Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

Education and Empire: Schooling, Colonialism, and Migration, in Britain and the British Caribbean with Deanna Lyncook

November 01, 2023 Alexandria Miller Episode 70
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
Education and Empire: Schooling, Colonialism, and Migration, in Britain and the British Caribbean with Deanna Lyncook
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and +
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Education shapes lives - but how is this journey shaped by race, colonialism, and migration? Join us as we navigate the establishment of school systems in the British Caribbean post-Emancipation to the increasingly diverse classrooms of mid-20th century Britain. We're enlightened by the insights of Deanna Lyncook, a fellow podcaster and PhD student, whose research colors our understanding of Caribbean life and education abroad.

We trace the racial and religious underpinnings of education in the anglophone colonies and unpack the challenges that newly-migrated British Caribbean students faced in the UK, from policies that hindered their academic success to the resistance and activism that these hurdles sparked within the Caribbean community. We also spotlight the unsung heroes: parents, educators, and activists who fought for an improved educational experience for Caribbean youth in Britain. Their story, alongside the enduring challenges faced by these students, continues to resonate today. In a world increasingly shaped by movement, understanding the interplay between education, history, and migration is more crucial than ever. Join us as we unearth an essential chapter of Black British and Caribbean history.

Deanna Lyncook is a PhD student in History at Queen Mary University of London. Her research takes a transnational approach to the experiences of West Indian children in the British education system in Britain and its Caribbean colonies, in the second half of the 20th Century. She is the founder host of the weekly podcast The History Hotline where she discusses events and individuals that have shaped Black history in Britain and the Caribbean. She co-organised a Black British History Conference funded by the Institute of Historical Research, Queen Mary University and Northwestern University. She has curated an oral history exhibition at the Museum of Methodism and has also worked on historical research projects for the Society for Caribbean Studies, the University of Leeds, BBC Radio London and the Times Radio. She is also a coordinator for the Young Historians Project, that works on research projects to document neglected aspects of Black British History. Follow Deanna on Instagram and Twitter and The History Hotline on Instagram and Twitter

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Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, hosted by me, alexandra Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture. Hello, hello everyone. I hope you're doing well and off to a great semester. I'm saying that purposely because of the conversation that we'll be having today, but I'm Alexandra Miller, your host of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, and I completely had to follow up on our episode on Caribbean students experiences just given some of the tremendous feedback I received on social media.

Speaker 1:

As many of you likely know, education is a big part of why I began Strictly Facts in the first place.

Speaker 1:

For black people, for descendants of the enslaved and formerly colonized people Well, frankly, you know a lot of people across the world, not just black people, bipoc, but those who have lived under xenophobic conditions, under hierarchies of race, class, gender, color.

Speaker 1:

You know we could continue the list and be here forever, but to generally just name a few.

Speaker 1:

Education, I think, in my view, and in many views, is really the key to our liberation, particularly for enslaved Africans and their descendants, of which I am one, and so you know, not too long ago, black people weren't even legally allowed to learn to read, and many things like that, and that's not just in the Caribbean, but many places across the world.

Speaker 1:

And so it is precisely for this reason why I had to have this conversation on the history of education in the British West Indies and take our conversation a little bit across the waters to right to the UK, where fellow podcaster and PhD student, deanna Lynn Cook, is joining me today and, you know, really sharing her research to compare the educational experiences of Caribbean youth in both the Caribbean and England. So, deanna, thank you so much for joining me. I am so grateful to have you on the show and sharing your expertise with us. Of course, why don't we start with you telling us a bit about yourself? You know your connection to the Caribbean and what inspired your passion for this history of education in the British Caribbean, and you know British Empire largely.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Hi everyone, my name is Deanna Lynn Cook, as Alexandria said. Thank you so much for having me today. I really like talking.

Speaker 2:

I also have a podcast called the History Heartline and it's a great outlet for work that I do academically, doing a PhD, and I kind of use it as a space, sometimes a space to rant, sometimes a space to have really well put together conversations and, just as you kind of have said, share these stories that we really don't get to learn about, I think, within our education system, especially in the UK. I focus mostly on the podcast on Black, british and Caribbean history. So that looks a lot like migration and that's kind of one of the biggest themes that I look at. I did my masters and I studied the migration of Caribbean women moving from the Caribbean to Britain during World War II and also within, so within the armed forces and then within healthcare, and then I started my education after the war and then I kind of carried on the theme of migration for my PhD and I now look at the migration of children and I look at it through their experiences within the education system, coming from essentially a colonial a British colonial education system in the Caribbean and moving then to a British education system.

Speaker 2:

In Britain in the late, like 1950s, early 1960s, where you see Caribbean children moving to join their parents, oftentimes in large numbers, the Arab education policy in Britain is shifted to deal with this immigrant population, who also is made up of South Asians as well, in kind of big numbers but not as significant as a Caribbean presence. So they feature, but I don't speak on them as much as I do the Caribbean and then, in the context of the Caribbean, going back to actually look at what experiences those children had in school before arriving in Britain. So I think that's kind of posed to be this problem essentially. But the question is kind of where have they come from and why is their situation with a very similar system in Britain different? So that's kind of my big PhD question and just started my second year so I haven't got all the answers yet but I'm really enjoying working through the questions.

