Posts Tagged ‘Radio Times’

Beeb’s ‘Horrible Histories’ Pushing Myths and Falsehoods as Black History

May 7, 2021

One of the major aims of the ‘History Debunked’ YouTube channel is attacking the myths and sometimes deliberate lies, which try to present past British society as far more ethnically diverse and multiracial than it really was. This is being done in order to create an image of the past that fits and reflects today’s racially diverse society. Although undoubtedly well meant, it is a fabrication. Simon Webb, the YouTuber behind the channel, is a Telegraph-reading Conservative, but I don’t think he can be fairly accused of racism. He’s a published author, who does know his history and the reality behind the falsehoods he tries to debunk.

On Tuesday he put up a video attacking the latest editions of the Beeb’s Horrible Histories programme. This is a children’s history programme based on a series of best selling books. This is intended to present history in a fun way with much comedy, though Webb, with rather more serious tastes, decries it as slap-dash and inaccurate. A recent edition of the programme was on Black British history, and was simply full of myths and falsehoods presented as solid, historical fact. So much so, that Webb said he couldn’t go through all of them, and described the programme as propaganda aimed at children. So he confined himself with a couple of the more egregious.

The programme began with the Empire Windrush and the statement that its passengers had been invited to England to help with reconstruction after the War. This is a myth that’s been promoted by a number of people, including Diane Abbott. The truth is that Blacks weren’t invited to Britain by anyone and definitely not the British government. They were appalled at the immigrants’ arrival because they didn’t have anywhere to accommodate them. Webb states that some ended up living in air raid shelters because of the lack of proper housing. The truth is that the Empire Windrush was a troop ship that was returning to Britain from South America. There was hardly anyone on board, so the captain decided to open it up to paying passengers to reduce costs. The adverts for places aboard the ship in the Jamaican Daily Gleaner simply gives the prices of the various classes of accommodation. There is no mention of work in Britain. As for the motives of the people, who took passage aboard the ship, the Sheffield Daily News in Britain reported the comments of a Jamaican businessman, Floyd Rainer, who said that the immigrants had come to Britain because they were dissatisfied with pay and conditions in the Caribbean. They were seeking better opportunities for themselves, not to help Britain.

The programme then followed this with an item about Black Roman soldiers at Hadrian’s Wall. These were Moors from the Roman province of Mauretania. However, Mauretania was in North Africa, in what is now Morocco and Algeria. It was a province settled by Carthaginians, who were Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon, and the Berbers. Although comparatively dark-skinned, they had Mediterranean complexions, and were not Blacks from the modern West African country of Mauretania, has an American website claims.

It then went on to St. Adrian of Canterbury, who it was claimed was also Black. But he came from what is now Libya in north Africa, and so wouldn’t have been a Black African. However, the programme stated that he was an African, and left the viewer to imagine that he would therefore have been Black.

Mary Seacole was also shown tending British soldiers in a hospital during the Crimean War, which is also a myth. She set up a bar and restaurant and never did any actual nursing. It also showed Cheddar Man as Black. This is based on a reconstruction that was widely covered in the press at the time. However, Webb has done a previous video about it and similar reconstructions showing how flawed they are. In the case of Cheddar Man, the scientists behind the announcement that he was Black actually retracted this in a piece published in New Scientist. No-one really knows what colour people’s skins were 10,000 years ago.

I think the BBC actually means well with all this, and its presenters and compilers probably don’t think that they’re falsifying history. I’m sure they genuinely believe that they’re uncovering previously hidden aspects of the British past. I think projecting the presence of Black people back into the past is part of an attempt to deal with the continuing racist attitude towards Black and Asian Brits that still sees them as foreign, even though they have now been here for three generations. And a smaller number will have been here for much longer.

But I also think that the Beeb is also prepared to falsify history in this direction as well simply to make a programme. Back around 2003/4 the Beeb screened a series about the way modern artists and musicians were taking inspiration from the Psalms of the Bible. In one edition, feminist icon Germaine Greer went to Jamaica to meet the Rastafarian musicians, who sang the Psalms in the origin Amharic, according to the Radio Times.

