November Non-fiction Book of the Month

Black and British: a short, essential history

In 2016 the historian David Olusoga wrote a book and presented a BBC TV Series called Black and British: a forgotten history.  This year, in response to many requests and in conjunction with the social enterprise The Black Curriculum, he has written a children’s edition.  Both versions are available to borrow from the School Library.  I deliberately waited until November to write this review so that the conversation around Black History can be continued after Black History Month has ended.  School is committed to addressing the themes of race and diversity throughout the year and to providing a space in the curriculum for you to engage with issues of diversity and inequality.   This review also serves as the starting point to the library’s pledge to ensure that the books in the library fully reflect the diversity of the school and wider British society.  I will prioritise the purchase and promotion of books written by BAME authors and about BAME characters until the imbalance in the stock is redressed.  This will take time, but the publishing world is slowly catching up and you deserve to read stories with different perspectives and see yourselves in the books that you read.

Olusoga guides us through the unreported history of Black people in Britain, stretching back from the Roman occupation to the felling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol this year.  It highlights exactly how little is taught about the contribution of Black men and women to British history.  Our lives have been affected by peoples from different continents for hundreds of years.  Records can be found in parishes, in legal documents, private papers, artwork and human remains and yet so little is widely known.

What is striking is that the egregious idea of Black inferiority was created by the slave traders of the Eighteenth Century and continued by the Empire builders of the Nineteenth Century to further their own agendas and line their own pockets.  It turns out that fake news isn’t just a Twenty-First Century phenomenon.

This isn’t however, a history a racism in Britain, rather a celebration and reminder of the influence on Black people on British society.  It should be read by everyone.