Speaker 1:

And this is one of the interesting parts of doing a PhD we we don't have all the answers, but we very much so have all the questions while we're figuring it out. So, yes, but I am again so grateful to have you on and also really sharing the experiences of Caribbean folk in the UK. I touched on it a bit in my intro, but I really do want to reinforce our conversation in this colonial history right, so we can really seriously understand how we get to these problems you're talking about in the 20th century and beyond. So, first and foremost, formal education for the masses like really didn't begin all that long ago. There is obviously a longer history.

Speaker 1:

I think you know oftentimes what is cited is like the 1743 Codrington Grammar School which started in Barbados. But for many you know at the time that schooling wasn't available for the enslaved right, looking in fact, to some of my readings, that some of those early schools are really mostly, for you know, lower class whites who weren't able to send their students or their children rather to England to be educated. And obviously you know, for the enslaved they were viewed as property. So this conversation we have today about education being a human right, that wasn't one that was obviously granted to them as being seen as slaves and less than granted. So there are several ways I mean we could even continue this early colonial education. I'm even thinking you know missionaries and the impact of religion. But overall, what is your general gist of this colonial period? And the development of education in the Codrington Grammar School is a constant dep important issue with it as well as has a담 approach where people may get in trouble and educate them so that they come up to the Well, it's really interesting.

Speaker 2:

You mentioned the Codrington School, the 1743, I think it was because some historians used to cite that as kind of the start of some kind of formal education system in the Caribbean. And I don't agree with that at all. First of all, I don't think you can have a general date for any kind of formal education system because first of all we've got to think about as much as I am calling the Caribbean as the kind of Anglophone Caribbean and grouping them together. These are different countries and different places that all have different kind of trajectories. And one thing that I found very interesting so far in my research is actually, depending on the crop and the kind of plantation setup of the country really did shift kind of the amount of wealth that a country had, its proximity to certain things, whether that be like headquarters of the Anglican church, which countries in the Llewod Islands, like St Kitt's, Antigua they benefited a little bit more in that sense but then islands that were a little bit bigger, like Jamaica, Barbados, and had a more prosperous sugar plantation economy, they had a very different kind of setup with education because they tended to have a few more wealthy white people there essentially that were going to set up these schools and that were going to have a need for these schools. As you said, it was some of the propertied classes and their children that needed education, the ones that they couldn't afford to necessarily send back to Britain to be educated, and obviously education was very important to everybody except for the enslaved people who weren't allowed to be part of that.

Speaker 2:

And there was a lot of pushback as well, I noticed, from the plantation owners for their enslaved people to be educated, and even when missionaries would come in and say, well, you know, actually it's part of the process of civilisation, got to get these savage Africans civilised. You know that kind of language and rhetoric. Or slaveholders were like no, absolutely not. Those plantation owners that had enslaved people really feared an educated enslaved person, and so, whilst there were small instances of things like evening school and there was something called noon school, but actually tended to happen in the evening because that was when the work on the farm or on the plantation was done, and so they were afforded really small and very informal bits of education and they did centre on religious instruction and not much else.

Speaker 2:

And this is the kind of trajectory once you get to this point of emancipation and the period of apprenticeship is over. It's still very much this kind of setup of like dribs and draps, where they find some grants and where there's money, whether that be from a philanthropist or a religious institution, most of it being the churches and all the different denominations, from the Catholics to the Anglicans to the Moravians to the Baptists they were all there donating money for education purposes. It was all in dribs and drabs and rural children, children in more rural areas, suffered because tended to be in the kind of more built up and easily accessible places that education started. So there's a very layered class and geographical kind of barrier, and there's also a gendered barrier as well.

Speaker 2:

This is a Victorian era. Girls are reared to be housewives, to be in the domestic space, and even if they are going to work, it's going to be in the domestic sphere, and the boys for agricultural work, and so there's class layers, there's gender layers, there's geographical layers. That really don't mean that no one has kind of a similar educational experience in any of the islands or countries in the Caribbean.

Speaker 1:

And I think, even just to add on to this point, of the influence of religion at this time, right, and so we see these missionaries pushing forward to try to educate the enslaved in terms of trying to spread their religious doctrine right, I can see the argument for being like they were helping to support enslaved Africans being educated. There was also still a fundamental layer of hierarchy there, right, because then instilling this sort of religious conversion tactic where you know whatever the belief systems are that were brought from Africa, in a sense Western Africa obviously for the most part become, then you know there's a hierarchy to them, right, and that's why today we see some of these just belief systems and really, I think, lack of awareness and knowledge of our connections to Africa in many senses. You know that could probably definitely take us down a very long path, but I do, definitely, I did want to uphold that. So I think, shifting a little bit to emancipation, I think many are familiar with the fact that in 1834 the Emancipation Act brought an end to slavery, but what some might not be as familiar with is the fact that it also created this formal system of education across the British Caribbean that we see remnants of today in a sense right. And so what were deemed the Negro Education Grant was, you know, cemented during this time and I found this really interesting, just you know, based off being from Jamaica and being familiar with some of the landscape of our schools here.

