Raising the importance of Black British history and turning the narratives into mainstream studies of the UK past, is what David Olusoga does best. If it weren’t for Olusoga’s popular appeal, major chapters of UK history would be lying unknown in historical vaults, waiting to be resurrected and reappraised.
Chapters such as The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, a documentary highlighting the involvement of Indian, African and Asian service men and women in the First World War; Civilisation, a TV series and sequel to the Kenneth Clark programme of 1969, co presented by Olusoga with historians Mary Beard and Simon Schama, A House Through Time, a peek at the residents’ lives of a House in Liverpool, Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich; A retelling of the story often described as Germany’s forgotten genocide, The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith and Abraham Lincoln: Saint or Sinner? All of these subjects have been given the Olusoga treatment of revival and re-evaluation.
My first encounter with his work was the meticulously researched Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners. It was a BBC series that extensively mapped out the slave owners who received heavy compensation for their loss of income at the time of abolition. It was an astonishing revelation by the award winning historian and Professor of Public History from Manchester University. Having not been aware of the scale of peoples and institutions that profited from the heinous activities, I was shocked to learn that the funds – a staggering 17bn GBP in today’s money contributed to the considerable wealth upon which Britain built its empire. It is all the more galling that those who suffered at the hands of slavery didn’t get a penny and any subsequent calls for reparation for the descendants of slaves has fallen on deaf ears. The programme won Olusoga a BAFTA award.
Another topic exposed by Olusoga was the excellent Black and British: A Forgotten History. The historian explored the contributions of people of African heritage in the UK, tracing their presence to as far back as the Roman times through to the Windrush era. The series sparked a rise in Black British people delving into their own histories and discovering their unbreakable ties to the British nation.
For this reason, David Olusoga’s screening of his newest BBC project; The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files at the Southbank Centre is a must for one’s diary on Sunday 23rd June 2019 to mark Windrush celebrations.
What new information will he uncover concerning the shameful debacle of unlawful deportations of British citizens? What fresh perspectives will he bring to the discourse of an episode that has already brought down one serving Home Affairs Minister and widespread displeasure within the Commonwealth?
These questions and many more will be addressed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. David Olusoga will be presenting his film and discussing it with Amelia Gentleman, a Guardian Reporter and former Delhi correspondent for the International Herald Tribune along with Sharmaine Lovegrove, Publisher at Dialogue Books and Little Brown Book Group. An event not to ignore. More history will be unveiled!
David Olusoga presents his latest film The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre on Sunday 23rd June 2019.
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