History Curriculum: Black History

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 8th September 2020.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet 5:46 pm, 8th September 2020

The Minister’s diary is of course a matter for him, but I very much agree that I would like to see every child in school in this country learning black history. It is an important opportunity to try to take that agenda forward, and I will certainly make that appeal to the Minister. I think that is important because I love history, and I believe that black history is a fascinating subject to study, but I also believe that every child should learn black history in the classroom so that every child growing up in this country knows that the presence of black people here is not some 20th century novelty.

Most important of all, I want more black history to be taught in the classroom because I want children from BAME communities to understand that people of colour have been a crucial part of our island story for very nearly 2,000 years. I want them to know that it was not just William Wilberforce who campaigned to abolish the slave trade, but such people as Olaudah Equiano, who had themselves been enslaved but who achieved freedom, fame and success against incredible odds and adversity. I want them to know about Ignatius Sancho, who in 1782 was the first black writer in prose to be published in this country. I want them to know about Tom Molineaux, the boxer and former slave who should have been the England heavyweight champion in 1810, if he had not been unfairly robbed of the title by an underhand trick. I want them to know about John Kent, who became the first black police officer as far back as 1837. I want them to know about thousands of soldiers from Africa, the Caribbean and India who fought and died for this country in two world wars.

Taking the Indian subcontinent as just one example, 1.27 million men served in the British Army in the first world war, including in the blood-soaked killing fields of the western front and Gallipoli. More than 2.5 million men from the area now covered by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh volunteered for service in world war two, producing the largest volunteer army in history.