Speaker 1:

The inheritance of certain schools was, you know, through this Negro Education Act and so, funny story, I'll give a little segue, just sorry, listeners have a brief little background on this but the inheritance that helped fund this Negro Education Act was from Lady Jane Michael, who initially promised this inheritance of her money and, you know, fritches etc to her nephew under the condition that he marry his cousin. I believe the story was, and he doesn't ultimately marry his cousin, and so thus the condition then for her bunny was to then be, and I quote, used to the redemption of Christians captured and enslaved by Barbary pirates. And so for those, particularly in Jamaica, who are familiar with, like Michael College for example, that is where that money stems from, and so we see this growth of schools being developed really during this time for black people, I think you know. Obviously we again see the religious connotations there, based off the Michael Land Grant. But in your view, what was the shift like in terms of looking at the pre to post emancipation period.

Speaker 2:

I went to the archives and the National Archives in Jamaica this summer and I think I was going through these like meeting minutes and it's really like silly to say I think I don't know if I'm explaining this in the best way possible but it felt like there's like no real conversation about enslaved people being educated. And then there's like this moment and they can't remember the acts accord in the amelioration laws or acts, and they come in just before emancipation and this emancipation act is passed, because they kind of realized actually, if emancipation becomes a thing which is looking very likely, we have this whole population of uneducated and I quote, uneducated negros. So they need to do something about it. And so they start bringing in these like really small kind of piecemeal offerings of education and there's smattered across across the place and, as I said, they kind of focus more on religious instruction and very basic literacy so that you know these people that are now going to be employed in the kind of same way that they were before, that enslavement isn't legal anymore. But I don't know if we could what we can call the next phase of it. Really it didn't change much. They were still working the land most of the time for the owners that they had before. And so this is a little shift where they kind of start booking up their ideas and then, as time goes on and we get to the late 19th century, so like 1890s, some of the islands that have the funds to do so start putting it into education and they start in things like making the create in the buildings, that going to have these schools, and then they start thinking about like very basic curriculum, and it is literally the three hours reading, writing, arithmetic and religious instruction, and as time goes on they start adding things in like history and English.

Speaker 2:

But I think primarily they know it's not going to educate everyone and they know not everybody, even if they are educated, is going to be able to do anything with that education, because they all need to go and work the land anyway. Because these islands are set up, these colonies are still set up to be very heavy on agriculture. So there's this kind of moment where nobody really explicitly cares about them having an education for any kind of social mobility, which I think is a narrative as we get into the 20th century. A lot of people then benefit from things like scholarships to go to the University of the West Indies once it's been established and to go to Oxford and Cambridge and to leave the islands. These conversations come a lot later and at the start I think it's very clear from those meeting minutes I was going through that well, actually we're just doing this because we have to and because it looks good and because globally, in a global picture, education and formal education for the masses, and so I think that the end to this like mid early 20th century is becoming a thing, is conversations happening in the Western world and otherwise, and so I don't know. It's kind of like the colonies are like mini England's and England is having similar conversations because the working class aren't educated at all in the compulsory education until 1940 with the Butler Act, so it's kind of really really slow progress and they don't have the funds for it.

Speaker 2:

And also, on the flip side of all of that is and one thing I don't think I read too much before is that the formerly enslaved people and the parents were in the early 20th century where they have managed to kind of earn a little bit, to have their own little piece of land or, you know, a farm or live in a rural area.

Speaker 2:

They actually need the children at home to work, they can't afford for their children to be in school, or they so again this class issue where not everybody, even if they can physically access education economically, cannot afford they have to send their children to school of lunch. They don't have the facilities to do that. Really little things. Even one of the cases I was looking at, they had a problem with punctuality because a lot of families didn't have clocks because they ran on the kind of timings of a farm of you know, the chicken makes you up in the morning and you do XYZ jobs and so on and so forth, and teachers are in a similar position, and so there were a lot of issues, I think, with education and there could never have been a blanket education policy that early on. I don't see how they would have done it in a different way, but there just wasn't the money for either and there wasn't really a concerted effort to kind of get people to buy into education as well and to see its importance until a little bit later.

Speaker 1:

Definitely, I agree. I think, you know, while the conversations were being had, there wasn't the preparation for it, despite they're. Really, I think people definitely did see the value, though, right, while it may not have been to the same extent that we see it today, right, I think one of the pieces I was looking at prior to, I think I think it was like in the 1820s, I believe the article actually said that there were three schools for black people in Jamaica and at some point not too long after emancipation, there were somewhat like over 100, right, and so we see the demand being there, especially as we start to like, move further and further away from the plantation economy. But, as you said, right, the 20th century, I think in both of our views, was really that peak moment where it's not just demand or seen as like getting the basic reading, writing, arithmetic, but it becomes something that's necessary as the standards of, you know, industrialization and growth start to really make a change in the Caribbean and the larger world, of course.

Speaker 2:

So I do think, and I think you raise an important question in did everyone see the value of education? I'm not sure where I fall for the answer. I think you kind of said, suggested, that you did. But I do think that the education that was being provided, especially in the early 20th century, was just so much kind of raising these children to be exactly what they would do anyway, even if they didn't have an education, that is, work the land or work in the industry or work in a kind of serving capacity.

