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Rethinking the black presence in British history

HOST: David Olusoga

THE BBC has commissioned four short films which will cast a light on the missing stories from British history. These stories - which will be hosted by four different presenters - are not taught at schools and have been largely forgotten about but reveal the treatment and erasure of black Britons from history.

The presenters of the short films include British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga, Professor Olivette Otele, historian and writer Emma Dabiri and rapper GAIKIA.

Olusoga’s short film What You Don’t Learn in School explores the stories of black Britons throughout history that have remained largely untold. In the clip, the historian tells the story of John Blanke, a black trumpeter at the court of Henry VIII, and Ivory Bangle Lady, found in a stone sarcophagus in the early part of the 20th century.

1919: A Forgotten Regiment is hosted by Olivette Otele, and focuses on the untold story of black subjects that sought to serve the Crown, but were treated so badly to the point that they mutinied. In 1919 when the country commemorated the war, they were not included.

The third short film hosted by Emma Dabiri 1919: White-Washing History hones in on the lesser-known story of how we have been taught a white, European version of the First World War, despite over four million black auxiliaries and soldiers playing an integral role, while 1919: A British Lynching hosted by GAIKA tells the shocking and largely untold story of the 1919 race riots that took place in the aftermath of World War One.


RETELLING HISTORY: Olivette Otele (centre)

The films - produced by Uplands Television -= marks a new digital campaign from the BBC which includes two series’ – ALT History and Black to Life which seeks to ‘rethink the black presence within British history’.

ALT (Alternative) History focuses on teaching the history of minorities in Britain which are often left out of the picture and more importantly out of the classroom. while Black to Life is a series of short films directed by Akinola Davies, who beautifully shares stories of black British history through individual stories – including the first black aristocrat Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761- 1804) and Sara Forbes Bonetta Davies (1843- 1880) the Yoruba princess displaced in England following a slave hunt.

Coinciding with the 71st anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, these short and impactful films will highlight the fact that black history in Britain did not begin with the Windrush and will be available to view from June 25.

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