It has been over a year now since the tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2021. It was a watershed moment in History. For many people across the world it was the first time that a meaningful conversation about race had happened. There have been many people in the field of education who have been discussing the issues of race and black history before the untimely death of George Floyd. These include key contributors such as Martin Spafford, Robin Whitburn, Abdul Mohamud and Dan Lyndon. However, for what felt like the first time, it was a topic at the heart of every conversation. Moving forward with the issues that are now presented, we must approach the teaching of history with great care. We should pay particular attention to ensure that we teach history in a way that has a lasting impact on the future generations that may, in some cases, be learning about this other side of history for the first time.

Black history has always been a much needed part of the curriculum, but we now see just how important the balanced and accurate teaching of it is, more than ever before. It allows students to engage with themes such as: politics, media, equality, criminal justice and how our world has changed over time. We should always teach black history if we want it to have a long, lasting impact. This should not be tokenistic, rolled out once a year. It should be intertwined into curriculums because black history is British history. This is a key message that must underpin conversations about history in the classroom. I found this to be a major game changer in my practice.

The more one looks at history, it becomes evident that restricting the topic of Black History to just one month across a whole year, deprives our students of invaluable opportunities. It plays such a crucial role in so many stories that we tell about the past. By teaching history in this way, it makes it more appropriate, authentic, and relatable for our students. For example, when delivering lessons on topics such as the Industrial Revolution, I explain to my students that the cotton used in the factories was often collected by enslaved Africans and that the palm oil used to lubricate the machines came from what is now Nigeria. History teacher Chris Lewis created an amazing series of lessons that looked into the lives of the people living in Tudor England through four characters from Miranda Kaufmann’s book Black Tudors: The Untold Story. This can be found in Teaching History 173. By teaching black British history all year round and approaching it through established topics such as: The Tudors, Victorians, World War I and World War II, we can ensure that it becomes an integrated part of the curriculum.

Moving beyond incorporating the diversity of stories into everyday topics, I would also encourage teachers to start to question the discipline of history, how narratives are constructed and who’s voices are ignored. By moving away from the sole reliance on written sources in the classroom, students have the opportunity to hear a variety of stories. We are fortunate to have access to a wide range of resources such as, oral history and artefacts. Pearson used a number of interviews from people living in Notting Hill from the 1940s to 70s to create a new GCSE. The interviews consider the experience of migrants and have a particular focus on people living in Notting Hill. A great book of personal testimonies is Colin Grant’s Home Coming: Voices of the Windrush Generation. We used Colin Grant’s book along with the BBC’s Back in Time for Brixton TV series (on video) so our students could explore and interrogate the experiences of the Windrush Generation when they moved to Brixton and the reasons for the 1981 Brixton riots.

I encourage teachers to be willing to make mistakes. I appreciate how difficult it can be for a teacher to be in front of a class with a limited amount of knowledge on a topic. This is a situation that we have all found ourselves in, but through practice and patience, improvements can always be made.

Finally, improving subject knowledge on different aspects of a topic can always help. It is important to read widely, but I also recognise that teachers are incredibly busy. At BeBold History, a committee I am a part of, we invite academics to give talks about their research. We have created an Empire Playlist, a series about the Empire and abandoning the balance sheet. The brilliant Luke Pepera speaks about Mansa Musa and Stephen Bourne discusses Dr Harold Moody and the LCP (League of Coloured Peoples). We’ll be building on this over the next academic year. David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History for children and Professor Hakim Adi’s The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain are great places to start. They are concise and are also student friendly. The ALCS provide summaries on a number of books that people can read to find out more about Black History. This can be found at www.alcs.co.uk/.

I have conflicted feelings about Black History Month. Does it make us complacent in the other eleven months of the year? Hannah Cusworth, Sam Jones and Emily Folorunsho have worked tirelessly to introduce BAME narratives into the history classroom over the last few years. Fortunately, there are many bodies and people creating new lessons and resources for history. But one must ask, could Black History Month have played a role in inconsistencies by tokenism and not teaching black history throughout the year prior to the BLM movement in 2021? How can Black History month and the BLM movement inspire long lasting change in how history is taught in the classroom?


If you enjoyed this blog make sure to read Josh’s other blog post about the importance of teaching black history.