As a Black Briton, I was always a little wary of explicit demonstrations of nationalism whilst growing up. As mentioned by some of the contributors earlier, nationalism can and does breed violence against the perceived 'other'....
I would like to comment on the type of 'History' that Black people are taught in Britain. Slavery and perhaps civil rights USA seem to be the only History Black people have. Of course these topics are perhaps the most relevant for Black people in the' West' but I do not think it allows a sense of pride to be felt. All people should be taught some aspects of History that help them to have pride in who they are and where they have come from. Hence some focus should be given to Pre-European African history. Not only would a focus on the ancient empires of Africa create a greater sense of self-worth for young Blacks, it would also allow European children to have a more balanced view of Black people. The current social and economic status of Africa in the media only creates sympathy and unfortunately, ridicule of the role Black people have played in world history.
On this note I would like to ask the European contributors whether their countries consider the role of Black people in their History curriculum?? For example, in Spain particularly, are the Moorish invasions of the middle Ages considered?
On another thread I have raised the issue of cultural imperialism as it impacts on the working class. This is a far greater issue when looking at black history. As in English literature, the white middle/upper class have been given far too prominent role.
How then we can integrate black history into the curriculum? Teachers have several opportunities to look at the role black people played in events that appear on the traditional history curriculum.
For example, when looking at the struggle for equal rights you can study William Davidson and the Cato Street Conspiracy. He was also one of the first black man in Britain to be fitted up for a crime he probably did not commit and died a terrible death.
When studying the struggle for the vote it is also important to look at the case of the Chartist William Cuffay. Like Davidson he was fitted up by the government and was deported to Tasmania for 21 years. When he was released he became involved in radical politics and trade union issues and played an important role in persuading the authorities to amend the Master and Servant Law in the colony.
The First World War provides another opportunity to study black heroes. Walter Tull, joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1908 and therefore became only the second black man to play professional football in Britain. The first was Arthur Walton, the Preston goalkeeper.
On the outbreak of the First World War Tull immediately abandoned his career and offered his services to the British Army. The Army soon recognised Tull's leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant. In 1917 he became first ever black officer in the British Army. 2nd Lieutenant Tull was killed while leading an attack across No Mans Land in 1918.
It is also worth looking at the careers of Britain’s first black MPs: Dadabhait Naorji (Finsbury, 1892-1895) and Mancherjee Bhownaggree (Bethnal Green, 1895-1906).
I believe it is important that we should challenge the way that history has been represented in the past. For example, when studying Florence Nightingale we should also look at Mary Seacole. Nightingale is often used as a way of showing how women could make their mark in a male dominated society. However, her story also tells us a great deal about race and class.
Mary Seacole, an expert on disease, travelled from Jamaica to England in 1853 when she heard about the cholera epidemic that had emerged during the Crimean War. Her offer of help was rejected by the British Army. Soon afterwards, Florence Nightingale, who had little practical experience of cholera, was chosen to take a team of thirty-nine nurses to treat the sick soldiers. Mary Seacole now applied to join Nightingale's team but was once again rejected.
Unwilling to accept defeat, Mary paid for her own trip to the Crimea and started up a business called the British Hotel, a few miles from the battlefront. Here she sold food and drink to the British soldiers. With the money she earned from her business Mary was able to finance the medical treatment she gave to the soldiers.
It is very important that when studying black history they are not portrayed as victims. A classic example of this is the topic of slavery. Nearly all school textbooks feature the role played by William Wilberforce in this struggle. Very few of these authors point out that until just before he died Wilberforce was in favour of slavery (he was a campaigner against the slave-trade which is not the same thing although most textbook authors think it is). As Wilberforce pointed out in a pamphlet that he wrote in 1807: "It would be wrong to emancipate (the slaves). To grant freedom to them immediately, would be to insure not only their masters' ruin, but their own. They must (first) be trained and educated for freedom."
Textbook authors also give the impression that Wilberforce was motivated by a sense of religious morality. In fact, Wilberforce had been converted to the campaign by Adam Smith who argued that capitalists could obtain higher profits from free workers than slaves (Smith provided plenty of examples from the costs of production of sugar, etc. throughout the British Empire).
Although it is important to study Wilberforce when dealing with the slave trade it is also important to look at the role of others like Elizabeth Heyrick (Wilberforce refused to allow women hold senior positions in the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade), Olaudah Equiano, Ottabah Cugoano and Zamba Zembola. It is also worth looking at those freed slaves from the United States who travelled to England to campaign against slavery. For example, people like Frederick Douglass, a great role model for young blacks.
I have produced a list of annotated websites on Black History. These can be found at
Other web links you might find useful include: