Prince Charles wants the history of slavery to be taught in British schools

In recent years, America’s MAGA demographic has been obsessed with the 1619 Project, which originated as a New York Times series aimed a “reframing” American history with historically accurate information about slavery. The 1619 Project has been used as a tool within universities, which is also connected to teaching Critical Race Theory (also in universities). The 1619 Project and CRT were used as dog-whistle boogeymen by racists and Republicans, who told white suburban mothers that the New York Times was coming into their children’s kindergarten classes to teach them how to be Black Panthers. Or something, I find a lot of the racists’ arguments to be confusing and muddled. The GOP’s CRT fuss worked in the Virginia governor’s election last year, with a huge number of voters casting their ballots to… keep Toni Morrison’s books off the AP English syllabus. That’s how stupid it got in my state.

I bring up the 1619 Project and CRT because Prince Charles seemingly wants to do something like that in the UK. Only I don’t think he understands that tugging at all of the threads will make the whole kingdom fall apart. I saw how unhinged American racists got over the very idea that it’s worth teaching the real history of slavery in schools. What will happen when every British paper is spitting fire about the same issue?

The Prince of Wales wants slavery to be publicly acknowledged, taught in schools and given the same national level of importance as the Holocaust.

Charles, who spoke of his “personal sorrow” at the UK’s historical links with the slave trade during his visit to Rwanda last week, will campaign for greater public awareness of slavery, which has dogged the royal family’s recent overseas tours.

A senior royal source said the prince was talking to “world leaders and lots of different people” about slavery, which he will make a key focus. The source said: “He is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and he notes that in the UK, we now know and learn at school all about the Holocaust, so it is something that is acknowledged and learnt at a national level. That is not true of the transatlantic slave trade, and maybe that is something that should be. So, just like the Holocaust Memorial Day, is there some way of doing that? Having a moment, having a way of remembering that?” The source added the prince was “not dictating education policy” but acknowledging “that it needs to happen”.

Charles is understood to be keen to continue “listening, acknowledging and learning” about the issue, and has been hearing from The World Reimagined, an art education initiative which aims to address how the slave trade is “untold, mistaught or misrepresented” in the UK. It is thought he is also keen to see greater emphasis on the legacy of the Windrush generation in schools.

[From The Times]

I mean… he’s right? The real history of the transatlantic slave trade should be taught in British schools. Britain’s role in the slave trade should be taught specifically, and it shouldn’t simply be limited to Africans. Britain’s colonialist history in India – and throughout Asia – should be examined, re-examined and taught in schools. But as I said, I can’t see the British papers allowing any of it to happen. The conservative, racist media in Britain will run the exact same play the American racists ran here in America. Also: does Charles only want the “distant” history of the slave trade to be taught and that’s it, or does he want Britain’s modern racial history to be taught as well? Because if the lesson ends with “and then Britain ended slavery, the end” then… that’s a choice too.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instar.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

28 Responses to “Prince Charles wants the history of slavery to be taught in British schools”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. eb says:

    …and then we ran off the only biracial modern day member of the British Royal Family… were laughed out of Jamaica… bags of cash…The end.

  2. C says:

    The involvement of England in the African slave trade started with one of the monarchy’s most iconic figures- Elizabeth I.
    And that’s leaving out the other countries colonized.
    I agree it should be taught but he hasn’t thought through this process at all. There’s no way they can reconcile what past atrocities have been committed to what their monarchy currently is.

  3. Patty says:

    The BRF and the Uk government have the market cornered on history of slavery and colonialism. I’m not sure this will turn out very well for the Royal Family .

  4. CherHorowitz says:

    Okay but how about also teach other Black history other than just slavery?!

  5. mich says:

    Did GCE ( British exam) in high school and slavery was taught

  6. Ocho says:

    “What will happen when every British paper is spitting fire about the same issue?”

    The British papers already do. The American School in London taught their students the audacious idea that peoples’ lives are affected by their race, religion, skin colour, and sexual and gender identities. Crazy crazy, I know. Ofsted — the government office responsible for inspecting schools — wrote a report that included a criticism that amounted to “what about the white boys?”. British papers ate it up. It became a semi-big story — look at those woke people making kids feel bad about themselves.

  7. Jais says:

    So I’m assuming slavery is taught in British schools? Or is it not? Assuming he’s advocating for how it’s taught? Can any British CBers chime in? Definitely this will open up a can of sardines he’s not prepared for but open it anyways! Then be ready to fight the inevitable conservative backlash.

    • TQ says:

      (US expat teaching in the UK university here) So far as I understand it from my university students, history of slavery, colonialism, etc. is not taught in depth in UK schools. Not that Charles can do anything about that. But per my comment below, kids are getting this info now through many other means we didn’t have when we were growing up.

      • Christine says:

        I am agog. It never occurred to me before this article that students in England weren’t taught Black history. What about Indian history, and that arm of their colonialism? Is there really no history about the Commonwealth in schools?

      • Emme says:

        @TQ, in reality NO history is taught in depth in UK school, till you select to do history at GCSE Level (aged 15 to 16) or A Level (aged 17 to 18.) But if don’t select to study History, then what you get in school from age 5 to 15 is ONE hour of history a week if you’re lucky, covering 2,000 yrs of UK history from Roman times to the 20th century.

      • TQ says:

        @Christine – yes, it’s crazy kids in the UK don’t get Black history, Indian history, colonial history etc. as a standard part of their education. As @Emme says above, history of any sort is not a robust part of the standard school curriculum, and they only get more depth if they specialize at the high school level exams.

