Jeremy Corbyn: Schools should cover ‘role and legacy’ of British Empire

Jeremy CorbynImage copyright PA
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn with Bristol’s deputy mayor Asher Craig (second left) on a visit to the city

Schoolchildren should be taught about the “role and legacy” of the British Empire and colonisation, Jeremy Corbyn says.

The Labour leader said it was vital that future generations understood about black Britons’ struggle for racial equality.

He said this was more important than ever in light of the Windrush scandal.

The government said schools taught a “broad and balanced curriculum” including black history.

Black History Month has been marked in the UK every October for more than 30 years.

But on a visit to Bristol – which grew wealthy on the back of the slave trade in the 18th century – Mr Corbyn said it should not be confined to a single month because “black history is British history”.

He said: “It is vital that future generations understand the role that black Britons have played in our country’s history and the struggle for racial equality.

“In the light of the Windrush scandal, Black History Month has taken on a renewed significance and it is more important now than ever that we learn and understand, as a society, the role and legacy of the British Empire, colonisation and slavery.”

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The Windrush generation are named after the ship that carried the first of a wave of Caribbean migrants to the UK in 1948.

Earlier this year the government apologised when it emerged that some Windrush migrants and their children had wrongly faced deportation as a result of the so-called “hostile environment” immigration policy.

Mr Corbyn added: “Black History month is a crucial chance to celebrate the immense contribution of black Britons to this country, to reflect on our common history and ensure that such grave injustices can never happen again.”

A new Emancipation Educational Trust would use school programmes and visits to teach children “how slavery interrupted a rich African and black history”, Labour said.

On his visit Mr Corbyn met civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson, who organised the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s.

The Labour leader said Mr Stephenson’s campaign, which led to an end to a ban on people from ethnic minorities working on Bristol’s buses, should be as widely known as the Montgomery bus boycott led by Rosa Parks in the United States.

Mr Corbyn’s remarks were criticised by former Conservative children’s minister Tim Loughton, who told the Daily Telegraph: “It is incredible that Jeremy Corbyn aspires to be the leader of a country he is apparently so ashamed of.”

The Department for Education said: “We expect all schools to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, learning about different cultures and how they have shaped national and international events, which includes black history.

“The National Curriculum provides a number of opportunities to focus on black history by learning about Rosa Parks, Mary Seacole and the impact on society of the migration of people to, from and within the British Isles.”

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