• Farhiya and Ella

Young Historians Project Workshop at Queen's College in Westminster

This past June, the Young Historians Project visited Queen's College in Westminster to deliver an afternoon workshop on ‘A Hidden History: African Women and the British Health Service’ to a hall of Year 9 students.

We were so excited to teach the students, many of whom had little to no exposure to Black British History education. The day served as an introduction to our latest project and documentary, as well as a general taster to wider themes involving Black British history. We also explored primary source materials and introduced students to important historical terms such as the ‘Colour Bar’.

We kicked off the workshop with a discussion on the definition of oral history and asked the students for their thoughts on how best to conduct and record oral histories. We encouraged the students to carry out research themselves by speaking to elders in their community and families.

We then played clips from the interviews of Dame Elizabeth Anionwu and Lucia Msika from our latest documentary project. Anionwu and Msika explained what led them to a career in health care as well as stories from their childhoods in Britain and South Africa respectively. The students reflected on pieces from the interviews that stood out to them and how it made them feel. We also encouraged the students to consider what questions they may have for the interviewees.Their answers ranged from “what would you do if you weren’t a nurse?” and “what has been your favourite part of your career?” This may have been their first exposure to listening to the stories and voices of Black nurses working in healthcare and learning about the NHS through the lens of race and gender. They provided such valuable contributions.

Next we moved onto our primary source activity. We handed out political cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s, published by The Sunday Express and London Evening Standard. We asked the students what they thought the cartoon’s message was and what they could infer from the sources about Black people’s experiences working in the health service. This was great as the students displayed investigative skills by trying to discern the messages of the sources themselves before we shared explanations and wider historical context. The primary source activity was such a fun and interesting activity as it reminded us of how diverse interpretations can be, and also reified the significance of Black contributions to British healthcare in the historical record.

Finally, we ended the workshop on a quiz based on the new information the students had learned as well as wider Black British and healthcare history. The quiz was exciting and competitive. Our tie breaker question was ‘what country was Princess Tshai Haile Selassie from?’ This led to a huge eruption of cheers and celebration for the student who was first to guess ‘Ethiopia.’

Overall, the workshop was really fulfilling and an indication of how enriching and important teaching Black British history in schools is. YHP will continue to provide avenues for people to learn more about Black British history and we look forward to our next workshop!

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