Historically, this is nonsense. The Psalms were originally written, like almost all of the Tanakh, the Christian Old Testament, in Hebrew. Hence its alternative name of Hebrew Bible. It very definitely wasn’t written in Amharic, which is the modern Ethiopian language of the Amhara people. But Rastafarianism is based on the worship of Haile Selassie, the late emperor of Ethiopia, as the Lion of Judah and Black messiah. Hence, presumably, the insistence that the Psalms were written in Amharic. It seems to me that the Beeb obtained the cooperation of the Rastafarian musos for the programme on the understanding that the programme would be presented from their theological point of view. If they contradicted the assertion that the Psalms were written in Amharic, a language that didn’t exist when the Psalms were actually composed, then no programme. And so the Beeb and the Radio Times published this piece of historical nonsense.

I think a similar process may also be working behind the Horrible Histories and similar programmes present long held myths as facts about the Black past. I don’t know, but I think some of them might be made in collaboration with Black groups and individuals, who passionately believe these falsehood. The Beeb wants to make these programmes and include the views of Blacks themselves. These individuals insist on the inclusion of these myths, which the Beeb won’t challenge because its researchers don’t know that their myths, and the organisation is afraid of these organisations denouncing them as racists if they ignore these long-held Black views.

There are some excellent books and materials on Black British history out there. Three I’ve come across are Gretchen Herzen’s Black England – Life Before Emancipation, the collection Under the Imperial Carpet – Essays in Black History, edited by Rainer Lotz and Ian Pegg, and Our Children Free and Happy – Letters from Black Settlers in Africa, edited by Christopher Fyfe and published by Edinburgh University press. But there is an awful lot of myth and falsehoods as well.

However well meant, these need to be rejected as falsehoods, even if they’re told as truth by the Beeb.

Radio 4 Programme Next Week about British Pensioner Who Was Really Nazi Collaborator

March 18, 2021

Here’s another potentially interesting programme on the radio. Next Tuesday, 23rd March 2021 at 8.00 pm Radio 4 is broadcasting a documentary about the campaign by two men, one a journalist and the other the stepson of the suspected man, to prove that a local pensioner was really a former Nazi collaborator involved in the massacre of Jews during the War in occupied Belarus. The programme’s entitled The Nazi Next Door, and the blurb for it runs

The five-year investigation of journalist Nick Southall into the true identity of Stanislaw Chrzanowski, a seemingly friendly pensioner in a Midlands village who died in 2017, aged 96. Chrzanowski’s stepson John Kingston believed he was a Nazi collaborator who helped kill thousands of Jews in his homeland Belarus, and spent decades amassing evidence against him.

There’s an additional paragraph about the story on the facing page by David Crawford, which adds the following

How good are you at recognising faces? Reporter Nick Southall’s uncanny ability to pick a person out of a crowd proves pivotal to this riveting investigation into whether a Nazi war criminal was given safe harbour in Britain. John Kingston worked for decades to prove his stepfather Stanislaw Chrzanowski was a collaborator who had helped slaughter thousands of Jews in Belarus; his suspicions first raised as a child by terrifying bedtime stories of torture and murder. He succeeded in exposing his stepfather in the media, but not in getting him prosecuted. Here Southall investigates why, even when the authorities were informed, Chrzanowski never faced justice. It’s a story full of intrigue that highlights a shameful truth hidden in two words uttered by Chrzanowski – “English secret”.

I don’t know why Chrzanowski wasn’t prosecuted, but I think I can guess. After the War the western security services, including Britain’s, deliberately recruited Nazis and former Nazi collaborators for their supposed expertise in combating Communism. Lobster has published several pieces discussing this. ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone also discusses it in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. These Nazis were often given jobs in the mining industry. Needless to say, their presence down the pits was not welcomed by their workmates when they showed their Nazi tattoos in the showers. I don’t know how many other British politicians at the time were trying to alert the public to this massive injustice, but I doubt there were very many. Livingstone was probably one of a very small group of politicians and activists. The fact that he condemns Britain giving sanctuary to these monsters, as well as anti-Semitism along with anti-Black racism, should show very conclusively that the Trotskyite newt fancier and bane of Maggie is very definitely not any kind of Jew-hater.

