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Black History Month: Leavers’ Challenge Lecture

At the end of last academic year, Year 13s took part in the Leavers’ Challenge, which included lectures from different departments on interesting topics. One of the topics was Black British History, delivered by Mr Clark. 

As we are marking Black History Month across the school, we spoke to Mr Clark to find out more about his lecture. Mr Clark explained that he started with the first Black Britons, who were north Africans – they fought in the Roman army and were garrisoned near York at Hadrian’s wall. Then a few centuries later we had Black Britons in Tudor England, such as the Black trumpeter in Henry’s VII court who records showed asked for a pay rise – a man called John Blanke.

Mr Clark then went onto Black Georgians and told stories of individuals like Dr Johnson’s servant who he became close friends with and even remembered in his will, and explained to the Year 13s about Victorian Britain’s reaction to the American civil war and confederacy, which included the town of Rochdale which boycotted cotton from the south in solidarity with slaves.

His lecture also included information about Britons in WWI and WWII, for example Walter Tull, a professional footballer for Spurs who rose to the rank of commissioned officer in WWI – the only black officer in the British Army. It concluded with a look at more modern Black history such as the Windrush immigration in 1948 and the racial tensions it caused.

Mr Clark explained that he was heavily inspired by Professor David Olusoga’s book Black and British and his BBC 2 series A Forgotten History, and said it is important everyone is taught how black British history is British history. He also explained that the history curriculum at Ipswich School includes a significant amount of the history of ethnic minorities, but that it is continuously evolving and the department has exciting plans to open up even more opportunities to explore the lives of Black Britons across the curriculum.

Mr Clark said: “It is important that we celebrate the history of Britons of colour, not only through a lens of prejudice and discrimination (though of course there are elements of our past that shame us), but as a story that is woven into the fabric of our shared experience as a nation and global empire. I would urge everyone who hasn’t seen it to watch Professor Olusuga’s brilliant and moving history ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’ on BBC iPlayer.”

The Leavers’ Challenge lessons also included discussions about what actions we can take to make a difference, such as calling out any forms of discrimination and the idea of just challenging people on the small things.

Suggestions for extra reading about the topic:

• Heart Of The Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain – Beverley Bryan

• How to argue with a racist – Dr Adam Rutherford

• Brit(ish) – Afua Hirsch

Flora, Year 13

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