Black British history?

Written by Comment

When we think of Black history, a lot probably comes to our mind. However, when we mention Black BRITISH history? We seem to pause and think maybe Windrush, Grime and immigration. Few will think to look back to the 18th century, not to talk of the 14th century.

Recently, I heard a talk by David Olusoga about the importance of Black British history and the need to redefine Black history. Totally changing my perspective on how I perceive what Black ‘Britishness’ is.

Rather than writing an in-depth post on his talk, I thought I would drop five interesting facts he touched on.

Here are five facts to elevate your knowledge that you probably don’t know about Black British history.

  1.       There is factual evidence that there were Black Romans! but it can be heavily suggested that African people lived in Britain before this period. History Today highlights “in 862 AD the Annals of Ireland record the landing of black slaves (‘blue men’ they are called in both Irish and Norse) by Vikings returning from raids on Spain and North Africa”.
  2.       The guinea was once the everyday currency in Britain. Dates of when the guinea came into use in the UK is contested but, generally, the guinea coin began to be in use by the 1600’s. The coin was made of pure gold and was in use until the 1800’s when it was replaced by the Sovereigns. We can still see elements of the Guinea in use today with horse racing.
  3.      Our monarchy has had a long-held love for black jazz music. During the Edwardian period, jazz became largely popularized due to the influx of West Indian immigrants, African immigrants and African American immigrants into the UK. Specifically, many African American immigrants looked to Britain for a chance of fame. Prince of Wales (later to abdicate as Edward VIII) and his younger brother Prince of George were continuous addicts. Alongside jazz, both took a keen interest in black entertainers such as Florence Mills Jessie Matthews and “Hutch” Hutchinson, a Grenadian pianist.
  4.       During the industrial revolution, Lancashire became one of the major plays in manufactured goods. Figures are disputed but generally, Lancashire at least processed half of the worlds cotton. More than 2/3rd of cotton used in the mills for later textile production was picked cotton by African slaves. Approximately, 1.8 billion slaves become essential to the textile industry in Lancashire.
  5.      There is a lot we still do not know about Britain’s involvement in Africa during its colonial rule. And documents that have been withheld in Hanslope Park have highlighted such. In 2011 a group of Kenya’s sued the FCO for the abuse they dealt with under Britain’s colonial rule. The FCO claimed they did not have correct documents to support this case …In actuality they did. In Hanslope Park, it was later found out that 8,800 – and, eventually, 20,000 – undisclosed files, covering 37 former colonies were found as VICE highlights.

In conclusion, while we know so much about our history there is still so much to be discovered and learned about our presence in this country. Nevertheless, redefine what you see as ‘British’ history and culture. Britain for centuries has been BLACK and continues to be BLACK!

Last modified: 7th October 2019

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