Spotlight on: Black Britain

In 1948 the Empire Windrush arrived in Britain. Stepping off the boat, a young man named Aldwyn Roberts met a Pathé News news reporter who knew that he was a singer. He improvised a tune called ‘London is the Place to Be’:

Soon Aldwyn, stage name Lord Kitchener, and his song were taking the British charts by storm. And this is just one example of the surprising and unexpected ways in which Black British identity has been established over the centuries.

Black people have been present in Britain since the times of the Romans, yet there have also long been racial tensions. As well as exploring the deeper history of their connection to Britain, this course explores the impact of the empire, changes in emigration, riots and political movements, the Black Power Movement and the more recent phobia that have grown up around news events.

In this course, social historian Dr Natalie Thomlinson uses quotes, statistics, videos and more to explore the way in which Black people have engaged with British society.

Ultimately, the courses poses a difficult question: what does it mean to be Black and British today?

Jennifer Berrian, a student at Harvard University, says:

Having just finished a course on Black American History, I was really excited to compare the timelines for the various movements in the Black British History course with Dr. Tomlinson. She was an excellent instructor and really gave us a thorough review of the different events, people, and themes found within Black British history. I definitely feel like I have a deeper understanding of the global impact of these movements and where both America and Great Britain stand in current race relations because of this course.


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