    • Therearenostupidquestions says:

      History teacher here. I teach in Scotland, which has a different education system to England, and the Atlantic Slave Trade has been an exam topic for over 10 years. We also have a topic about Scots and the Empire which looks at the impact Scots had on empire countries. However, not all schools teach these topics and not all students choose to do History! Many schools do address these issues in the first couple of years of High School, when History is compulsory, but our curriculum is flexible and what is studied varies between schools.

  8. Yo says:

    It’s called ENSLAVEMENT not SLAVERY. Catch up pipo

  9. TQ says:

    I was shocked when I moved to the UK (from the US) and started teaching in universities here that my students never received much education on the transatlantic slavetrade, let alone concepts like institutional racism and microaggressions. And they’re itching for it, so at least we provide it at the university level. Of course it’s good to see Prince Charles calling for this (which is of course only out of his desire for self-preservation and trying to keep the BRF around during his tenure). Not that Prince Charles has any power to impact UK school curriculums.

    So while the British press will undoubtedly attack Charles for this, just like in the US, the reactionaries and racists can’t keep the brutalities of slavery, Jim Crow, CRT, police brutality, & the like from reaching the hands of the young. Social media, pop culture, streaming series etc. all just afford too much access to this information for the younger generations. The old racists can’t turn back the clock and these future generations are still getting this content despite all the racists’ kicking and screaming.

    • Katie says:

      This is super interesting. As an US engineer, the other thing it appears from afar is that UK students specialize really young. So STEM minded students aren’t really getting social science and literature education of any stripe fairly young.

      • TQ says:

        @katie – agreed. I’ve also been struck by how early they have to specialize here in the UK. I think it really does them a disservice for as you say they don’t get that well rounded education as we do in the US. And for those I know who picked the wrong subjects at O Level/GCSE (first two years of high school) or A Level (last two years of high school) it can be challenging to switch or they have to repeat A level exams or a year in university. Strikes me as an archaic approach.

  10. Amy Bee says:

    You can’t teach slavery without talking about colonialism which is entangled with the history of the British Empire and the Royal Family. I doubt that Charles wants to go so far.

  11. Jaded says:

    Charles, while you’re at it let’s not forget to teach courses on England’s involvement in the opium trade that started in the late 1700’s. This led to two opium wars in the mid-1800’s — the first one was England against China, the second included France/England against China, and forced unequal treaties and territorial concessions on China. This led to the toppling of the Ching Dynasty and ultimately brought about its downfall, eventually replaced by Communism.

    You can call the course “A History of England’s Illicit Drug Trade”.

  12. diANNa says:

    I’m impressed that Charles is willing to seemingly alienate what is likely a large segment of royalists by sharing the history of the monarchy achieving their wealth through Black slavery.

  13. Poppy says:

    I teach the British History curriculum in secondary school and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a topic but it is not compulsory. However, most of the KS3 History textbooks have a section on slavery. I teach it because kids find it fascinating.

  14. Duchess of Hazard says:

    The British government said that slavery was a good thing , so… good luck

    That being said, at least Charles knows that slavery won’t go away as a subject

  15. SarahCS says:

    It’s our history and part of our present too. I live in a city (Bristol) where a LOT of money was made thanks to enslaving and selling human beings and we have been having an interesting reckoning of sorts with our history. One individual in particular spent a lot of his money on the city and had all sorts of things named after him – his statue went into the harbour last year during Black Lives Matter protests and the four people charged with doing it were acquitted early this year. Buildings and schools are also being renamed. Children need to be learning about all of this.

  16. JaneBee says:

    Taking a step back from the immediate point (without diminishing its importance) and looking at Charles’ public talking points over the past fortnight – this is giving us a LOT to consider. What IS Clarence House up to???

    First, Charles speaking out last week to condemn UK Tory govt’s plan to fly refugees to Rwanda, and this week broaching inclusion of history of enslavement in UK school curriculum.

    Sure, to the average Guardian reader or to us, this all sounds perfectly sensible. Yet, this is basically a radical declaration of war by Charles directed at the Murdoch owned media (i.e. FOX in US; awful major British and Australian tabloids) and their hard right agenda.

    Charles has basically painted an *enormous* target on his back. I’m kind of stunned, and trying to make more sense of it…

    The BIGGEST take away from this – Charles must be incredibly confident that the worst of his skeletons/dirty laundry are already on the public record???? If he continues with his “woke” agenda, the BM/right wing mouth pieces/UK establishment is going to wage an incredibly dirty war against him with the aim of forcing abdication in favour of (conservative; incurious; dull; patriarchal) William.

    Theories re: what is coming out of Clarence House:
    Option 1: Charles is incredibly thick (he’s not).
    Option 2: Michael Fawcett was previously keeping Charles’ genuine idealism in check and curbing its public expression to avoid rocking the boat. Without Fawcett in place, the filter is gone? Someone else is going to be found by the grey men to fill this role pronto.
    Option 3: Charles has zero f**ks left to give and is a legitimate idealist who is prepared to shake up the RF. He’s going to be an activist king who intends to take the HoS bit very seriously, no matter the cost (and disregarding how that has always backfired for previous British monarchs)?
    Option 4: It’s a short term play that’s being rolled out to achieve a bigger, longer-term strategy. But by whom? To what end????

    From a RF gossip perspective, this only looks set to get more interesting…

  17. Sour Pasoa says:

    He’s just talking so he can move his lips

  18. Beep beep says:

    I did a GCSE and an A’level ( 16 yrs old and 18 yrs old) both in History. I was taught in state schools, graduated 20 yrs ago and slavery and the transatlantic trade was thoroughly taught.