One of our uncles was Polish. He had worked his way across Europe after the Second World War until he settled in England, where he married another of my aunts. He too worked in the mines around Bristol. The Nazis committed horrific atrocities in Poland, not just of Jews but also of ethnic, and especially Roman Catholic Poles. Apart from the Jews, who were the major victims of Nazi persecution, the Poles were the next largest group to suffer massacre and torture.

I can’t imagine how angry and disgusted my uncle would have been had he found out he was working alongside one of these disgusting creatures.

Radio 4 Comedian Next Sunday Discusses Working Class Male Culture

March 17, 2021

It seems that Radio 4 and the Beeb might be discovering working class men. On Sunday, 21st March 2021 at 7.15, the channel’s broadcasting Jacob Hawley: Class Act. The Radio Times blurb runs

Stand-up comedian Jacob Hawley, who grew up near Stevenage, dissects his journey from working-class banter boy to oat milk latte-sipping, inner-London feminist.

The additional piece about it on the facing page by Tom Goulding states

Having deftly touched the thorny issues of sex and drugs, Jacob Hawley returns ot the BBC with this politically charged comedy special. Class Act deals with another taboo subject: working-class male culture. Hawley charts his journey from banter boy to inner-London feminist and asks whether working class men have been dismissed as hopeless cases: excluded from the UK’s cultural discourse on topics as diverse as women’s rights and mental health. Hawley won plaudits for his On Drugs podcast, in which he interviewed friends and experts on the UK’s attitude towards recreational drug use. Here, he again proves capable of bringing a light touch to heavyweight subjects.

A few years ago the BBC broadcast a series of films on race, one of which asked the question of whether the White working class was being overlooked. It’s been reported that the most underprivileged group in the UK is actually White working class boys. UKIP’s core vote were White working class people who felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream parties. This campaign by right-wing populists to capitalize and exploit White working class discontent continues. The right-wing New Cultural Forum has a video up on The Demonisation of the White Working Class. On the left, Owen Jones wrote a very good book on the subject a few years ago and the left-wing of the Labour party is consciously trying to appeal to White working class voters with policies that will benefit all of the working class as well as criticising the way the Tories are trying to divide them from Blacks. One of the serious points the Private Eye strip ‘It’s Grim Up North London’ made through its humour was the alienation of its north London heroes from the White working class. Aesthetes with a taste for the latest international fads, to them ordinary White working class Brits were an exotic species they didn’t understand and wondered at. In one cartoon the pair are seen in a cafe or pub listening with wonder at the exotic conversation of the two on the next table. In fact, they’re a pair of Geordies wondering what the two are doing staring at them. Following the series Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, it looks like Radio 4 is rediscovering the British working class and its issues.

Radio 3 Play on Sunday About the Zong Atrocity

March 17, 2021

The Zong Atrocity was a massacre of slaves in the 18th century during the sea voyage from Africa. The captain of the Zong threw ship’s sick slaves overboard during a storm, so that he could state that they were ‘lost at sea’ and so claim on the insurance. It was a massive scandal, and was painted by Turner nearly fifty years later in 1839. On Sunday, 21st March 2021, Radio 3 is broadcasting a play, The Meaning of Zong, at 7.30 pm. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Olivier-winning Giles Terera (Hamilton) stars in his own debut play about the notorious massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781, and how uncovering its story galvanised the growing abolitionist movement in the UK. This collaborative work was developed by Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre. Broadcast as part of the BBC Lights Up festival of theatre, which brings a series of stage dramas to radio and television.

I’m especially interested in this, as it was produced in my home town. The Bristol Old Vic is one of the oldest theatres in Britain, and its stage school has helped launched the careers of a number of great British thesps.

Working Class Comedian on Radio Next Week Sending Up Benefits System

February 26, 2021

This could be really good. According to next week’s Radio Times for 27th February – 5th March 2021, Radio 4 begins a new series at 11.00 pm Wednesday night with the comedian Tom Mayhew, in which he recounts his own experience of the benefits system. It’s called Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, which accurately sums up the Tory attitude towards the unemployed, long-term sick, disabled and indeed anyone claiming benefits. The blurb for the programme on page 137 of the Radio Times runs

The working-class comedian presents and autobiographical journey through the benefits system in a stand-up series that takes a wry look at prejudices towards benefits claimants and turns those assumptions on their heads.

