Hidden histories and heroism: post-14 course on multi-cultural Britain since 1945

Teaching History Article

By Robin Whitburn and Sharon Yemoh, published 9th July 2012

‘My people struggled too': hidden histories and heroism

A school-designed, post-14 course on multi-cultural Britain since 1945

Robin Whitburn and Sharon Yemoh describe the design of a school-generated GCSE course on the challenges that British people faced in forging a multicultural society in post-imperial Britain. Drawing on their own research into their students' experience, they build a discipline-based case for teaching about socio-political communal struggles against racism in Britain. Whitburn and Yemoh challenge the adequacy of common curricular approaches to Black history such as special activities during Black History Month or a focus on strong role models in culture and sport.

They also challenge some teachers' over-reliance on studying Civil Rights in the American context. Instead, they build a distinctive case for a more historically theorised approach, one which links concern for students' Black British identity with concern for disciplinary rigour both in selecting content and in fostering students' own historical thinking. Reconstructing the value of ‘heroism' as a criterion for shaping history curriculum content, they also argue that social cohesion is not best served by ignoring stories of formative Black British struggles and that the latter should gain mainstream status, on historical grounds, in British schools' history practice.

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