Benjamin Zephaniah warns ‘black children are turned off history’

In many respects this post follows on directly from the last one – which asked what is the purpose of history was within society. Here the Benjamin Zephaniah complains about the diet of black history presented in many schools. I have to say I have always considered Zephaniah to be an original and deep thinker, and as such, much of what he writes here is rather uncomfortable for me.

He argues “most of the history teachers that I come across cannot name any early African philosopher” (I can’t) and he continues that there is a “greater focus on the the work of Florence Nightingale”…than…”the Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole“. I am embarrassed to say that I actually forgot Seacole’s name when the topic came up recently.

Personally, I have always worried about black history being bolted on tokenism,. This is why I have sometimes felt a bit mixed about black history month. On one hand it raises the profile of the topic, but on another I sometimes feel it can be a barrier to the topic being an interwoven part of the history curriculum in its own right.

All of this is a very long way away from  the curriculum review that has been leaked here to the Daily Mail. One thing is clear however, the question of what history is taught in schools is a very controvertial issue.

Mr Kydd.

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One Response to Benjamin Zephaniah warns ‘black children are turned off history’

  1. Ryan Kemp says:

    On this theme have a look at the Birmingham Black Oral History project – the introductory video is particulary interesting. Although the project is no doubt a worthy endeavour, even in this clip you may be able to spot some problems of historical intepretation.

    If you find the idea of how history might be benefical for society interesting, maybe also have a look at the preface to Bede’s Ecclesiastical History

    (avaliable at

    Always seems interesting that a community project in the 21st century appears to have similar aims to a monk writing in 7th century Northumbria…

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