The additional piece about it on the opposite page, 136, gives this information

There’s an endearing ruefulness about stand-up comedian Tom Mayhew. He seems to understand that the way to get comic mileage out of the less than advantageous hand life has dealt him is not to get too angry about it. This show, which started life on the Edinburgh Fringe, is based on his experience of the benefits system, and although it wasn’t available at the time of going to press, we can possibly glean things from routines he’s put up online. I like his line about how – jobless in 2010 – he found his Pokemon cards were worth more than his A-level certificate.

Assuming this programme does what the Radio Times claims it does, it could be very, very good. The treatment of people claiming benefits in this country is absolutely scandalous, thanks to the Tories and New Labour, and well deserves to be sent up. It looks like its going to be a gentle mocking, rather than the vicious attack the murderous system and the unindicted crims behind it deserve. It’ll be interesting to see what the press makes of it. They’ll either ignore it, or else rant about how the Beeb is glamorising welfare dependency and so should be privatised.

But programmes like this demonstrate the opposite. They’re why we need proper public service broadcasting, as we won’t get this kind of material from Murdoch.

BBC Documentaries Next Week on the History and Prejudice against the Disabled

January 14, 2021

Next week the Beeb is showing two programmes, one on the history of disabled people and the other on the prejudice, discrimination and cruelty they experience. The first of these programmes is Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain, on BBC 2 on Tuesday, 19th January 2021, at 9.00 pm. The blurb for it on page 88 of the Radio Times runs

Writer, actor and presenter Cerrie Burnell tells the story of how disabled people have had to fight back following more than 100 years of being shut out of society, denied basic human rights and treated with fear and prejudice. The former CBeebies host, who was born without the lower part of her right arm, discovers how modern attitudes to disabled people were formed in Victorian Britain’s workhouses, and hears stories from the brave pioneers who have changed the lives of those affected forever.

There’s a bit more about the programme by Alison Graham on page 86:

Cerrie Burnell, who was born without the lower part of her right arm, reads from a newspaper story about parents’ complaints when she became a CBeebies presenter in 2009. She was, apparently, “scaring children” and will always be remembered as “the woman with one arm”.

Burnell carries that quiet anger throughout this powerful film looking at society’s treatment of disabled people throughout history.

It’s a litany of casual cruelty, misguided “kindness” and downright wickedness, as men, women and children were put, out of sight and often for decades, in institutions.

The following day, Wednesday 20th January 2021, there’s Targeted: the Truth about Disability Hate Crime, on the same channel, BBC 2, also at 9.00 pm. The blurb for this in the Radio Times on page 98. runs

Testimony from a handful of the nation’s 14 million disabled people reveals just how tough it is to live with a disability in 21st century Britain. Among those telling their stories are Hannah, a young mixed-race woman who has cerebral palsy and is clear about the fact that it is her disability, not her skin colour, that provokes discrimination. Andrea, who has dwarfism, says she is routinely treated with contempt and reveals how she was left with a fractured skull and being kicked in the head. Dan, who has autism and just wants to fit in, finds himself a social outcast and now suffers from severe depression having fallen prey to random violent attacks.

Radio 4 has also been running a ten part series on the history of the disabled for several weeks now, Disability: A New History. The 5th instalment, which is on next Sunday, 17th January 2021 at 2.45 pm, is entitled ‘Finding a Voice’. The blurb for it says

‘Peter White highlights the work of William Hay, an 18th-century MP born with spinal curvature.’

I’m mentioning these programmes, especially that on hate crime, because the Tories and New Labour have both been determined to demonise disabled people and find ways to throw them off benefits. The work capability examinations, devised in conjunction with American insurance fraudster Unum, are based on the assumption that a particular percentage of claims for disability are fake and that those making the claim are malingering. This has seen jobcentres falsify the evidence given by claimants in order to fulfil the number of claimants they are required to deny benefits. As for the violence experienced by the disabled, a friend of mine told me he had been abused several times while out with his wife, who had to use a wheelchair. He blamed one of the characters on Little Britain for the rise in prejudice. This was the disabled character, who gets up from his wheelchair to run around when his carer leaves him. I’m no fan of Little Britain, but I think a far greater cause of prejudice and hostility is the Tory. This consistently vilifies the disabled and other benefit claimants as scroungers and malingers, to the extent that the British public think 27 per cent of all claims for benefit are fraudulent, while the true figure is less than one per cent. Mike over at Vox Political has put up very many posts covering this topic, as well as the numerous deaths of people with severe disabilities, who were wrongfully and grotesquely thrown off the benefits they needed to survive. I hope this will also be covered in the documentaries. But as it’s the Beeb, it probably won’t.

