Black Presence in Britain revealed by genetic study
British historiography and education are false and racist – if they persist in demeaning and suppressing the real history of Black people in Britain. And nowhere is the need for truth more evident than the misinformed report by Sir Keith Ajegbo and his multiethnic team for the education ministry.
Ajegbo is the former head teacher of Deptford Green School, a multi-ethnic school with a strong reputation for Citizenship education. He urges teaching school pupils the history of slavery as a means of understanding the history of ethnic minority groups in the UK.
The Education Secretary Alan Johnson endorsed the package, saying: “The values our children learn at school will shape the kind of country Britain becomes.
“We are a nation built from and by people from other countries. We should celebrate our history and how it has created today’s diversity – recognising the role played by immigrants in our success.”
No doubt the hullabaloo will be accompanied by the usual stereotypes — African drumming classes and moralising fictions like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The best may even glimpse the truth and tell of slavery and the vagaries of imperial adventure that deposited Africans on British shores after the 16th century.
But alas the report displays a contempt for Black history. Slavery was not the defining first moment of the Black Presence in Britain.
“Blacks have been present in English life since the Roman occupation”, the writer-social critic Margaret Busby reminds us.
Historian and archaeologists confirm that the first Africans came to Britain as Roman soldiers. One, the Romanised African, Emperor Septimius Severus, pacified the indigenous British, rebuilt the defensive Hadrian’s Wall, brought prosperity and freedom from the marauding Germans and Gauls over two decades before his death at York at the age of 64.
But apparently they left no genetic trace among modern inhabitants – until a new discovery. Genetic scientists have now confirmed that white men having a rare Yorkshire name are descended fron Black African ancestors who came to Britian many centuries ago.
The evidence stems from research on Caucasian men who share the same surname and also share a type of Y chromosome previously been found only in west Africa.
“Our findings represent the first genetic evidence of Africans among ‘indigenous’ British”, says Mark Jobling in the recently published article in the European Journal of Human Genetics. online publication 24 January 2007 He reports
“The Y chromosome is passed down from father to son, so this suggested some African ancestry somewhere down the line, he reported to The Independent. “Our study suggests that this must have happened some time ago”, he said.
When precisely? The most obvious possibility lies with slavery and imperial adventures. But the genetic influence of Rome’s African Moors garrisoned in Yorkshire cannot be discounted.