for Robert Wedderburn is particularly bad. It includes the phrase “He served 2 years in Carlisle jail”. This is obviously an edited version of Fryer who actually says “Wedderburn was sent to join Carlile in Dorchester jail for two years”. Wedderburn is referring to Richard Carlile, the radical reformer who had also been sent to Dorchester jail as a result of his criticisms of the Peterloo Massacre. It is hard to believe that a historian writing about this period would not know about Richard Carlile. It therefore seems that the text has not been written by a historian.

There are also some strange omissions. For example, Shapurji Saklatvala (political activist – first Communist MP), George Padmore (writer and political activist), Sylvester Williams (political activist – founder of African Association), Learie Constantine (cricketer and politician) and C. L. R. James (listed but no biography).

#42 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 03:01 PM

Having just completed a very successful celebration of Black and Asian history in my school over the last two weeks, I thought it might be useful to reflect on the experience;

I am now more convinced than ever that the only way to increase the amount of multicultural history into the school curriculum is for someone to write an effective scheme of work for KS3 that 'drops in' events and individuals from ethnic minorities into the established / mainstream chronology. As an example this would mean that schools included some work / discussion of Elizabeth I's attempts at repatriating the 'Blackamores' in the late 16th century when they look at poverty in Elizabethan times or discussed what John Blanke, the black trumpeter at the court if Henry VII and Henry VIII tells us about the Tudor Court.

It is relatively easy to find material about people from ethnic minorities who have made a contribution to our country's history. There are now lots of good resources and the Internet is a fantastic tool. The only thing you need is a bit of motivation.

The response that you get from the majority of students is overwhelmingly positive, whether you are studying in the classroom or organising events outside. The 'raising horizons' seminar that I organised was a fantastic success. Yes it was a huge amount of work for me to do, yes there was only an indirect link to 'history', but to see nearly 30 students stay after school to talk to the guests that had been invited and for the guests themselves to stay for an hour just chatting away about how much they had got out of the day was such an amazing feeling. Even if only one student is inspired by events like this then that is good enough for me.

I have been a bit 'underwhelmed' by the responses from other schools / history teachers about their plans for celebrating / teaching Black and Asian history in schools. However, I would like to thank the 'kindred spirits' that have PMed and emailed me to share their experiences and tell me about their plans. However even if one teacher reading this seminar has decided to do something this year, for the first time, then that is good enough for me.
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#43 John Simkin

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 03:36 PM

I am now more convinced than ever that the only way to increase the amount of multicultural history into the school curriculum is for someone to write an effective scheme of work for KS3 that 'drops in' events and individuals from ethnic minorities into the established / mainstream chronology. As an example this would mean that schools included some work / discussion of Elizabeth I's attempts at repatriating the 'Blackamores' in the late 16th century when they look at poverty in Elizabethan times or discussed what John Blanke, the black trumpeter at the court if Henry VII and Henry VIII tells us about the Tudor Court.

I fully agree. Please let me know if I can help you with this.

#44 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 18 August 2004 - 02:05 PM

It's time again for departments to start planning for Black History Month this coming October. This year it would be really nice to read of any events that other schools have done to celebrate BHM. I have started planning the big event that I have run for the last three years - the 'Raising Horizons' seminars and Question Time - you can read about last years events here: 'Raising Horizons' and have already had some very positive responses from the people that I have emailed. I have now 'booked' people from Show Racism the Red Card, the Museum of Immigration and Diversity, Passionnet (Black online bookseller), a PA to the (former) Immigration Minister and education consultant. All of these people have willingly given up their time to contribute and all it took from me was sending off a few emails and answering a few phone calls.

I also had a very interesting phone call from one person that emailed me who. quite legitimately, wanted to debate why I had called my event last year 'Black and Asian History Month'? She vociferously argued that I was missing the 'whole point' of BHM which was ONLY about Carribbean / African history/culture and that the Asian community had withdrawn from an offer to join the celebrations. It was somewhat ironic or maybe poignant that this conversation took place the day after watching the Darcus Howe documentary on Channel 4 highlighting the poor community relations between some Black british and british muslim youth. As a result of this conversation and watching the documentary, whilst understanding the arguments, I have become even more convinced of the need to make the celebrations at my school as inclusive as possible and if that means upsetting a few people then so be it.

So what am I planning for BHM this year:

A 'Raising Horizons' seminar and question time event
An international food day
A talent competition for budding MCs and DJs
entering pupils for the 100 Black Men of London competition

What about you?

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 18 August 2004 - 02:07 PM.

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#45 Malarvilie

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Posted 18 August 2004 - 03:14 PM

I started having meetings with pupils about BHM in July and they are soooooooooooo enthusiastic!! We have got lots of ideas

- BHM magazine, include articles on famous Black people Past present and future, fashion, current affairs etc
- Extended assembly to include presentation on Black scientists, short stories, role play, singing and dancing etc
- We are hoping to have meetings with dept heads to try to ensure that this is Black History should not be confined to OCT. For example I have moved the teaching of Black Peoples of the Americas from Oct to next year so that it is not all in one month and forgotten about.......... this was a major concern of many pupils.
- I would love to have speakers come in so Dan if you could pass some Ph no.s on to me I would be VERY grateful as I wouldn't know where to start.

Mal
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but I have the heart and stomach of a King!




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