History Debunked Refutes the Myth that James I was Black

December 31, 2020

More from the whackier end of racial politics. History Debunked has put up a number of videos refuting various assertions and myths promoted as Black history. One of his videos attacked the claim, seen in the Netflix interracial historical romance, Bridgerton, that Queen Caroline was Black. This has arisen from the fact that one of her ancestors was a 13th Spanish Moorish prince. But that was five hundred years before her birth, and so any biological trace of her non-White ancestry would have disappeared way back in her lineage. Apart from which, the Spanish Moors were Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. They were darker than Europeans – the term ‘blue-blooded’ for the aristocracy comes from the Christian Spanish nobility. Under their idea of limpieza de sangre, ‘blood purity’, the racial ideology that distinguished them from the Moors, their skin was supposed to be so pale that you could see the veins in the wrist. But the Moors were nevertheless lighter-skinned than the darker peoples south of the Sahara, in what the Arabs called Bilad as-Sudan and the Berbers Akal Nguiwen, ‘The Land of the Blacks’. Which I think shows that the Arabs and Berbers, dark as they were compared to Europeans, very clearly didn’t think of themselves as Black.

In this video Simon Webb debunks a similar myth, that James I of England/ VI of Scotland, was Black. This ahistorical idea apparently began with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Black Jewish sect who believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel went to sub-Saharan Africa. Webb mentions that a group of them settled in Israel in the Negev. He uses this to try to refute the demand that Israel should open its borders by stating that Israel had taken in people of a number of different racial groups. They are now, for example, taking in people from India. It’s true that Israel has taken in refugees from Africa, but many of the groups they’ve accepted were Jews. In the 1970s they mounted a rescue operation to transport the Falashas, the Black Jews of Ethiopia, away from their oppression in that country to safety in Israel. My guess is that the Indians they’re accepting are also Jewish. There’s an indigenous Jewish community in India, the Bene Israel, and it sounds like some of them may be migrating. There is, however, considerable racism amongst White Israelis. Abby Martin covered this in some of her reports for The Empire Files on TeleSur, in which she interviewed Black Israelis about the abuse, including physical assault, they’d experience. Gentile African refugees, although present, are resented by many Israelis as ‘infiltrators’, the term they also use for Palestinians trying to return to the ancestral lands from which they were evicted during the Nakba, the term they use for foundation of Israel and their massacre and ethnic cleansing in 1947.

But back to the Black Hebrew Israelites and James I. The Black Hebrew Israelites believe that the Spanish Moors were Black, and that they went from Spain to colonise Ireland and Scotland. Which must be news to most Scots and Irish. Mary, Queen of Scots was mixed race, but Lord Darnley, James’ father, was fully Black and so was James. The English, however, were determined to erase any trace of this Black ancestry, and so embarked on a deliberately policy of intermarrying with the Black Scots and Irish in order to make them White, at the same time destroying all the contrary evidence that they were Black. Although this myth began with the Black Hebrew Israelites it has spread out from them into the wider Black community. To support his description of this bizarre myth, Webb on the YouTube page for the video has link to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Patriot, which proudly promotes this claim.

