Monday, 22 October 2012

Black History Exeter?

Portrait held by RAMM which was previously thought to be Olaudah Equiano
So we're four weeks into October in England, and yes, it is Black History Month. Residents of Exeter might not have noticed, as there hasn't been much in the local press about it, nor have there been many activities taking place to mark the occasion. But all over the country people have been tucking into books, frequenting events and listening to stories about the history of Black people and culture in Britain.

It's not that the people of Exeter have been lacking in information about Black history. Writers like Lucy MacKeith, Todd Gray and Richard Bradbury have all made efforts to put the history of Exeter & Devon's Black communities as well as the stories of those involved in the slave trade and its abolition, on the record. Though the city takes part in major events, like the 2007 Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, on the whole Exeter takes a low key, decentralised, approach to this history with bits of information popping up as and when they are uncovered, without a large individual historic event to provide a focus for research or celebration.

Is this about to change? The team behind the latest project from the Global Centre hope so.

Joined by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, the Black Farmer, they recently launched HLF funded "Telling our Stories, Finding our Roots: Exeter's multi-coloured history" to bring together local people of all backgrounds, ages, ethnic groups and nationalities, to find out about the rich and varied past of Exeter.

October 2012 Launch of Telling Our Stories, Finding our Roots with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
The project will be coordinated by Ghee Bowman and Sandhya Dave who is excited by the project's potential: "People often think that Devon is all-white and always has been. That's not the case - this project aims to unearth some hidden stories of hidden people, slaves and servants and sailors, GIs and Roman legionaries and modern restaurateurs: folk from around the world who settled here or passed through. We aim to show that Exeter has been and continues to be a place that welcomes people of all skin colours and backgrounds."

The project combine archival research with oral history interviews to produce a website with materials for schools, and a guided tour of the city, in partnership with the Tourist Information Centre and the Redcoats, to connect create a fuller picture of the city's history.

Some of the Black History highlights discovered so far are...

View Exeter Black History Map in a larger map

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