Black history is British history

Black history is British history


Simon Henderson and Teni Oladehin, authors of the new Collins Black British History KS3 Teacher Resource Pack, explore how you can integrate Black British history into your KS3 curriculum.


Why is it crucial that all students learn about Black British history?

Teni Oladehin: Any study of British history today must account for the rich diversity that is encapsulated in the phrase ‘British history’, and Black history is a fundamental part of that. As history teachers, it’s our duty to provide students with a rounded understanding of the ways that the history of the African diaspora has shaped the nation – from the presence of Black Romans who led conquests in Britain to popular Black British figures who led the British Civil Rights Movements in the 20th Century.

Simon Henderson: A comprehensive understanding of the diversity of British history and a fully inclusive collective memory is a crucially important element in building an equal society in which respect, empathy, and justice are embedded in everyday life.  A fair and open community can only embrace the future with confidence if it can discuss and acknowledge both the triumphs and the tragedies of the past.

Why is now the right time to start teaching Black British history?

SH: It’s always been the right time to teach Black British history, but the importance of understanding the role played by Black people in the nation’s past was brought into stark focus in 2020. The accelerated momentum injected into the fight for racial justice as a consequence of the murder of George Floyd, raised questions about the structures that shape injustice. Students need to understand the past if they are to help build a more equitable future.

TO: Following the events following the death of George Floyd in 2020, the BlackLivesMatter movement came, again, to the forefront of many people’s attention and created a greater awareness of the need to address the lack of education provided on Black history. Taken with the reality that students are far more exposed to social media and popular content, it is of increasing importance that they receive a thorough and representative history education that allows them to grapple with the overwhelming volume of ‘sources’ and ‘interpretations’ they encounter on a day-to-day basis. Students require a developed understanding of the diversity of British history to engage meaningfully in any conversation on racial injustice in today’s society.

Why is it important to integrate teaching Black British history into my existing curriculum rather than teaching it separately?

TO: Black history is British history – to teach the two as mutually exclusive timelines is to do a disservice to that reality. It also encourages the narrative that the presence and contributions of Black people in British history are not of the same significance as those who feature in a ‘traditional’ history curriculum. This is often evident in the topic of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition.

SH: It is important that students see the influence and agency of Black people throughout the British past. Failure to teach the constancy of the presence of Black people in Britain and the significant role they played in weaving together the fabric of the nation, brings the danger that Black communities are viewed as somehow new or different. Teaching Black British history as a separate entity may reinforce a sense of racial separation.

I want to teach more Black British history but I’m not sure where to start.

SH: The Black British History KS3 Teacher Resource Pack is designed to show how Black British history can be integrated into existing KS3 curriculum models. Think of strands and themes that run through the history of Britain. The construction of race is one of these and so it should be taught as one element of the history of the country.

TO: The teacher resource pack provides an excellent starting point, with unit guides to provide sufficient knowledge for both the teacher and students. By using all nine units in the pack, you will be able to see the presence of Black British people across the breadth of the history taught at Key Stage 3 and interweave the ready-made lessons into your existing curriculum.

How does the Black British History Teacher Resource Pack support students to engage with the events of the past?

SH: This resource will help students and teachers explore an accessible, inclusive and thought-provoking history curriculum that acknowledges both the tensions and difficulties of this history, as well as the progress and success, in an honest and engaging way. It also challenges students to develop essential historical skills through analysis of a variety of historical sources and interpretations, including video interviews and oral histories.

TO: This teacher resource pack allows students to not only see the ongoing presence of Black Britons, but how their contributions interweave with a broader narrative that impacts several aspects of their own lives.

How can I use the Teacher Resource Pack with my KS3 students?

TO: The pack is accompanied by fully editable digital files that can be adapted and shared across your department. The lesson plans, resources, assessments and model answers are complemented by unit guides that provide teachers with an overview narrative that allows students to not only see the ongoing presence of Black Britons, but how their contributions interweave with a broader narrative that impacts their own lives.

SH: The teacher pack can be adapted to meet the needs of a particular cohort of students. All of the elements provide a perfect platform for teachers to stretch and challenge their own students as well as providing an opportunity to build a focus on specific historical skills into their teaching.

How have your students reacted to the Black British History Teacher Pack?

SH: During the development of the teacher pack, I tried out some of the lessons on some KS4 students. One student reacted to a lesson on the Notting Hill riots, saying, “we have never studied anything like that before, but I really think we should have.” It was really powerful and highlights how much students are intrigued and inspired by stories like this.


Teni Oladehin is a history teacher with experience teaching key stages 3 to 5 in comprehensive schools in London and Cambridge. She has written on how teachers might begin to consider new starting points for Black history at KS3 that challenge narratives of victimhood. She has presented at various history teacher conferences and led initial teacher training workshops on exploring these topics.

Dr Simon Henderson has been teaching history for twenty years with experience at all secondary key stages as well as undergraduate level. He has written widely on race relations and the Black freedom struggle and organised events for students to explore the history of race relations.