History KS2: Vernon Samuels - The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963

In this short film 13-year-old Amelia and Vernon Samuels, who represented Great Britain in the 1988 Olympics, tell the story of the Bristol Bus Boycott and Vernon's father, who was the first black bus driver in Bristol.

Vernon, who was born and grew up in Bristol, tells Amelia, also from Bristol, of the courage his father demonstrated and how it has inspired him to always strive for excellence in his life and stand up for what he believes in.

This short film is from the BBC Teach series, Black British Stories.

Teacher Notes

Before watching the film

This short film starts by briefly mentioning the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, and how it was pulled down in 2020 by protesters as part of the Black Lives Matter global movement for racial equality and justice. You may wish to explore a history of protest in the UK (e.g. the Peterloo massacre in Manchester, 16 August 1819; the Suffragette movement; the Battle of Cable Street London, 4 October 1936 and the Tolpuddle Martyrs Dorset, 1833-1834), and how people have been actively seeking civil rights, employment, fair pay, the rights to vote, and gender equality for hundreds of years.

You may wish to look at the word 'discrimination', types of discrimination and what that means to the pupils. Pupils could explore the different reasons why people feel discriminated against and why it is important to make a stand in order to make a change for future generations. This could include gender discrimination which, although different, might aid pupil understanding of discrimination. These discussions could lead to definitions of hate crime, and explaining how the type of discrimination seen in this short film is now illegal in the UK. Please note, preparation is necessary for any pupils who may have experienced discrimination. It may be at this point that pupils disclose information or share stories. Discussions of this nature can be upsetting for pupils – it may be that pupils are hearing this information for the first time, or it may remind them of more recent examples such as racism in football. Individuals in the class should not feel any expectation to discuss their own family circumstances, although they may choose to.

You may also wish to focus on the history of black civil rights worldwide, and in Britain, and how it is really only since the 1960s that many important changes began to take place. Links can also be made to Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the activism in America at the same time.

If conducting a local history study in Bristol, you could further explore the murals that we see Amelia walking by in the film. These are the Seven Saints of St Pauls and include Roy Hackett, who played a key role in the Bristol Bus Boycott.

Questions to consider

Depending on the focus of your lesson, you may wish to pause this short film at certain points to check for understanding, asking questions such as:

  • Why do you think protestors felt it was important to them to pull the statue of Edward Colston down?
  • Why do you think Paul Stephenson felt he needed to ‘trick’ the bus company?
  • Do you think a boycott is an effective form of protest?
  • Why do you think the boycott was successful?
  • Why do you think Norman Samuels wanted to do more than join the protest?
  • How do you think Norman felt becoming the first black bus driver in Bristol?
  • How do you think Norman showed courage?
  • What do you think being an activist means?
  • How can people continue activism today?

Activities to further explore learning

  • Researching the Bristol Bus Boycott The Bristol Bus Boycott was a turning point in British history and soon after this, it became illegal to have a colour bar in the workplace. Pupils can research the event and present this in the form of a non-chronological report, a digital presentation such as a PowerPoint presentation or information leaflet. Pupils should also look at the impact it had on the future of fair and equal workplaces. As well as Vernon’s father – Norman Samuels – pupils should be aware of other people’s contributions, such as Guy Bailey, Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett.

  • Debate Pupils could research the history of Edward Colston and his connection with the transatlantic slave trade. They could then have an open discussion on why the statue has divided the city of Bristol and whether they think the protestors should have been allowed to pull down the statue of Edward Colston or not. Bristol Council now have the statue in storage but what should happen to the statue? Is it important for understanding? If so why/why not?

  • Courage and standing up for what you believe Pupils could look at different types of courage and what they think defines courage. Pupils could explore the six types of courage (physical, social, moral, emotional, intellectual and spiritual). They could then decide on what type of courage Norman Samuels had to show when he became the first black bus driver. Pupils could then be presented with different scenarios which need different types of courage and match the types of courage needed to each one.

  • “I Have A Dream” In 1963, at the same time as the Bristol Boycott, Martin Luther King was giving his famous dream speech. Challenge the pupils to think of something that they are passionate about and ask them to write their own dream speech. Pupils could then be filmed using a green screen giving their speech in front of pictures of either the Bristol Bus Boycott or the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, USA.

Key Vocabulary

  • Activist - Someone who does something to make a change, or stop a change, in society.
  • Boycott - To refuse to buy, use, or go to, in order to make a protest or bring about a change.
  • Colour bar - A system that does not allow black or Asian people to do the same things as white people.
  • Civil rights - The rights of citizens to equality.
  • Discrimination - The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people.
  • Diversity - Differences in racial and ethnic, socioeconomic, geographic, and academic backgrounds.
  • Immigrant - A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.
  • Immigration - The process of moving to a new country, with plans to live there permanently.
  • Prejudice - A preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
  • Racism - The belief that people of different races or ethnic groups have different value in society, and using this against them.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching KS2 / 2nd level pupils and links to various areas of the curriculum including to history (black history) and personal, social and relationships education (diversity and community). The focus on the power of the written word, specifically autobiographies and poetry, also provides a link with the English curriculum.

Cultural heritage
This short film raises questions about what makes up your cultural heritage and how this connects a community.

Inspiring change
This short film raise questions about what inspires change today. Links can be made to movements that are current (Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, etc.), and how these movements have been inspired and developed.

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