A new study found that most people living in Britain can’t name a single Black British historical figure.
According to The Independent, the study, which UK’s Bloomsbury Publishing commissioned, concluded that most Brits know “shockingly little” about Black British history.
The study found that, of the British adults surveyed, 75% did not know “very much” or “anything at all” about Black history in Britain, and 53% could not name any Black British historical figures. Only 7% could name more than four. Most participants also didn’t know the role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade.
More than half of them weren’t even aware of how many people were ripped from their homes in Africa and brought to Britain as property. Some thought it was 250,000 or fewer, and only 12% thought enslavers took over 1 million people despite the study noting “the true figure being more than three times that amount.”
Rebecca McNally, publishing director and editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury children’s books, said, “It is important for all of us to play a role in shining a light on Black British history, not just in Black History Month but every day.”
“The results of this survey demonstrate an urgent need for books that spotlight integral parts of our history that have been pushed to one side for far too long,” she added.
Black people’s history in Britain stretches back about 12,000 years, per The Independent, and the first known African settlers immigrated to the country approximately 2,000 years ago. Black people’s legacy in Britain surprised a significant amount participants — 36% thought that Black people started migrating to Britain 200 years ago, while 29% weren’t sure.
To hopefully make sure that more Brits know of the country’s Black history, Bloomsbury published Brilliant Black British History written by Nigerian British children’s book author Atinuke, which celebrates the Black British people who helped advance the country in various fields, including science, sport, literature and law.
Of the study’s findings, Atinuke said, “Half of UK adults cannot name a single Black historical figure and only 7 per cent can name more than four … I think disbelief is really the only word.”
She added, “There have always been people with black and brown skin in Britain – from the Stone Age, through every single era, to the present day.”
Atinuke noted that Black British people are responsible for some of the most significant discoveries in the Georgian era, from 1714 to 1837, according to England Heritage.
“More than that, the forced contribution of millions of Black people before and during the Georgian era changed the course of British history – helping Britain to become the first industrialized nation in the world and a superpower,” she explained.
But Atinuke’s book isn’t enough. The author says that the government needs to get involved in order to meaningfully educate the masses.
“As our world becomes more polarised and divided, increased inclusivity is needed now more than ever. All British history needs to be taught as one history. It’s all our history,” she urged.