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Wednesday 9 January 2013




The Con-Dem coalition have proposed that the history curriculum is changed to become more ‘ traditional’ removing black and women historical figures in favour of white men.

History is history and in a world where race and gender discrimination is increasing rather than decreasing it is even more important for the great achievements of black people and women to be known, acknowledged and celebrated particular because most of them had to overcome race and gender discrimination to achieve what they did in order to become the great historical figures and positive role models they have become.

Austerity cuts have impacted disproportionately on equality groups and now it seems cuts to history lessons are headed the same way. It would seem that the Con-Dem coalition are not satisfied with discriminating against women and black people in the present day they want to see us wiped out of history too, disregarded and forgotten.

But what of the children who will be deprived of knowing about the great achievements of women and black people – what kind of message does this send to children in our multicultural and diverse schools – that the only people to ever achieve anything throughout history are pale male and stale?  That women and black and minority ethnic children are second class citizens? Why does the government want to create an education system where the only people who are acknowledged and celebrated for their achievements are white and male? What will this do for the morale of girls and black children? 

 History lessons at school should enrich and inspire - demonstrate that despite the odds stacked against them women, black people and black women like Mary Seacole,  facing multiple discrimination overcame and achieved their dreams, goals and ambitions, fought the systems that worked against them and excelled in their chosen fields, helped others and made valuable contributions to the communities and societies that they lived in leading to some of the rights that many people take for granted today. It is important that children understand how enslavement of African people was fought, how women got the vote and that they know both the positive and negative contributions made by British people through history.

That’s not to say that the lives and achievements of white men cannot inspire also but history lessons should not be restricted to the achievements of one race or gender. Children need a diverse range of role models including black and minority ethnic, white, male, female, LGBT, straight and disabled people and our history was not formed by the lives of white men alone. There should be diversity in the historical figures that are studied in school history lessons. It’s not just important for girls and black children, the white boys need to grow up understanding the value and worth of women and girls and people of all races and religions. 

Teaching school lessons in this way is how prejudices and divisions grow. We should be promoting equality, diversity and multiculturalism in all aspects of the curriculum. Where we came from is just as important as where we are going. It gives us a grounding and a more positive and stable starting point to move forward from.

Today over 40 well known including politicians, trade union leaders, performing artists, authors, academics and activists,  black and white,  women and men united in their stand against government proposals to remove black and female historical figures from the curriculum by signing an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

The letter and full list of signatories can be viewed here:

I hope that Mr Gove will do the right thing and reconsider his proposal and provide a history curriculum we can all be proud of.

Zita Holbourne

National Co-Chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts


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