Speaker 2:

I'm not sure how much the value was was seen in all classes of society. I think definitely for middle class people it was obvious. You know, this was your chance at social mobility. This was a chance to continue the wealth that had been built in a family so far and to get further education, especially when you start seeing universities in the region popping up and there's opportunities to leave the country and you see this kind of like kind of intellectuals that move. In the early 19th century, in the early 20th century sorry to Britain you've got the likes of like CLR James and you've got Marcus Garvey, who's gone well before that, and some of these people. So there is clearly like a tradition of students moving into the future.

Speaker 2:

So I think it's there's a book written by Lloyd Breithwaite called colonial West Indian students in Britain and it looks at their interactions and the kind of struggles that they have and it's kind of the also the inspiration for my PhD, because he'd looked at children, adults kind of 18 or 19, moving over to Britain.

Speaker 2:

But when you move as a student, you move with agency, you move because you want to. When you move as a child, you don't have a choice. So I say all that to say I am thinking in my PhD and in my work about this question of did I see the value of education? I think the way we see education now, as in, like you know, my Nan literally told me to get as many degrees as humanly possible Like it's definitely, I think, something that we value, especially when we move as Caribbean people and we migrate to Britain and the US and Canada. It's something really important because the educational opportunities here are so much better than back home. But I am toying with the question of how much I think that to be true for, like, the early 20th century.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a good point to make.

Speaker 1:

I don't know necessarily where I would fall on the spectrum, but I definitely do think you know, seeing the increase of like two-year point, or your earlier point, rather, you know, initially it was kind of like grammar schools, evening schools, etc. Right. But then we start to see the growth of like high schools moving into the 20th century, we see colleges and universities, right, and so schools like Calabar come up during this post-emancipation period, the College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad, and then obviously UE, which at the time was the University College of the West Indies, is founded in 1948 with the premise of and this is a quote to cultivate the skills, dispositions and social identities consistent with the imperatives of a nationalistic ethic, right. And so I think, while maybe you know I would definitely would fall on your point probably like during the 19th century, right, I do think the trajectory starts to shift, especially in the 20th century, as we're seeing these nationalist movements really spark up across not just the Caribbean particularly, but across the world, I think.

Speaker 1:

From here I definitely want to talk about England. It's a place I've never been to yet, and so in your you know, shifting to that aim, what occurred, you know for this massive generation of migrants, especially thinking along the lines with Windrush and several other things that are happening in this like post-war period. But you know, as we know, there's a massive growth of Caribbean migrants moving to England and probably less so considering what education looked like for them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely so. I think Windrush is a very it's a little bit of a contentious term at the moment in Britain, as you think about it being literally a ship that arrived in 1948 in June at Tilbury Docks, which is in Essex, london, near London, just outside, and it carried I think it was a thousand passengers. I think the majority of them were from the Caribbean and then the majority of them were from Jamaica and the majority of them were ex-servicemen. So unfortunately, there's been this kind of really real hyper-focus on the Windrush and that arrival in particular, because there is actually footage from it, there were interviews done with people on board the ship and that's kind of helped with public imagination and the public memory of this event in this moment.

Speaker 2:

But I find that it fails to because you're focusing so much on these ex-servicemen, you forget the fact that there's women there, and women that were unaccompanied as well, women that had been in the auxiliary territorial service during World War II, who are also returning to Britain because they've enjoyed their experiences, they have professional experiences and they want to work, continue to work. And also there's obviously a conversation about children now there really weren't that many children in the early days of migration. So we're talking about the late 1940s into the early 1950s. But immigration acts do change over time, and 1948 is where the Nationality Act is passed, which means that if you are, you know, living in a British colony, you are in fact a British citizen, and there is free movement of people for British citizens across the colonies and to Britain, and this is open to doors for all of these people to arrive, and it's where my grandparents arrive.

Speaker 1:

I was just going to say or so they say, right as we know, as history tells, but that's another story.

Speaker 2:

Air quotes for that one. Yeah, exactly so, and we could get into that immigration scandal and the deportations and the rest of it. I'm sure another time or today we'll see, but yeah. So, following immigration acts that begin to restrict who can come to Britain and essentially there's an act in 1962 that begins to kind of suggest that you know the children that are left behind, and a lot of parents did leave their children behind. They have been kind of dubbed barrel children.

Speaker 2:

There's a documentary that's come out in the UK about that and interviewing some of those children that had that experience, these children start coming over to meet their parents, they come with elder relatives that have also been left behind, potentially or aunties, and they arrive in Britain and this kind of floods the education system, especially in areas where there is high levels of immigration, those being the big cities like London, especially in Southeast London, areas like Brixton, Peckham in Birmingham, areas like Hansworth in Leeds, areas like Chapel Town and these like little kind of hubs, especially because when you migrate you migrate to people that look like you can buy your food and you're not going to have too many problems assimilating. And there are other people that migrate to more rural areas and I hope to be able to actually speak to that experience in my work, because migrating to a place that already has a Caribbean community is a very different experience to migrate into a place where you are the black family and the experiences are obviously completely different. So you start seeing these children immigrant children in schools and as kind of education policy shifts in the UK from the 1950s there's this idea where you know these children are here, let's kind of have them be part of this culture and kind of learn what they need to learn to be part of this education. Then they're kind of portrayed as more of a problem, like a social ill that needs to be fixed in a way, and so the policies really start to kind of ramp up. And I haven't looked too much into Britain I'm not at that stage in my research yet I know that there's kind of like three phases of 50s, 6070s into the 80s and by the time you get to the 80s you have a generation of kind of disconnected, disillusioned black young people who kind of make up a lot of the people that are part of the riots in 1981, the Brixton riots, hands of riots, rights in leads, so that's kind of like a whistle stock tour of migration.