Was King James I of England black? – YouTube

The belief that the Spanish Moors were Black has formed the basis for an anti-White racist view of history. A few years ago the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, carried on its online edition a piece by a Black historian, Garikai Chengu. This claimed that the Moors were ‘obviously Black’, and their colonisation of Spain brought science and reason to a Europe then gripped by ignorance and superstition. There’s some basis for this in that the revival of science in the West began when Christian scholars acquired Arab and Islamic scientific texts from places such as Islamic Spain and Sicily after that was conquered by the Normans. However, it’s grotesquely exaggerated and is really just a piece of racial supremacist propaganda, albeit one by Blacks rather than Whites. I think it’s fair to see such Afrocentric views of history as a form of Fascism, including this myth that the Irish and Scots were also really Black. Some historians have no trouble describing certain Black political movements as forms of Fascism. One recent book by an academic historian not only includes the classic Fascist movements of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and various other White, European far right movements, but also Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association and the Nation of Islam, as well as Narendra Modi’s BJP in India. The inclusion of Marcus Garvey and his organisation may well offend many Black activists. Garvey is one of the pioneers of Black liberation. A month or so ago there was a Black celebrity writing in the pages of the Radio Times recommending that children should be taught about him in school. I really know very little about Garvey, but the claim that he was Fascistic rings true. When I was working as a volunteer in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol one of the jobs I was given was unpacking some of boxes of material given to the Museum by private individuals and institutions. One of these included a document by Garvey’s organisation. I didn’t do more than glance at it, but it appeared to be describing some kind of military parade or armed wing. This included women’s units and mechanised and mounted forces of various kinds. I don’t know if Garvey and his followers were ever able to set up such a paramilitary force or whether it was all a fantasy. But one of the features of Fascism is its militarism. The Nazis and Italian Fascists, not to mention the various other Fascist movements, all started out as paramilitary organisations complete with uniforms and arms.

Alongside the entirely reasonable demands for social and economic improvement and renewed action to combat White racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has also brought out and articulated strains of overt anti-White racism. One example of this was the attempt by Sasha Johnson, of the Oxford branch of the organisation, to set up her own paramilitary Black army in Brixton to protect Blacks from the cops, and her tweet that the White man wouldn’t be Blacks’ equal, but their slave. Which got her banned from the social media platform. I think there is a real need to start studying and publishing material specifically on Black racism and Fascism. At the moment, there appears to be very little, if any, books specifically published on it. If you search for ‘Black racism’ on Google, what comes up is articles and books on the attacks on affirmative action programmes by right-wing Whites. Way back in the ’90s and early parts of this century there was a book published on Black anti-White violence in America. This might be White Girl Bleed A Lot, which is a similar book. However, I’m not sure how academically respectable the latter is, as I think its author may have joined the extreme right. I can see many people on the left resisting any attempt to categorise and study various Black Fascist movements from the belief that, as Blacks have been oppressed in the West, and are still disadvantaged, it is unfair to characterise such movement as they arose in response to White racism and persecution.

But this does not change the nature of these movements and the racism and racist history they promote. Whatever their connections to the broader Black liberation movement, they’re still racist and Fascist themselves, and should be viewed as such. Fascism everywhere needs to be fought, regarded of race.

Radio 4 Next Week Serialises Biography of Black Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture

November 11, 2020

Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ next week, according to the Radio Times for 14-20 November 2020, is Sudhir Hazareesingh’s Black Spartacus, a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture was the leader of slave rebellion in what is now Haiti in the late 19th century, which threw out the French and turned their former colony into the first Black republic. The piece about the serial on page 130 of the Radio Times by David McGillivray runs

Book of the Week: Black Spartacus – the Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

In 1791 enslaved Africans on the island now known as Haiti rose up against their French masters in the world’s first and only successful slave revolution. Their leader was the brilliant general and diplomat Toussaint Louverture, subject of a new book by Mauritian-born lecturer in politics at Balliol College Oxford, Sudhir Hazareesingh. Using correspondence and military reports in French archives, Hazareesingh brings startling new insights into the life of the man largely responsible for the establishment of the first black republic. Louverture, a real-life black superhero, fought not only the French but also the British and Spanish. “It was the greatest revolution of all time,” the author says. The serialisation is read by Adrian Lester.

The programme’s on at 9.45 each day, Monday to Friday. The blurbs for the days’ instalments are as follows:

Monday

1/5 Adrian Lester reads from Sudhir Hazareesingh’s biography of the former slave who headed an insurrection that led to the Haitian Revolution. The first instalment looks at Toussaint’s early life, his progress to coachman and his education by the Jesuits. Abridged by Libby Spurrier.

Tuesday

2/5 Following the Saint Domingue uprising, Toussaint show himself to be both a focused military leader and a man of compassion.

