Black British History: UK adults lack knowledge, new study finds

Black British History: UK adults lack knowledge, new study finds

Bridging the knowledge gap: the call to integrate Black British history in UK education

by Suswati Basu
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Award-winning children’s author, Atinuke, has called for a more comprehensive integration of Black British history into the UK education system, in light of a new survey obtained by How To Be Books, revealing the nation’s limited awareness on the subject.

The discrepancy in historical awareness

The study, commissioned by Bloomsbury and executed by YouGov to mark Black History Month, exposes a concerning knowledge gap. Of the 2,268 adults surveyed, a staggering 75% conceded to knowing little or nothing about Black British history. This figure is all the more alarming when juxtaposed with the 68% who claimed to have a strong understanding of British history at large.

Read: Why children should learn the truth – Stolen History author Sathnam Sanghera

In a society that prides itself on historical awareness, more than half of the respondents (52%) failed to identify a single Black British historical figure. A mere 7% believed they could name more than four.

Moreover, the survey highlighted misconceptions regarding the history of Black people in Britain. Historical evidence suggests Black individuals have been residing in Britain for around 12,000 years. Yet, 36% of those polled believed the first Black settlers arrived within the last 200 years. Shockingly, a quarter surmised this to have been within the past century.

Misconceptions and oversights: Britain’s role in slavery

Additionally, many respondents underestimated Britain’s profound role in the transatlantic slave trade. While Britain forcibly transported over 3.1 million Africans, over half of the participants were either unaware of the numbers or grossly underreported them.

However, a glimmer of hope arises from the younger generation. Among the 18-24 year age group, a higher percentage recognised Britain’s significant involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and could name Black British historical figures.

On the findings, Atinuke, author of “Brilliant Black British History,” said: “There have always been people with black and brown skin in Britain – from the Stone Age, through every single era, to the present day,” adding that the “contribution of millions of Black and global majority people helped Britain and its allies to win the world wars and rebuild the UK afterwards. So you cannot truthfully tell British history without including these people.”

“We need One History – all British histories being told and taught together, in every school and university in the UK – and that needs to include Black and other marginalised British histories alongside white British History.”

Atinuke, “Brilliant Black British History” Author

Emphasising the need for a cohesive understanding of British history, the Nigerian-born author added, “As our world becomes more polarised and divided, increased inclusivity is needed now more than ever.”

“Brilliant Black British History” by Atinuke, illustrated by Kingsley Nebechi. Published by Bloomsbury.
Read: Wolfson Prize nominee Professor Hakim Adi on redundancy, recognition and Black British history

Rebecca McNally, Publishing Director and Editor-in-Chief at Bloomsbury Children’s Books, reinforced Atinuke’s sentiment, stressing the need for books like “Brilliant Black British History” which shed light on neglected aspects of Britain’s past.

“We believe it is important for all of us to play a role in shining a light on Black British history, not just in Black History Month but every day.”

Rebecca McNally, Bloomsbury Children’s Books Publishing Director and Editor-in-Chief

Brilliant Black British History exhibition

Currently, the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton hosts a free exhibition based on Atinuke’s book, illustrated by Kingsley Nebechi. This immersive experience spotlights Black British contributions across multiple fields and serves as an educational resource for families.

Read: Black to the Future festival: a journey into Afrofuturism

Thus “Brilliant Black British History” delves into the multifaceted history of Black Britons. From the Black Romans who ruled Britain to the Black Tudors and Victorians, the book underscores the indelible mark these individuals left on Britain’s narrative. It’s a journey through time, elegantly narrated by Atinuke and vividly illustrated by Nebechi, that promises to reshape one’s understanding of British history.

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