Speaker 2:

But there's a real difference in the generations that arrived, those that arrived as ex service people in the kind of early 50s, late 40s, and then their children who come with them, and also the parents that are then born in the UK that have this claim to being British. They're literally born in Britain and, whilst they have Caribbean roots, see themselves as British and believe they should be afforded the same rights as any white British person. So you kind of start to see tensions in Britain. For the most part, tensions are still there today.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting.

Speaker 1:

Oh, while ago you alluded to several, you know, I think, iconic activists and intellectuals from the region who were educated abroad and you know we could even expand that list out if we looked at, you know, some of the first prime ministers and things to that nature.

Speaker 1:

But I don't have the quote on me right now, but I remember reading a piece by Stuart Hall in which he is talking about his education in England and the fact that, you know, upon like learning Caribbean history really in his educational experience, it felt like foreign to him.

Speaker 1:

I think is more or less how that quote went and I always found that ironic in a sense, just because it's you know he was born in Jamaica. For those who aren't familiar with Stuart Hall, amazing cultural studies, caribbean, transnational intellectual, but you know, in this piece was really talking about the fact that his education, in a sense on where is home to him, in a sense felt like it was new and foreign really, not only you know, as a British subject and then having this Caribbean education system that was, you know, founded within the British system, but there are just ways that what was being taught was not of who we actually are as well, right, and so I guess, in asking that, what are some of the major challenges that Caribbean youth being educated in the UK faced, and how has this changed over time?

Speaker 2:

I did look for that quote because that's Stuart Hall, because I use it all the time.

Speaker 2:

Honestly, it says when I first got to England in 1951. I looked out and there were Wordsworths Daffodils. Of course, what else would you expect to find? That's all I knew about. That is what trees and flowers meant. I didn't know the names of the flowers I had left behind in Jamaica. And I read that quote when I studied Stuart Hall in my undergrad and I remembered so vividly a conversation I had with my granddad who essentially mirrored a similar thing, but instead of Wordsworths Daffodils it was Shakespeare. My granddad could quote Shakespeare until he passed away in his 80s. He could recite the Bible because of his schooling in Jamaica and move into Britain Then, essentially knowing more than the native quote British people did, because they were so familiar with Britain as their mother country, as London being the heart of empire, and they had such big aspirations to be there. So, yeah, something that I like to pick apart. But challenges to the young people when they arrive in Britain For the most part, there are literally so many policies that are setting them up for failure, essentially because, at the end of the day, the system was not made for black children to succeed, and I think we have to remember that I see as the black children that did succeed and you can define success how you want but let's say, academically in this context, it was because they are an exception and not because the system was working in their favor.

Speaker 2:

And I'll talk about a few of the policies that were in place. So one of the policies was called busing, and it was this idea that you couldn't have too many black children or immigrant children and this also includes a lot of South Asian children as well in the same school, because they won't assimilate into British culture and the policy at the time was assimilation. So they did a policy called busing. They bussed them out to different schools in quotas, so that you'd only have a certain amount of children in each school. I feel like there was a similar policy in the US at some point too.

Speaker 2:

Yes they're Yep, yes, same tactics, same game, just a different day. And there was other policies called banding. They would do IQ tests on these children when they arrived to kind of figure out what year they were going to go into, for example, or what set. But the IQ tests were basically like British culture tests and they would score them down. And one of the examples I heard, which was it just made me so infuriated, was like they had a picture of like a tap and they had to label what it was. But they would say a pipe, because back home is a pipe. They know what it is, they know what comes from it, but that would be wrong and there were so many instances of that. So then they were basically labeled as stupid. Like you are, you have no brains, you can't be in mainstream school. And then you have this thing called an educationally subnormal school and there were numerous children, disproportionate numbers, black children that were getting sent to these schools.

Speaker 2:

And this is where Bernard Caud comes in with his book how the West Indian child is made educationally subnormal in British schools. I don't know why I couldn't think of a short title it always takes up my word count. But essentially he has to do this work and he doesn't really want to. He's working in a school and he's kind of seen these things happen to the children and I think he's at a meeting where he's kind of explaining it to some people around him and they're like you need to write about this, the parents need to know. And so the kind of Caribbean activist groups at the time, like Se qua and the Black parents movements, and they're all working together to try and get this information out. And he puts it out as a pamphlet and has a lot of information sessions, and New Beacon Books, who was founded by John LaRose, published it. And it's always kind of like I think all the cool historical black people we're all working together to really like crack on with this.