Wednesday

3/5 In 1798, Napoleon sends an agent, Gabriel de Heouville, to reduce Tousaint’s power in Saint-Domingue.

Thursday

4/5 Toussaint’s sweeping reforms of both public and private activity help to bring about huge rises in productivity and exports, but his authoritative leadership style inspires rebellions, led by his nephew Moyse.

Friday

5/5 Napoleon Bonaparte and Toussaint Louverture engage in a fierce battle of both wit and force over Saint-Dominge. After three months of fighting, Toussaint seeks to negotiate a truce, but is arrested and embarks on his first sea voyage – one way – to France.

Louverture was clearly a brilliant and gifted leader. His revolution was an inspiration to slaves across the Caribbean, and the sought to emulate his success in their own revolts. These also included the British West Indies, alarming the colonial authorities there and the government at home.

However, there was also a serious negative aspect to the revolution. Major Moody used the condition of the former slaves in Haiti after the revolt as part of the argument in his parliamentary report in the 1820s that slaves in the British Caribbean weren’t ready for their freedom. After the revolution, the government had been faced with a financial crisis due to possible loss of their export commodity, sugar. The country was therefore divided up between Louverture’s generals, and the former slaves were forbidden to leave their plantations. Each plantation was given a quote of sugar to produce. If they failed to produce this quota, then the generals and army moved in and started executing those workers. I believe they were burned to death. I don’t know whether this came after Louverture was removed from power, although it might have been during his rule when the book says that rebellions broke out against his ‘authoritative’ leadership.

Moody’s conclusion surprised contemporaries, because he certainly wasn’t personally racist. He lived in Somerset with a Black wife. His report is interesting because it also includes letters from a former American slave, who had been freed by his mistress in Louisiana. The former slave had travelled to Haiti, and obviously felt a strong attachment to his former mistress by writing letters to her about his new adopted country and its conditions.

The report also discusses issues that are still, unfortunately, very relevant today. He felt describes the greater numbers of Blacks than Whites in American prisons, and concluded that there is so much prejudice against Blacks in America and Britain that the only way they can possible succeed as equals would be if they had their own country. This is the view of Black radical groups like the Nation of Islam. Let’s work together to make sure it’s mistaken.

I haven’t come across this particular book before, but there have been other works recently published about the Black revolutionaries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of these is The Black Jacobins. Louverture was inspired by the French Revolution, which attempted to end slavery as well as liberating the White serfs from their aristocratic masters. I don’t think the French were able to restore serfdom after the revolution’s failure, but they were successful in restoring Black slavery. This led to the growth of French anti-slavery movements like Amis des Noirs.

Radio 4 Serialisation Next Week of ‘The Haunting of Alma Fielding’

October 23, 2020

I put up a piece a little while ago about the book, The Haunting of Alma Fielding: a True Ghost Story, by Kate Summerscale. This was a poltergeist case investigated in the 1930s by the Hungarian researcher Nandor Fodor. Now just weeks after the book’s publication, it’s being serialised in five parts on Radio 4 as their ‘Book of the Week’, read by Emma Fielding. Is she any relation of Alma, the woman at the centre of the case, we wonder. The instalments are broadcast at 9.45 am, Monday to Friday. The blurb for the adaptation in the Radio Times by Jane Anderson on page 132 runs

Fans of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher will be delighted to know that Kate Summerscale’s latest book has been successfully condensed into five parts for radio. After reports in 1938 of a house in Croydon being invaded by a malevolent poltergeist, Nandor Fodor, a fellow at the International Institute for Psychical Research, was determined to explain the mysterious goings on, but this is more of a psychological than a psychical investigation. Gripping, engaging and utterly brilliant.

The blurbs for the individual instalments run as follows.

Monday

Flying Teacups. Emma Fielding reads Kate Summerscale’s book, which tells the story of ghosthunter Nandor Fodor’s efforts to unravel the mystery of the haunting of a housewife living in Croydon in the 1930s. Abridged by Julian Wilkinson. (p. 133).

Tuesday

The Pilfering Poltergeist. Nandor takes Alma to the seaside, where once again her poltergeist creates a stir. (p. 135).

Wednesday

Astral Projection. Alma tells Nandor Fodor about an experience of astral projection, which raises questions and unease over her case builds. (p. 137).

