I decided to research Black History as I thought that it was necessary to have knowledge about my history and my heritage. I have learnt a vast amount of European history through school and the media, and I realised that it was vital to balance this with the history of Africa and the Black African Diaspora.
I started my classes in January, and was especially pleased to find out that they would be taught by Robin Walker, who is widely recognised as a scholar of Black History and author of the book ‘When We Ruled.’
What I learnt
The classes that I attended took place at ‘Yemanja’ bookshop in Perry Barr. The first course was entitled ‘What is Black History’ and is aimed at people who are a complete novice to Black History. The course spanned over five weeks and covered subjects such as, the history of Black People before the slave trade, the role of Africa in the origin and the evolution of the human race, the Ancient Egyptians, the Songhai Empire; as well as the slave trade and the African Diaspora.
In these classes, we were given huge amounts of information and images that forced me to re-think, what I thought I knew about ‘Black History’, my history. One of the things that amazed me most was the architecture of Ancient African buildings; the mathematical and construction skills that were used to create these buildings by hand seem unimaginable.
Africans were scholars, architects, mathematicians, philosophers and much more. This contradicted the popular perspective I was taught in school. It was surprising to find that much factual information on African life pre-slavery were written by European’s who were amazed by how advanced, innovative and resourceful African civilisation was. Why is this never highlighted in the media?
My New Outlook
I feel that this course has offered me alternative view of Africa, the world, and myself. I now feel empowered to challenge the misconceptions of Africa and its history, and it’s also given me the passion to learn more about my history. As well as feeling motivated by the class, I also feel humbled, the richness of Black History puts modern Black society into perspective in light of some of the issues that we face today.
I feel that it is imperative that black people learn their own history. It can offer us inspiration, help us understand our present and give us direction for the future. We need to realise that history ‘shapes the world in ones own interest and images’ (Walker, 2007) and the Black history that we are fed by mainstream society is told from their perspective, and is therefore not truly Black History.
I would definitely encourage others to do this course. It has opened up new ways of thinking in my mind, and has given me a new appreciation of history. I do think that if more people decided to do a course such as this one, it would allow them to see that Black History did not begin with the slave trade, but centuries before that. It is sad that Black people seem to have lost sight of their history, however by doing this type of course, it can be found.