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29 October 2014

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Why we should celebrate Afrikan history
African scene
Celebrate Afrika

Afrikan History is important because fundamentally before there was any history, there was Afrikan History.

Kwame Osei celebrates his heritage.


Afrikan achievements

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All history and peoples of the world have their beginning in Afrika. It is commonly known and accepted by the majority of historians, anthropologists, scholars, theologians, etc that Afrika is the birthplace of humanity and civilisation.

Click here... for full event listings for Black History Month 2005 in Notttinghamshire

Many people know next to nothing of Afrikan History and the immense contributions that Afrikan people have made and continue to make to human advancement.

It is precisely because the history of people of Afrikan origin has been undervalued or excluded from mainstream society at large, that the season of Afrikan historical and cultural activities are so important.

Nottingham, along with many other cities, is teeming with relics/examples of Afrikan History. Much of Nottingham's historical growth was based on the textile industry and in particular the manufacture of lace from cotton and silk.

The technology developed in that industry locally is regarded as having been crucial to the success of Britain's industrial revolution, both before and during the 19th century.

However, it is an inescapable fact that Britain's industrial revolution was financed largely via the profits made from the 'triangular trade' of cotton, sugar and Afrikan slaves. (see Eric Williams' 'Capitalism and Slavery').

Moreover, for Nottingham's famous cotton stockings to be produced during the 19th century which was the time of Nottingham's greatest expansion, an enslaved Afrikan in the Caribbean or in the Southern States of North America had to pick the cotton or cut the cane.

It is evident therefore that Nottingham owes a large part of its prosperity to the enslavement and exploitation of Afrikans as a vital ingredient in the success of the industrial revolution in general and the textile industry in particular.

One former slave became a prominent person in Nottingham. His name was George Africanus who was born in present day Sierra Leone and is recorded as being one of the first Afrikans to reside in Nottingham in the 1700's.

Apart from being a vehement critic of the inhumane slave trade, George went on to be a successful and wealthy businessman who contributed immensely to the life of Nottingham.

He married a local girl and as a result there are some White European people living in Nottingham today who are directly descended from this great Afrikan man.

Believe it or not, there are many Afrikan symbols all over Nottingham. A prime example of this is the Council House, particularly the entrance which is flanked by a lion on each side. The lion is native to the continent of Afrika and is a symbol of great importance in Afrika, that has had a profound influence on contemporary society.

The symbolism of the presence of two carved Afrikan lions on either side of the entrance to the council house represents the role of the lions as the "keepers who open and shut the gate" into the worlds yesterday, today or tomorrow.

This same concept is symbolised by lions that flank the entrances to libraries, museums, educational establishments and other buildings in and around Nottingham.

In the modern era, Nottingham as with other British cities, experienced immigration of people of Afrikan origin, mainly from the Caribbean, in the 1950's and early 1960's.

Once again the needs of British industry were met by the hard labour of its overseas subjects. In Nottingham this manifested itself in people of Afrikan descent working at Raleigh's, John Players, Nottingham City Transport, Nottingham Health Authority etc.

In 1958 Nottingham made national and international news with a wave of racist violence against Afrikan-Caribbean settlers, which became known as 'race riots'.

From the above one can identify that Afrikan History has left an indelible mark on the history and economic and social development of Nottingham and Afrikans currently living in the city will play an important part in shaping the future of Nottingham.

This is why Afrikan History is important and not just to the people of Afrikan origin but to everyone; not just because it is the history of Afrikan people but it is a history of a people who have had and still have a profound impact on world civilisation and culture.

Kwame Osei is an Afrikan Historian and Director of East Midlands African-Caribbean Arts (EMACA).

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