Speaker 2:

And this is where we kind of think about you know, did everyone see the value of education? Well, in Britain, absolutely they did. They fought so hard to secure good education and when all this failed and these children were being failed on institutional levels, they were facing racism in schools from their peers, from their teachers. Expectations were so low but their ambitions are so high. They started opening supplementary schools.

Speaker 2:

So whenever I think and talk about these challenges that young people faced. I feel like we have to talk about the resistance and the work that parents did and the black community in these places and spaces to make sure or try and kind of counteract the education that they're having. And supplementary schools go all around the country and they're kind of still around today, some of them not in maybe the kind of original forms teaching black history or supplement in maths and English because they knew that to be important. Some of them do different things today but you know, it's kind of a fiber of black British life because you couldn't rely on the education system to teach what it needed to for your child to succeed and that was the whole point of them coming, you know.

Speaker 1:

I mean, as you were talking, I was even brought back to a conversation I've had with my mom who, upon migrating to the US in the 70s, they tried to put her in E-Soul, or, you know, they tried to hold her back in some way in her academic journey based off her not speaking English to their liking.

Speaker 1:

Right, and I'm like the accent is the accent is the accent, but whether my mom spoke English or not is not the question. And so these are, I think, are just ways that migration has affected us. You know, colonialization has affected us and really, I think, harken to the story of the Caribbean diaspora in really important way. I would love to hear more about, you know, some of the activism that occurred. I, you know, of course, think of, like Barreld Gilroy from British Guiana or Guyana, who was one of the or I think the first one, one of the first black head teachers in the UK, and so I believe there was like a black parents movement, etc. And so what have been some of the major takeaways in, I know, this very early stage of the research that we're looking forward to hearing more about?

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, so supplementary schools are really big. They take place normally on Saturdays or in the evening and it's kind of interesting, I think, because these parents didn't necessarily take their children out of mainstream schooling. They did extra schooling and I don't know if that's because there was some hope that actually it would work and education would benefit their children in some way, and also obviously the demands of work and life in Britain where you're having to work several jobs and night shifts and day shifts to cover and all that kind of thing. And obviously parents are also facing state racism. In housing and employment. On the street there's racism. It's a very, really difficult time and for us in Britain anyway, the race relations act doesn't come until 1965. So there's absolutely no legal requirement that means people have to be non-racist to you. They can do exactly what they want when it comes to racism, and so and even in 1965 doesn't really change much. It's only when the law kind of develops to extend to employment and housing and things like that where you kind of start to see a little bit of a shift.

Speaker 2:

But a lot of the activism comes from groups of parents primarily, and community activists. There is Eric and Jessica Huntley who owned Bogle Lovatruh publications and they were working to publish books because one of the issues was that children couldn't see black children couldn't see themselves in anything that they had to read, anything prescribed to them. And Beryl Gilray as well. She was an author that wrote a lot of children's books to really bring up the self confidence and to bring up the perception of self for black children. So there's all of these kinds of things happening with publications and there's also, as I mentioned, john LaRose and New Beacon books and the work that they're doing as well in publishing. And there's the Black Parents movement, this Black Education movement. There is TAR Teachers Against Racism and the work they're doing. So you've got kind of different levels. You've got parents obviously looking up for their children and their children in the community. You've got teachers, and it's not always just black teachers. They are in really small numbers but there are white teachers and Asian teachers that are genuinely against racism and can see some of the issues that are taking place and trying to make a difference. Race Today is a publication that kind of comes out or is affiliated with a lot of the British Black Panther movement and the people that were associated with that Frug Dondi Dark as how, and so within that as well, a lot of the kind of stories and issues within the education system are coming out in that publication.

Speaker 2:

That's something I lean on a lot for my work and you've got all of these kind of people moving in different places I call them all kind of like the stakeholders of education or moving at different mediums to try and kind of make the educational experiences a little bit better for black children. And it's a difficult one because a lot of the time they're not used to the racism and I think it takes them a little bit longer than is helpful to kind of clock on to it. Because there's so much trust the way education is done in the Caribbean. That is so much trust that these teachers just want your children to do the best and to succeed. If there is a child in the Caribbean, for example, that's really bright, is doing really well, they'll be pushed in England as a black child that's doing well and really bright, they'll be like calm down, relax. You know, don't be too ambitious. Kids like you don't do that.

Speaker 2:

My mom was told at school like don't bother applying to university. Like girls like you become typists and secretaries. Absolutely nothing wrong with being a typist, but no, absolutely not. And this is in like the 70s and 80s. So this is. You know, you can imagine what it was like in the 50s and 60s.

Speaker 2:

So there's just all of these issues kind of going on and everyone's trying to work at it. But also I don't think a lot of the parents knew how bad things were. A lot of them have commented in interviews since like we didn't know what, what education, some normal man. We thought it was a special school, special because they were especially in a positive way, not specially in a negative way. So there are all these kind of tricks of language and just a lack of understanding of the system in Britain. And also they're dealing with everything else. They're dealing with housing, I've said, they're dealing with employment. They're dealing with their other children, older children, husband, family problems that everybody has generally and it's just I think it's a really tough time for them to figure out what's going on and then to act on it.

