Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

The Department of History affirms its support for the principles and aims of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle for racial justice in the UK and across the world. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have brought renewed attention to the problems of systemic racism in the United States and led to protests that have spread around the world. In Bristol, Black Lives Matter protestors removed the statue of the slave-trader Edward Colston, and dumped it into the harbour, a symbolic action in a city that has struggled to come to terms with both its historic relationship to the Atlantic slave trade, and the structural racism of the present.

We recognize our responsibility to address and help dismantle systems of racial inequality and oppression in the academy and in society more generally. Building on the work of the Royal Historical Society’s report on race, ethnicity, and equality, we have already made changes to the core of our curriculum to emphasize considerations of Black histories, global histories, racism, the slave trade, colonialism, and their multiple and varied legacies. Members of the department have long-standing research interests and teaching experience in these areas, and in wider histories of race and race relations, but these are also urgent issues for other historians, regardless of specialism. We recognize that decolonizing history means addressing the ways in which racialised structures of power have fundamentally shaped our own institution and discipline. We also remain committed to addressing the dynamics underpinning other inequalities.

We recognize that a great deal more needs to be done, which is why we are:

  • working on better ways to recruit more Black students;
  • working to educate ourselves by establishing shared resources on racism and inequality for staff and students, and a regular reading group;
  • working with our current and former Black students, to learn how we can better support them in their studies;
  • reaffirming out commitment to diversifying our staff;
  • establishing a working group to produce concrete proposals on the above points, to review our curriculum with a focus on diversifying our teaching, and to facilitate an annual review of measurable progress on these fronts.

The department is committed to listening to students present, past, and future as well as to communities in Bristol, especially those that have historically been excluded from the spaces of the university.

Black Lives Matter.


Issued on behalf of the Department of History, University of Bristol, July 2020

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