For us at Drive Forward, Black History Month 2020 is a chance to remember, to discover, and to learn. Our team has compiled a collection of biographic one-pagers, each representing parts of black history written across our capital and beyond. Some of the people we write about will be familiar to you and some might not, but all of them have a connection to one or more places in Britain.
Our aim is to unearth a lost, forgotten or hidden history about some of the black people who shaped this country and its people. Of course, one page won’t do anybody’s life justice. Thus, it’s up to you to take in the information and do your own digging into the many stimulating stories we’ve collected.
Let yourself be inspired by their achievements; be curious about their journeys; and be motivated to explore both historical and contemporary stories!
A word of caution
In many ways, there shouldn’t be a need for Black History Month. We should be taught not only about black achievements with the same energy as white achievements, but also about the vast history that comes before the transatlantic slave trade.
We should know about the kings and queens of Africa who helped shape society around the world perhaps more than Henry VIII’s love life; the ancient Carthaginian Empire that some of you will remember from the Punic Wars; the spread of Islam and the Arab slave trade from the 7th century; the legendary wealth of Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire; and so much more.
We should know about the black people that inhabited the Caribbean before the Europeans set foot on their shores and ‘discovered’ the islands – a job for European cartographers.
We should know why the majority of the world speak English and why decades after the vast majority of countries had abolished slavery, about three quarters of Africans in the French army during WW I were of slave origin.
Unfortunately, black history, its people, their turmoil, their stories and achievements are, for the most part, still kept out of our society’s consciousness. The term ‘black history’ even lacks a proper definition. Awareness-raising campaigns such as Black History Month in the UK and also in the US strongly focus on black history in the context of abolition and civil rights movements, a fight against discrimination and for equality.
Learning the whole story
Coming to terms with our nation’s past, that is our collective past, is immensely important in order to move towards a more positive future. So, here’s what we’ll do and what we ask you to do:
Underneath every post you’ll find a link to a public petition aimed at changing the national school curriculum to include the realities of British colonialism and imperialism; the role of Britain in the heinous transatlantic slave trade, as well as the role of the African Diaspora in creating the Great Britain we know today.
We believe that all our children should be provided with a realistic understanding of the past; the evils of British imperialism, the effects of colonial ideology, and the impact this past still has on people of colour today.