Read | Black and British: A Forgotten History

Like Fryer’s book, Olusoga’s will inspire and will come to be seen as a major effort to address one of the greatest silences in British historiography. -New Statesman, August 2017

The below extract has been taken from the New Statesman book review of David Olusoga’s newest project: Black and British: A Forgotten History.

We are thrilled that the work will look to previous untouched primary sources and engage with oral histories that have been forgotten to statistics.

We also hope to delve into archives, taking primary aged pupils with us, allowing them to explore narratives forgotten. To find out more about Colonial Countryside check out our Twitter and a few of our blog posts.

Olusoga brilliantly reveals such contradictions in British society. In dealing with the black contribution to the First World War, for example, he cites popular gratitude and admiration for black Britons – among them Walter Tull, who fought on the Western Front. Tull played professional football for Northampton but instead of signing up for Glasgow Rangers, he enlisted. Rapidly promoted to sergeant, then second lieutenant, he led white British troops into action and died in 1918, having been mentioned in despatches and recommended for the Military Cross. And yet Africans and West Indians were banned from the victory parade in 1919. Anti-black riots broke out in Liverpool that year.

Olusoga’s stated purpose is to argue that black British history is not about migration and settlement, whether of black servants in the 18th century or black workers in the Windrushera. It is about the centuries-long engagement with Africa, a consequence of which is the black presence in Britain. […] [Olusoga] has discovered new and exciting research materials in African archives, among them the Register of Liberated Africans in Sierra Leone, which list names, bodily details, ethnicity, and origins, thus putting a human face on people otherwise treated as fodder and statistics.

Such sources give his writing freshness, originality and compassion.


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