Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900 – 1300

Did you know that Benin was in the UK National Curriculum for History in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2?

Yet, how many schools actually study this section of history? I often assumed that Black History Month in October was all we were offered to look at History and only homed in on that. However, we need to recognise that there is a whole unit within the curriculum.

The only issue I do have, though, is that it in an optional module rather than one that is compulsory. It is up to school to decide whether or not they want to encourage the study of West African history prior to colonialism and slavery.

What would happen if we study West African History as a compulsory topic within schools?

  1. Many young people (and adults) would realise that the history of black people did not start with slavery. Rather, black people were living in civilisations that were very open, with a sense of community and ‘no stealing’. Merchants who travelled to Benin outlined that no-one seemed to steal when they were there. They also described the beauty of The Kingdom of Benin.

2. There will be a much broader National Curriculum. Ignorance really is not bliss. By not learning about the history of other countries, children will know nothing at all about them or have warped perceptions of countries based on what the media tells them.

3. Many black children – and this is so important – will feel like they are seen in the classroom. It will be an opportunity to see books and historical sources that contains images of people who look like them.

What should Black History Month look like?

In my opinion, Black History Month should be a celebration of the black culture. Within schools, we should be looking at the pre-colonial history of Kingdoms within Africa – each year group can focus on a different Kingdom for a few weeks. Then for the final two weeks we touch on slavery (for a few days), then we look at black inventors, scientists and agents of change. We also need to explore the current influences in the black community: famous actors, musicians, lecturers, scientists and lawyers. That is a Black History Month which will truly be inspirational.

If you would like to read a bit more about the Kingdom of Benin and introduce it into your Primary School Curriculum, I have located a few helpful resources.

Streams of Beauty