David Olusoga : ‘Black people were told that they had no history’
The historian and TV presenter on the story of former slave Olaudah Equiano and the significance of Black History Month
Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners,andBlack and British: A Forgotten History, has inspired new conversations about injustice in the story of Britain and Britishness in living rooms across the country. Anticipating this year’s Black History Month (October), he has contributed a foreword to the republication by Hodder & Stoughton of
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the memoir of an 18th-century formerly enslaved man that is also widely recognised as a foundational text of Black British literature.What led you to get behind this republication of Equiano’s memoir?
It’s a book I read at university and that has been part of my life for 30 years. I think it’s the most important of the British narratives of people who were enslaved. Equiano is someone who managed to purchase his way out of slavery, to travel the world as a Black person in an age where you could be kidnapped and transported back into slavery. He was a skilled sailor, a political operator. He became a public figure when this country was the biggest slave-trading nation in the North Atlantic. There are many voices that come out of the experience of British slavery but none of them have the same impact as Equiano. headtopics.com
It’s tragic and amazing that the 492 people that got off the Windrush in June 1948 didn’t know there had been previous generations of black BritonsYou’ve been a key advocate of Black History Month. Why do we needBlack history? And how would you describe the impact of Black History Month in supporting that need?
Black History Month in Britain has been an amazing success. It’s an American tradition that began life as Negro History Week. It was brought to Britain in 1987, so not very long ago. Since then we’ve made it into an institution, a part of the British calendar. This is a real achievement. Black people have had their history written out – sometimes deliberately, sometimes systematically – of Britain’s story because it’s the history of slavery and empire and that doesn’t fit in with the comforting island story narrative. Black people were told that they had no history – Hegel said that Africa’s a place with no history – and that double act of erasure and denial meant that Black people had no story to explain why they were in Britain or how their relationship with Britain had been forged. I think it’s both tragic and amazing that those 492 people that got off the Windrush in June 1948 and made their homes in London and Bristol and Liverpool didn’t know that they were making their homes in cities where there had been previous generations of Black Britons – Black Victorians, Black Georgians. Imagine what it might have meant to the Windrush generation, when people said: “What are you doing here, what right do you have to be here, what’s your connection to Britain?”, when they were confronted with racism and told that they belonged in Africa or that they had no right to be here. Imagine what strength they might have drawn from that history had it been known.
Has Black History Month also helped to articulate a specificallyBlack British story as opposed to the imported African American one? Read more: The Guardian »
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provide an example. When? That's technically correct, they only have a prehistory - as defined as the period before written records. As shocking as it may seem, keep in mind most parts of Africa are characterised by societies newly out of the stone age. Half of every Olusoga show is wide angle shots of him striding about in skin tight jeans with his scarf draped dramatically about himself. He's the biggest fucking diva in television.
If you say so greg_jenner Black? You are barely brown...every African knows their history... Stop the demoralistion bs Reparations for ADOS Britain's leading grievance entrepreneur. Wait a minute, David olusoga isn't black? He has the most Nigerian looking name ever good
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