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yvonne davis with the book 100 great black britons

Ex-teacher calls for black British history book to reach all UK schools

A retired head-teacher is calling for a copy of a black British history book to be sent to every secondary school in the country by Christmas. 

Yvonne Davis from Hemel Hempstead, has raised almost £9,000 of her £215,000 target to send 100 Great Black Britons to all 8,205 schools in the UK. 

The book, authored by Patrick Vernon and Dr Angelina Osborne, celebrates the achievements of 100 outstanding black British individuals from Jocelyn Barrow to Stormzy. 

Davis, 64, has worked in education for over 40 years first as a history teacher and later a head-teacher. 

She said: “I wish I had this book when I first started teaching.

“We studied Florence Nightingale but black nurse Mary Seacole was missed off the curriculum, even though she too cared for injured British soldiers during the Crimean War.”

Davis’ parents emigrated to Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s during the Windrush Generation. 

She admits that growing up during the 1970s and 80s, there was almost no positive representation of black people, and she experienced racism first-hand when she started teaching during that period. 

Throughout her career, Davis has witnessed a significant change in attitudes towards race, but admits discrimination still exists in education today. 

She said: “I was called lots of derogatory names as I walked through the school and sat in assembly. It was just an utter, utter shock.

“I was often asked where was I born but I am British, I was born in Britain.

“And there was a lot of discourse about black people being underachievers.

“We want our black students to be inspired, motivated and to take their place in society.

“They’ll have a better understanding about the presence of blacks in the country and maybe have more acceptance. 

“When you’ve got a little bit of negativity in the media, your view becomes very narrow.”

Davis is championing the book as it demonstrates the huge contribution that black Britons have made to history and culture.

Inspiration for Great Black Britons first came in 2003 when social commentator Vernon asked the public to vote for their favourite black Briton. 

Vernon wanted to promote greater inclusion after the BBC series 100 Great Britons featured no black British applicants. 

In 2019, Vernon and Dr Osborne relaunched the campaign in light of the Windrush Scandal and Grenfell Inquiry. 

Davis was one of several panellists who selected the final 100 nominees from around 1,000 entries. 

She said: “The list is endless.

“Despite prejudice and racism, they have all gone onto achieve outstanding success in film-making, science, art, sport, music and academia and much more.”

Davis hopes the book will also build on efforts to integrate black history into the national curriculum. 

The current study of British colonialism and imperialism in schools, Davis argues, desperately needs revising.

Davis is heartened by the involvement of young people in the Black Lives Matter movement which has brought race into the national conversation. 

Davis said: “It shows young people want to see change.

“It is not just black, but white people and those who have become more aware.”

If Davis achieves her goal, she hopes Great Black Britons will build on this momentum.

She added: “The book would also make an excellent Christmas present.”

To donate to the GoFundMe page, click here.

Featured image credit: Yvonne Davis

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