Speaker 1:

And in some ways, these things haven't fully ended right, I think. I mean, I think back to my high school experience and having a white guidance counselor tell me that I should apply to lesser known schools, or whatever. I know what he meant by that, or lesser ranked schools, is what he said. Well, here we are now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's quite well.

Speaker 1:

I think so On the way. Yeah, exactly. I do think, though, in a sense, both of our podcasts are really continuing some of this work rate, thinking of what the supplementary schools were doing and while, depending on where we are in the world, it looks a little bit differently. The importance of not just education for education's sake right, it's not just merely learning your times, tables or whatever, right, but there is empowerment, there is self progress, there's development in knowing who we are, especially as the children of the enslaved, and so I think that just you know. I know you touched on it a bit in your introduction, talking about the history hotline, but I did definitely want to give you a space to talk about what inspired you to start your show.

Speaker 2:

Oh, thank you. I think, maybe similarly to you, from episodes I've listened to, to your podcast as well and I do love it, by the way I've been very much enjoying myself. I think that it was 2020 when I started and it was I was doing my masters and it was a pandemic. It was locked down. I was just in my room doing my masters research every single day and it was a bit draining, to say the least, because my usual two of the friends that I did my masters with they didn't do history, they did other things, but every day I just tell them everything I was learning and writing about and they weren't there anymore because everybody was locked down.

Speaker 2:

I think I was kind of borrowing my family a little bit with all my history stories and I just I knew I had all this knowledge that I'd been doing history for a while at that point and I figured a lot of the kind of Instagram pages and on social media that I'd followed before the murder of George Floyd and that lit up the world a little bit. They were kind of all getting a lot of attention and it was like there was actually for once, it seemed, this actual desire to learn more about Black Britain. In Britain we have this issue and it's Black History Month here now, and every time it's Black History Month, like without fail, we will always. Always someone will always call out like Rosa Parks, martin Luther King, malcolm X, and no offense. They are obviously incredible people, very inspiring people to the US Civil Rights Movement and movements for racial equality in America. But we have so many people in Britain that did incredible work that we can see the tangible change in our society because of the work they did.

Speaker 2:

Yet every time we go to America, so I figured actually, you know, it's not people's fault that they weren't taught this at school. I know this stuff so I'm going to share it and that's why I started Essentially, and it's kind of grown. It's been three years now and you know, I just don't think I'm ever going to run out of episodes, because every time I research something more, there's like another five avenues of things you can talk about and tell people about, and the audience is there for it and I've been really thankful for that actually, because sometimes I just think I like history but I'm a bit of a nerd. So does anybody else actually like it?

Speaker 1:

Why are we twins? We are the same. I'm usually like I know I enjoy this, but I don't you know like.

Speaker 2:

but yes, I very much, so you know you read something and you're like oh my God, this is it, I found it and nobody else.

Speaker 1:

For sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm going to. I'll be messaging you now. It's my interest in fact of the day.

Speaker 1:

I totally echo those sentiments and especially, just like I think, the way that academia has been set up for me. It was also just the fact that, while I very much so recognize my privilege in being able to, you know, get this information in some degree right, whether that's through my classes or through the libraries that our schools have or, you know, whatever it is, the internet even right, this is largely information that not everybody has, and I think podcasting is a great way to share it. So, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

And it's accessible because some of these academic journals like who's reading that Also who's paying for the Right? Right.

Speaker 1:

Anywho.

Speaker 2:

Another topic for another time.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think I would be remiss without really ending on this point, and it's the fact that, you know, while part of our conversation today, obviously you focused on a time when the Caribbean was colonized and of course, some parts of the Caribbean are still colonized today we have obviously made tremendous strides in terms of gaining independence, moving towards republics being republics as many of us are today. I even think of the fact that there are certain schools you know, my sister just graduated from Hampton so big of a sense of Не Gur-ti away it is, but All of the Moronies, hampton and several others were founded actually pre-emancipation. Not all of the high schools, necessarily, but some of them were. So to be black people now going to some of the schools that were founded without us in mind is already astride. But I just wanted to ask you, as you're continuing your research, what are your hopes for the future of education for Caribbean people? What would be that in the region, in the UK and across the rest of the world?

Speaker 2:

It's a big question.

Speaker 2:

I think that unfortunately for me, it seems anyway and this is definitely from the perspective of an outsider looking in and I was kind of prefaced with that, because I think, being of the Caribbean diaspora, not being born or raised in the Caribbean, the way that I see Jamaica, especially being where my family from I don't have the answers if that makes sense and there's only so much I can say.

Speaker 2:

Looking at it from over here in the United Kingdom, where the self is a lot different and we are essentially profiting off the wealth of the colonies in a really weird backwards, roundabout way. Even being in Britain now, but I will say that the kind of conversations I have with my friends back in Jamaica, when I talk to them, is that they have their education there, they might go to UE and then the jobs aren't there and there's a brain drain. We know there's a brain drain in the Caribbean, but I just need these governments to do more for these young people because they have so much talent, there's so much resilience, there's so much skill and you're like I saw the other day this is a bit of a tangent, sorry, but there was this Jamaican boy. He's just graduated as a doctor in China and he was valedictorian.

Speaker 1:

I did see that.

