A Black History Of Britain – BBC Commission new 4-part series

History and how we were taught it in my years at school is something I speak about a lot offline. Our history isn’t completely what we think it is.

For example we used to be told Viking helmets had horns on them, they didn’t. Sometimes these ‘mistakes’ are indeed simply mistakes. I also remember being told that Julius Caesar conquered Britain – which was never true and there are plenty of documents proving it.

john blankeBlack History in Britain falls somewhere between. The facts are known they just aren’t commonly known. The truth isn’t hidden, it just wasn’t taught.

I wrote in October regarding Black History Month and where facts surrounding the end of the Slave Trade are ‘blurred’ by Britain’s take on History.

BBC have commissioned a new 4-part series for BBC2 written and presented by historian and broadcaster David Olusoga.

I have spoken off-line about such things as Septimus Severus, a Roman Emperor who ruled from York; African born and of Roman and Libyan ancestry. It is fairly clear that was Black and busts of him suggest this in his looks.

Similarly I have spoken of John Blanke and the fact that he was a Black musician in the Court of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Documents exist to show this, we know he received a wage of 8d per day. He is also depicted on the Westminster Tournament Roll, a 60-foot long vellum roll painted by the workshop of Thomas Wriothesley, College of Arms.

This series will explore the lives of Black people in Britain from Roman times onwards. Shakespeare’s Othello will be looked at, the Black sailors in Nelson’s fleet and Queen Victoria’s African God Daughter.

Each episode will include unveiling of history plaques throughout Britain and the Commonwealth creating a Black History Trail. There will also be chance after the series for viewers to nominate more Black Britons through history to have their lives commemorated with a plaque. BBC will be creating a number of digital content to support the series including an interactive map of the Black History Trail.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about some of the things I already know but expect there will be more in this series that I don’t know.

David Olusoga says:

“This series will unveil a new type of black British history, because to me black history is everyone’s history. It’s the long, often tragic and always surprising story of Britain’s relationship with Africa and her peoples. It’s a history that takes place here in Britain but also in Africa and across the Caribbean and North America, and most of it is little known. But it’s also the story of those periods in our past when the rights, status and humanity of black people were among the big issues of the day, issues that helped shape the whole country and the empire. I’m really excited about presenting a black history that is a major part of the story of all us.”

Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, says:

“BBC Two has a special role to play in showing inspiring and informative television that no-one else would make. This important series will tell a new story of Britain, bringing to light tales that have never been told before and changing the way we all see our national story. Following the success of last year’s Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, I’m delighted that David Olusoga is working again with BBC Two on a subject no one else has ever attempted before at this scale for TV – with ambition, journalistic revelation and proper insight.”

Paul Reid, Director of Black Cultural Archives, says:

“Black Cultural Archives are thrilled to partner with the BBC on A Black History of Britain. Our mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. This exciting series will uncover the less-known historical narratives, providing an insight into the Black presence in Britain and documenting the richness of British history. As one of the leading archives specialising in Black British history and culture, we know we have an important role to play and significant contributions to make. Through academic research, digging deep into the archives and unearthing these histories together, we will piece together a fascinating story of Britain.”

BBC’s Media team stated:

“The series will sit alongside other programmes (to be announced), whose shared theme will be to uncover lost, distorted or forgotten stories of Black Britons and the Black British experience. The range of bold and vibrant stories will cast fresh light on historical and contemporary Black British life, celebrating the fact that we are telling stories not made public before.

“A Black History Of Britain was commissioned by Martin Davidson, Head of History Commissioning, and the executive producer will be Chris Granlund for BBC Production.”


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