[Blackstudies-l] Britain’s black history has been shamefully whitewashed

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sat Jan 14 06:39:11 EST 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " There were many African settlers in Britain even
before the Romans, says David Olusoga — a fact that all standard histories
have conveniently ‘forgotten’--a review by Hakim Adi for The Spectator.
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (M"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Britain’s black
history has been shamefully whitewashed
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: 9781509837113black-and-british]
There were many African settlers in Britain even before the Romans, says
David Olusoga — a fact that all standard histories have conveniently
‘forgotten’--a review by Hakim Adi for *The Spectator*

*Black and British: A Forgotten History* by David Olusoga (Macmillan)

I have been researching and writing about black British history for over 30
years but never before have I been fortunate enough to review a 600-page
book on the subject, published to accompany a recent major BBC documentary.
The book and the four-part series give some indication of the extent of a
history which David Olusoga presents as ‘forgotten’: the subject, he
argues, has been largely excluded from the mainstream narrative of British
history. Why it should be forgotten, and who might have forgotten it should
give us all pause for reflection, since the denial of black British history
by those who should know better could be considered tantamount to racism.

Olusoga reminds us that Britain’s ‘island story’ cannot be understood in
isolation from the rest of the world and certainly not from Africa and
other parts of what was once the British empire. He also demonstrates that
Africans were often a central part of Britain’s history centuries before
the empire, going back to the Roman period and beyond. Indeed, he argues
that black British history is not just about black people but about
encounters between blacks and whites, including intermarriage or the ‘mixed
relationships’ that have been commented on since Elizabethan times.

The latest archaeological techniques and historical research show that in
Roman Britain there were many individuals of African heritage of all
classes. We are now becoming more familiar with the fourth-century ‘Ivory
Bangle Lady’ of York and ‘The Beachy Head Lady’ from sub-Saharan Africa,
thought to have lived in East Sussex c. 200 AD. It seems likely that soon
we will have more conclusive evidence that Africans were travelling to
Britain long before the arrival of the Romans.

*Black and British *also builds on the work of previous historians for its
depiction of the African presence in Tudor England, including individuals
becoming better known, such as the royal trumpeter John Blanke and the
diver Jacques Francis. Olusoga explains the conditions that led to this
African presence in Shakespeare’s time but curiously makes no mention of
Shakespeare’s alleged friendship with an African woman.

But he is certainly at pains to remind us of Britain’s links with
enslavement and empire, with Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. It is
perhaps not surprising that, when describing the centuries of imperial
expansion, historians have underplayed the fact that Britain then led the
world in human trafficking. But it is impossible to understand the
industrial revolution, the creation of Sierra Leone, the use of the guinea
and much else besides unless Britain’s history is presented in its entirety.

In the 18th century there was an obvious connection between the
transportation of Africans to North America and the Caribbean and the
thousands of Africans who resided in Britain, some of whom were also
evidently slaves. Britain’s great homes, its financial system, its major
ports and textile industry were all based on the enslavement of African
men, women and children.

It is for this reason that Olusoga includes the travels and travails of the
18th-century Black Loyalists, enslaved Africans who had fought for the
crown against American independence and then found their way to Britain,
Canada and eventually also to Sierra Leone. Their story, he maintains, is
as much part of black British history as the postwar settlement of Brixton.
For similar reasons, he devotes considerable space to the abolitionist
campaigns of the 19th century, including Britain’s naval interventions in
the Atlantic, as well as events that might not normally be thought of as
part of Britain’s history, such as the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica.

There can be no doubt that *Black and British* is an ambitious attempt to
provide a ‘re-examination of a shared history’. This has been long overdue
and Olusoga delighted many with his BBC series. Time will tell whether his
book is as influential as Peter Fryer’s *Staying Power* proved to be. *Black
and British* certainly demonstrates that this shared history extends not
only back in time for at least 2,000 years but can be extended
geographically to include parts of Africa, America and the Caribbean.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
January 13, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-t1R

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