Speaker 2:

The whole speech in Mandarin, I saw that, oh, he's not great, that's incredible. A small island of what? Three million people, if that yet to be having influence all over the world across so many different spheres of influence and discipline and profession is incredible. I need, I say I need these governments to do more, but I need this government in the United Kingdom to do more so they can do more, because this conversation about reparations needs to become less of a conversation and more check writing and money given is just ridiculous. Like we can't, you can't, expect countries to prosper, should I say, even though we are prospering in other ways, without these funds, when so much has been stolen by way of free labor, natural resources, culture, language, religion. The list goes on.

Speaker 2:

So there's kind of like a lot of different issues here. By way of, I just think it's really sad that a lot of young people in Jamaica especially, just want to leave. They want better opportunities and that looks like going to America, canada or Britain, and those opportunities aren't always viable. They're not, they're not there for everybody. Not everybody can afford us and their, their child, to a good university somewhere else. So it's it's kind of sad, I think, for me because I think there's so much potential and not a lot of opportunity for that potential. So I want to see reparations so that that can change. I'm not a politician. I don't have all the answers, but there are people out there that do have answers. So Hillary beckles is one of them and he talks a good talk, and I agree with 99% of things he says.

Speaker 1:

So forward to him for that one, and then, ultimately, hillary beckles, vereen, shepherd so many, I think, who are pioneering this reparations talk.

Speaker 1:

But also, to your point right, not only does that mean that some of the best and brightest are leaving Jamaica to go pursue opportunities elsewhere, and you know this also applies to other parts of the region, and the greatness that we could have is, you know, I think that's also the other part of the brain during conversation right, it's not just, oh, people are leaving and, you know, seeking better life elsewhere.

Speaker 1:

I don't, of course, don't fault them for that. That is how I end up being born in the US, because that's what my family did, of course. Right, there is a reinvestment that is lost, right, the things that you know we will take and do because we are Talawa people are. Then, you know, it's placed in the US or in England or in Canada, and while that's not necessarily a problem, I would love that investment to go back to home. So, nonetheless, favorite question of all, last question I mean, I was thinking about this prior to us recording and I was like, wow, I could say a lot of different ways I see education and this history of education showing up in popular culture. So what are some of your favorites?

Speaker 2:

I had two. I got a British example in the Caribbean example, so the British example was within. I don't know if you saw or heard of the small act series that was directed by Stephen McQueen and there was an episode that touched on education and since then we've had actually documentaries on education in subnormal schools and interviews about this process and actually there's a court case of some black children that are now actually 60s or 70s taking the, I think, the education system to court over the fact, the mislabelling of that term and that kind of thing. So just seeing that kind of trajectory from it being popularized in this drama to then documentaries about it, which obviously real life, to this court case, to see that kind of shift from something in popular culture to literally actually holding people account, I've enjoyed that. And then I just finished here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Ben.

Speaker 2:

I have no words for it, but I think I liked the portrayal of Tandy's character. He was a younger sister and I won't do any spoilers, but some of the things I was talking about in my last answer about this idea of education and then leaving kind of with the education that you've got and, I think, the family's hopes for her as this daughter. They put so much money and energy and time into the fact that she never has to do anything but just get the good grades, become a doctor and save everybody. I think the pressure that education system has on her and her family's pressure and kind of the hopes of the whole even area around her shoulders because everyone willing her to just do well, because your mom, your sister work is so hard, that was kind of another way. I was thinking about education as well in that and I'm just guessing my Caribbean example.

Speaker 1:

Definitely. I don't know if this was the documentary you were thinking about, but were you thinking of subnormal? Yes, subnormal.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So, yeah, great documentary on, you know, the British education system and its challenges and that's me putting it very tersely, but particularly for Caribbean folk. I also want to uplift my T Sparrow's education, or I think it's called education is a must. I've talked about it before on the podcast, but I think it's just a really great Calypso song. Understanding that, not only is he, you know, obviously articulating the education is a must and is a key to success, but I think the song is at a time where you know it is around that decolonization moment, remember any necessarily like racial connotations for it? Right, I definitely do see them in there, if they're not in there exclusively just discussing how education is a must, especially for these new growing nations and the fact that our islands are taking shape in a different way. Yeah, so with that the conversation is not necessarily over and I'm sure Diana and I will continue to have many, because this was really fun. But I will be taking our conversation a little bit in a different direction in our episode to come, focusing on the Dominican Republic. So don't go anywhere.

Speaker 1:

You know Strictly Facts is always available on all social media platforms at Strictly Facts pod, and you know new episodes every other Wednesday, so be sure to stay tuned in. Thank you everyone for listening. Thank you, diana, for sharing with me and little more everyone. Thank you Thanks for tuning in to Strictly Facts. Visit Strictly Facts podcastcom for more information from each episode. Follow us at Strictly Facts pod on Instagram and Facebook and at Strictly Facts PD on Twitter.

Education in the Caribbean and UK
Education in Caribbean Colonies
Education and Migration in Caribbean
Caribbean Education Challenges and Changes
Challenges and Activism in British Education
Improving Education for Black Children
Exploring Black British History and Education
Brain Drain and Reparations

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