When I was in school I enjoyed history and learning about the times before us. However, there was a lot of repetition: World War Two, kings and queens, World War Two, more kings and queens, and even more World War Two. Though these were interesting to learn about, I always felt disconnected. I didn’t care about the troubles of the British monarchy year after year. I wanted to expand and diversify my knowledge. I wanted to explore other cultures and their past. I wanted to cross the borders out of European history.
As a black person, I wanted to learn about people like me. In secondary school we touched on the slave trade and the Civil Rights movement in the US. But, it seemed that the only history I was shown involving black people were the stories of their suffering.
Schools shower us with countless stories about accomplishments made by the white man, but what about the accomplishments of the black man? We are told the impact that western Europeans have made on the world throughout history, but what about the influence of Hispanics? We are informed about the important figureheads in Britain, but what about significant Asian leaders?
Kwame Nkrumah. A name that is not on the school curriculum. He fought tirelessly for the rights of the people of Ghana leading them to independence from Britain in 1957; the first African country to break free from the chains the British Empire held them in. However, we don’t learn about this significant moment in African history. We don’t learn about Congo’s first elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, who died fighting for the injustice of his people under Belgian rule. We don’t learn about the South African apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu who marched with thousands of women to protest against the apartheid government.
We must learn about the history of various countries. We must feast on knowledge from the cultural melting pot. We must have a comprehensive insight into the events of different people across the world.
Why should we be deprived of education about these bold, fearless and defiant heroes who have all left a monumental imprint in the lands they battled for? Is it because many of their achievements highlight the negative aspects of glorified western European triumphs? After all, it was the mistreatment of Ghanaian people by the British that drove Ghanaians to fight against them. Also, the UN did not help to save Lumumba when he appealed to them meaning that the UK, USA and Belgium have all been blamed for the moments leading up to his assassination.
We know about the notorious European pirates but what about those sailing other waters? Zheng Chi, Pirate Lady of China, was known to be one of the most successful pirates to rule the South China seas. But, you would never hear about her unless you went out of your way to research on the internet.
The Mirabel sisters: Patricia, Maria, Antonia and Dede. These Hispanic sisters were tortured and three of them were killed in 1960 protesting in a political movement against the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. Now they have become symbols of feminism and have International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in their honour. However, this wasn’t on my syllabus either.
We are taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America and Captain James Cook discovered Australia but not about the people who roamed those lands before them. These places existed before they were taken over. Why aren’t we taught about the lives of the Native Americans and Indigenous Australians? Don’t they have history? Or did the timeline of those countries only begin when the foreign explorers decided it begun?
They do have history. They have a history that is too often hidden among the celebrated tales of a Eurocentric driven curriculum.
Pontiac, Crazy Horse, Squanto, Red Cloud – all significant Native Americans who stood up to British forces amongst many others. But, how many influential Native Americans can you name from the top of your head?
David Unaipon was an Aboriginal inventor particularly known for his helicopter design. His face also appears on the Australian fifty dollar note, but how many people know his name, what he did and where he was from?
We must understand and learn about other cultures, other countries and other backgrounds in our history lessons. It is the only way to eradicate the ignorance that surrounds us today. If we start now, the next generation will be more educated, perceptive and appreciative of the wondrous, diverse world we live in.
We need to diversify the curriculum. We need to diversify it today.
– By A curious mind.