Thursday 17th August
David Olusoga is a rather handsome mixed-race gentleman – half-Geordie, half-Nigerian – who has recently blazed an educatory trail of enlightenment across the world. His mission has been a continuation of the salvage jobs on black history made a generation previously by historians such as Peter Fryer. Through these joint efforts, the invisible voices of the African diaspora that permeated the white world, often brutalised by chains, are given at least some breath. The core of Olusoga’s directive is that there is something of a watershed moment taught to all our children, that British history remembers only the abolition of slavery, & chooses to ignore the desperate unholy years before emancipation. The same classroom texts are also stuffed full of spinning jennies & factory chimneys, but nowhere do we read of the cotton fields of America which were the lifeblood of the Industrial Revolution.
Olusoga is a man of spring temperament; charming, gentile, soft spoken, he expertly wove a comprehensive tapestry of his subject matter for a packed house. Then came the thirty minute Q&A, all chaired consummately by Celeste-Marie Bernier, & it turned out that Olusoga has almost accepted defeat, that the classroom is not the place to educate our future generations on black British history, but we should leave it instead to demographics, & perhaps TV programs such as the ones he produces on the subjects. This left an unusual aftertaste, for when something vitally important needed doing about rewriting black history, Olusoga actually did it, but has then almost lost faith in what he has done. Even so, the forest of hands that remained straining at the end of the Q&A is proof that there is a lot more debate to come on black history, & it is through passionate historians like Olusoga & those to come that this will hopefully occur.
Reviewer : Damo