Tag Archives: slavery

History is usually written by the winners

The UCL is involved in a great research project on slavery in Britain  looking at how the history of slavery is entwined in Britain’s institutions, business, fabric of life. It’s been going on for a few years, and every so often I see articles or videos linked to the project.

The endeavour strikes me as an important step to facing Britain’s legacy in the slave trade (beyond the comfortable story of abolition) and reasserting narratives of Black History in the UK.  And as Professor Catherine Hall puts it in the video, “The ways in which contemporary racial thought has many inflections from this long, long history”

Here is a great snippet of the researchers’ work (from 2011 but I came across it recently):

Caribbean nations are currently pressing for reparations, a topic that I used to feel quite ambivalent about, before reading Ta-nehisi Coates’ breathtaking, meticulous article on the subject. Although he is writing from a US context, his point that the issue of reparations is about far more than money is an important one, and one that is applicable for the UK and other countries. I think his call for an honest reckoning with the past would be painful, but important and a worthy goal in and of itself:

“Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate…we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.”

 

 

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The Play’s the Thing

The year is young, but there are already a few things I think I’ll be following or seeing this year.

Apart from 12 Years a Slave, I’ll be looking forward to watching Belle, the story of Dido Elizabeth Bell, the mixed-race daughter of a slave who was raised by her uncle the Earl of Mansfield, who was then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and who made a landmark ruling that paved the way for the abolition of slavery. I’ll also be following the blog of UCL’s project into the British legacy of slavery, which taps a rich seam of history that we don’t often look into in this country.

I usually despair of the lack of plays that I want to see in January, then find myself whisked away by a spoil of theatre across the city from February onwards.

Last year I was gutted to miss The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic. I heard it was fantastic and I can only hope it will return one day. I did have the pleasure of seeing A Season in the Congo and have just (literally, my credit card is still steaming) bought tickets to Sizwe Banzi is Dead, which starts on 6 February:

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It’s 1972 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Sizwe Banzi’s passbook gives him just three days to find work. No work and he’ll be deported. That was four days ago.

So when Sizwe stumbles across a dead body with a passbook, he asks himself – does his identity card really define who he is? Could he give up his family and his name in order to survive?

I can’t wait to find out.

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