Thursday

An Unsettling Turn of Events:.Nandor Fodor has questions to answer. (p. 139).

Friday

An Encounter with Sigmund Freud. Explanations for Alma’s supernatural experiences prove controversial. (p. 141).

I also somehow doubt that it’s an accident that this is being broadcast in the run up to Hallowe’en either!

Channel 4 Documentary Next Wednesday on the Murder of Damilola Taylor

October 23, 2020

Here’s another documentary that may interest you, particularly if you’re old enough to remember it and the horror it rightly provoked. Damilola Taylor was a ten year old boy, who was stabbed to death by a gang on an estate in Peckham twenty years ago in 2000. It was a murder that shocked the nation, comparable to that of Stephen Lawrence who was killed in a racist attack by a White gang. Channel 4 have made a documentary in which Yinka Bokinni, a radio presenter and former friend and neighbour of the murdered lad, talks about the murder and speaks to other members of the community about it. It’s entitled ‘Damilola: the Boy Next Door’, and is on Channel 4 at 9.00 pm on Wednesday, 28th October 2020. There are two blurbs for it in the Radio Times. The first, by Jack Sealse on page 95, runs

The murder in 2000 of ten-year-old Damilola Taylor shocked Britain but, for most of us, it was an abstract, distant tragedy. Not so for Yinka Bokkini, now a radio presenter and then a kid for whom “Dami” was a friend and neighbour.

Bokinni’s documentary about the killing and its repercussions is unusually personal. She explores her own imperfect memories of Damilola and the south London community they lived in, visiting fellow residents to talk about the horror and how growing up on their Peckham estate, which was demolished soon after Damilola’s death, shaped them.

Gradually – it feels harsh to say it, but a bit too gradually – a complex picture emerges about our attitude towards run-down urban areas and the people who live there.

The second blurb, on page 97, goes

To mark the 20th anniversary of her friend Damilola Taylor’s death, Yinka Bokinni confronts the impact it had on her community, as she discovers that she is not alone in having grown up never mentioning Damilola, or even wanting to admit that she is from Peckham. Yinka attempts to reconcile the happy community she remembers so fondly with that presented in the media as a crime-ridden “sink estate”.

I have to say that I felt particularly shocked by the murder, because I was bullied at school. The whole idea of a young boy living in fear of his life, and finally being killed by a gang really did fill me with horror.

I was also massively unimpressed by the attitude towards the media coverage of his murder by the Black and Asian Studies Association, one of the groups I’d been in contact with in my volunteer work in the slavery archives at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol. Their editor commented on the murder and the news coverage in an issue of their wretched magazine they sent me, I think it may have been number 31 or 32. They complained about the murder being covered, and asked instead why the media didn’t cover all the children murdered by Whites. Or something like that. They clearly believed that the media was only covering it because Taylor’s killers were black. In fact, the gang’s race was not mentioned on the news as I recall, and I think when it was mentioned the gang was composed of individuals of different races.

But I was heartily disgusted by the Association’s attitude. A ten year old boy had been murdered, for heaven’s sake! It shouldn’t matter what the colour of the victim or the perps is, it’s a chilling, horrific, contemptible destruction of a young life. It deserved to be on the news, just like the reports of other gang violence at the time. Anyone remember the story about the school teacher or headmaster murdered by another teenage gang at the gates of his school trying to protect the kids within?

And young people are still killing, or trying to kill each other in the epidemic of knife crime that’s hit this country. And I don’t doubt that the majority of the victims there are Black people from deprived, inner city estates.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of Black Lives Matter and its automatic opposition to the police. I’m well aware that some coppers have been and probably still are racist, and that perfectly decent, innocent men and women like Dawn Butler have been aggressively stopped and harassed simply because they’re Black. But I also know some excellent cops, who did their job conscientiously and with dedication. I heard from the husband of one, who had herself several times successfully arrested armed criminals, that when she went out each day, she did so with the intent of making sure no-one was going to die that day.

And no-one should.

Black lives matter, and I wish the organisation, apart from attacking the police, would also stand up to Black on Black violence. And all children’s lives of whatever colour, ethnicity or religion do matter. That’s why we should be doing our best to make sure there aren’t any more murders like this.