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Teaching the Holocaust and Slavery

John Simkin

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Stephen Bates,

Tuesday October 17, 2006

The Guardian


A government minister yesterday suggested that the history of slavery might be made a compulsory part of the national curriculum, alongside the Holocaust, as part of the commemoration next year of the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

David Lammy, the junior culture minister in charge of government support for the commemoration, and himself the descendant of slaves, said lack of experience and resources was preventing some teachers putting it in their curriculum plans.

He told a conference in London held to announce plans for the commemoration: "The government is not going to pretend it knows best how to commemorate an event of this kind; it is not going to tell people how to feel about it, (but) neither does it believe it is only of interest to a certain section of society. This is universal, it is an important part of our nation's past."

The government has given grants to several organisations telling the black story in Britain, including nearly £1m to the National Maritime Museum and museums in Liverpool, Bristol and Hull.

The Church of England apologised for benefiting financially from slavery at its general synod last February, but the government has not said whether it will formally apologise for Britain's role in transporting an estimated 3 million slaves during the 18th century.

A Mori survey of 1,032 people for Set All Free, set up by the Churches Together in England ecumenical group, found only 10% knew of the anniversary, though a third could name William Wilberforce, the Tory MP who headed the parliamentary campaign for abolition. Organisers of the commemoration say up to 12 million people are still enslaved, as bonded labour, child workers or victims of trafficking.

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