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The UK curriculum 'systemically omits’ black British history
Photography: Imran Suleiman

The UK curriculum 'systemically omits’ Black British history

The Black Curriculum report criticises the ‘romanticised, filtered legacy’ of Britannia currently portrayed in schools

The national school curriculum in the UK “systematically omits the contribution of Black British history in favour of a dominant white, Eurocentric curriculum,” according to a new report.

The Black Curriculum report, by Dr Jason Arday of Durham University, accuses the nation's history curriculum of presenting a “romanticised, filtered legacy that positions Britannia as all-conquering and eternally embracive of ethnic and cultural difference”.

The report from Dr Arday, who is a member of The Black Curriculum – a social enterprise founded to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculum – also pushes for greater diversity in both staff and subject matter. “In broadening the scope for a more inclusive curriculum that encompasses all our histories as British citizens, textbooks must move beyond anecdotal and factually altered accounts of Black history within the British context, one that traditionally centres a dominant Eurocentric canon,” it says. 

“Teaching Black history not only benefits Black students, but is beneficial to British society as a whole,” the report adds, concluding that widening the scope of Black history study can also help society to “unlearn” many of the racial stereotypes that “linger” in the present. 

In response, the Department for Education said: “The knowledge-rich curriculum in our schools already offers pupils the opportunity to study significant figures from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds and the contributions they have made to the nation, as well as helping them understand our shared history with countries from across the world.”

Dr Arday, however, calls for more Black british authors to be read in schools  including Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

The Black Curriculum report forms part of a growing campaign to ensure Black history, and the reality of the UK’s imperial past, is taught in schools. Earlier this year, Dazed spoke to MPs, students, and activists fighting to decolonise the curriculum, including Labour MP Kate Osamor who said: “There is trauma in the Black British experience. In not really being sure who you are, which is reinforced by the fact that no one’s teaching you who you are.” 

Adding her voice to the chorus, Nadia Nadia Whittome – the UK’s youngest MP, representing Nottingham East – said: “If you didn’t know anything about Black history and the fact that Black history is British history, you’d be forgiven for going away and thinking that England has only white history and the UK’s only interactions with other countries were benign. Things like the Bengal famine didn’t exist and slavery only existed in the States.”

To find out more about the movement, watch our video below on the story of The Black Curriculum.