Lat­est doc­u­men­taries

Black and Bri­tish Sea­son BBC Two and BBC Four

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE - Jonathan Wright

The his­tory of black peo­ple in Bri­tain is of­ten told through the lens of the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion, the Caribbean im­mi­grants who came to Bri­tain af­ter the Se­cond World War. A ma­jor new sea­son of pro­grammes from the BBC re­minds us that this has only ever been part of the story here.

At its cen­tre lies Black & Bri­tish: A For­got­ten His­tory (BBC Two), in which his­to­rian and broad­caster David Olu­soga looks at the long re­la­tion­ship be­tween the peo­ples of the Bri­tish Isles and Africa. And it’s a story that goes a long way back – as we learn when we en­counter African troops at Hadrian’s Wall in the 3rd cen­tury.

Olu­soga also in­tro­duces us, among oth­ers, to black sailors who fought un­der Nel­son at Trafal­gar and Queen Vic­to­ria’s African god­daugh­ter, and looks back at how Lan­cashire cot­ton work­ers sup­ported the abo­li­tion of Amer­i­can slav­ery even though this led to eco­nomic hard­ship in the re­gion. In each of the four doc­u­men­taries, BBC Black His­tory Plaques get un­veiled at key his­tor­i­cal lo­ca­tions across Bri­tain, its for­mer colonies and the Com­mon­wealth.h

There’s a strong ge­nealog­i­cal el­e­ment too, as Olu­soga pulls to­gether ge­netic re­search, in­for­ma­tion from pri­mary sources, ex­pert tes­ti­mony and con­tem­po­rary in­ter­views to re­veal that many white Bri­tons are more black than they re­alise, and that many black Bri­tons are more white. This chimes with the se­ries’ over­all mes­sage – that black his­tory is in­te­gral to our na­tional story rather than a sideshow.

Else­where in the sea­son, there’s an in­ter­est­ing range of doc­u­men­taries. Back In Time For Brix­ton (BBC Two) adapts the Back In Time For Din­ner liv­ing his­tory for­mat. Singer Kenny Lynch, crick­eter Clive Lloyd and mu­si­cian Jazzie B are among those who help the Ir­wins un­der­stand piv­otal mo­ments from 50 years of black Bri­tish his­tory, with Giles Coren and so­cial his­to­rian Emma Dabiri on pre­sent­ing duty. BlBlackk MidMid­wivesi (BBC FFour)) ex­ploresl theh ex­pe­ri­ences of the thou­sands of Caribbean women who helped build the NHS. Many were just teenagers when they left their homes, and the con­trib­u­tors in­clude 77-year-old Lynette Richards-Lorde, a for­mer mid­wife and the first black di­rec­tor of Nurs­ing in the UK.

Whites Vs Blacks (BBC Two) tells the ex­tra­or­di­nary tale of how, on 16 May 1979, as part of mid­fielder Len Can­tello’s tes­ti­mo­nial at West Bromwich Al­bion, an all-white team took on a side com­prised solely of black play­ers. Some of those who took part in the game, in­clud­ing Cyril Regis (who won five caps for Eng­land), Bren­dan Bat­son and Ally Robert­son re­call the match in the com­pany of Adrian Chiles. Such a match could never be played to­day, but what should we make of the fact that it did take place?

Black sailor s fought along­side Ne lson at the Bat­tle of Trafal gar in 1805

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