The recent events in the USA have brought tears of sorrow, anger and frustration. This has also been mirrored in the UK regarding Grenfell, the Windrush scandal and the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus on minority ethnic communities. It has led to many questions about what can be done, especially in schools and classrooms, to help students make sense of it all.
History teaching in England is not as equipped as you might think to discuss issues of ‘race’ and racism. I’ll go into more detail about this in a talk that I will give to new trainee teachers (and will share on the blog), but I wanted to help teachers get to grips with substantive, first-order concepts that are neglected, despite our apparent fascination with US Civil Rights and the Nazis as part of our GCSE/A-Level courses. Most of the material exists outside the discourse and publications that are used by history teachers in England.
Below are some resources that will help teachers think through some of the issues. As usual, the list is not exhaustive, but should provide enough coverage to ask better questions about the enquiry you teach, your approach and how these notions affect curriculum choices.
The Runnymede Trust has a number of resources that are helpful. In particular, there are two reports. The first is The Runnymede School Report: Race, Education and Inequality in Contemporary Britain. The second report that you would find useful is Making British Histories: Diversity and the National Curriculum. Finally, there is History Lessons: Teaching Diversity In and Through the History National Curriculum.
In terms of books, there are so many that I could reference but I have tried to limit to a few texts that provide a basic overview that cover periods we normally teach in schools as well as ideas that are covered in History/Politics/Sociology at A-Level.
- Francisco Bethencourt’s Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century provides an interdisciplinary focus that covers geographic areas and time periods;
- The edited collection Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion provides a wide range of material that is not usually discussed or covered in Early Modern courses at school level (recommended by Kerry Apps)
- The Racial Contract by Charles W. Mills shows how the notion of the ‘social contract’, a fundamental idea of political philosophy and politics, was predicated on ‘race’ and exclusionary rather than inclusive;
- Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader edited by Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze provides examples of how some of the fundamental ideas of modern society are shaped by racial ideas and racism;
- Ali Rattansi’s Racism: A Short Introduction provides an exploration of the concept and it quite short.
- Adam Rutherford’s How To Argue With A Racist reveals how scientific evidence has been twisted to legitimise the category of ‘race’ and enabled racist thinking.
- Paul Gilroy’s There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack explores how notions of ‘race’ and racism are deployed to maintain and extend state and government power with a focus on the UK.
In terms of films, I highly recommend the BBC’s Racism: A History. This three-part series is underrated but is brilliant. The producer, David Okuefuna, also made Hitler’s Forgotten Victims about Afro-Germans in Nazi Germany. There are episodes on Youtube and I’ve asked David if he has any details about a possible future release.
Again, the above is not meant to be a solution, but a way to improve what you are doing in your department/school/classroom.
About the Author
I have taught History and Politics in state/independent school and also held leadership roles in both sectors. Currently, I’m Director of Studies at an independent school in Hertfordshire. I’ve presented/co-written a series of documentary films for the World History Project and I’m a school governor and a Fellow of the Schools History Project, the UK’s leading historical education and curriculum design think-tank.
I grew up in Hackney and attended a comprehensive school in the East End of London before moving on to study in Wales and England. Alongside teaching, I have worked with a variety of organisations including Euroclio, Europeana and Apple in a variety of positions.
I have published a number of resources/articles on diversity in schools, pedagogy, ICT, leadership and historical education. I write (very infrequently) for the TES. Any free time I have is spent with my brilliant wife and beautiful daughter.
More detailed information about me can be found on my LinkedIn page.
This blog was originally published on Nick Dennis' own blog, and has been republished with permission.