To celebrate Black History Month, Reach titles across the UK have collaborated on an updated site called Black History is Our History, pulling together dozens of national and local stories, with a newly updated living archive.
Reach says the site, originally launched last year, has been updated for 2022 as an educational resource with students and schools in mind. Newly added stories include CornwallLive’s piece on Britain’s first Black ballerina, MyLondon’s story of the couple who escaped American slavery to settle in Hammersmith, and CoventryLive’s look at the all-Black church which became a safe space for Windrush arrivals.
Throughout the year, Reach journalists from all titles will continue to populate the site and local schools will be encouraged to use the site as a resource, the publisher added.
The project has once again been spearheaded by Reach head of what’s on and emerging content Lynda Moyo, who said: “We hope that in resurfacing these historically important stories by giving them pride of place on this specially dedicated website, our readers will join us in recognising Black history beyond Black History Month.
“We’ve also added a section to focus specifically on Black achievements in the modern day and the legends of tomorrow, hopefully inspiring future generations.”
In support of the site’s aims, the Mirror has also launched a campaign calling for Black history to be reinstated in the national curriculum, after major historical moments including colonisation and slavery were removed in 2013.
Sir Lenny Henry is among those supporting the campaign, which will continue to run through the year. His exclusive piece for the Mirror ran in the 5th October edition, and in it he commented: “Too often Black History Month can feel like Valentine’s Day in a relationship that really needs to go to couple’s counselling.
“It is great to exchange flowers and gifts and even go to a fancy restaurant once a year. But if you want a positive, constructive and healthy relationship you really need to work on it 365 days a year.
“And so when it comes to Black history that means making sure it is not something we just wheel out in October, have a few extra TV programmes about it and the odd school assembly about Mary Seacole (important as she is). We need to make it something integral to all our lives, all year round, and for me the first place we should start is where we all learn about history, and that is in our schools.”
Mirror editor-in-chief Alison Phillips added: “The history of the UK is rich and complex and it’s so important that all of our children get taught a more complete story of this country. We were inspired by seeing the Welsh government take the lead on this issue and reintroduce Black history into their curriculum - now it’s time for the rest of us to follow suit.”
Several teachers spoke in support of the Mirror’s campaign:
Sam Jones, history teacher and founder of the Be Bold History organisation, which provides training for history teachers, said: “Teaching black history is important, in the same way that teaching the history of India or other parts of the Empire are important, because the students that I teach need to be able to see themselves in history, otherwise it’s just the history of boring white men.
“If they can’t see themselves in history it’s not interesting to them first and foremost. And Secondly, they can’t see their place in modern Britain and therefore they think modern Britain is not a place where they are welcome.”
Janiece Jackson, a history teacher at the Bolder Academy in Isleworth, West London, said: “It’s really important that students see the contributions that Black people have had in Britain for thousands of years. It was Black North Africans who were defending Britain when we were part of the Roman Empire, it was Black people who were defending Britain during World War II.”
Teacher Michelle Codrington-Rogers, who was the first Black president of teaching union the NASUWT, and is now their honorary treasurer, said: “Everybody should be getting behind this campaign. It’s not just about Black history. It’s about all of our history, all of our contributions in every single subject that children are taught at school.
“We should also be learning about the contributions that people have given to our society since before Roman times we need to be talking about it, and it needs to be mainstreamed. It’s not an add on, it’s not something that we just do at Black History Month. It’s something that actually we see value in, across the board.”Keep up-to-date with publishing news: sign up here for InPubWeekly, our free weekly e-newsletter.