29/11/2016

Black & British: A Forgotten History - Dundee's diverse history

Last week the latest episode of Black and British; A Forgotten History featured a little known part of Dundee's diverse history.  This was the visit of Frederick Douglass, the escaped American slave, who spoke in favour of the abolition of slavery at the Bell Street Baptist Chapel.  This building is now the council's Music Centre for school pupils.  You can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer here.


I was pleased to have been present when the Dundee section of the programme was filmed.  The story of Frederick Douglass's visit to Dundee is fascinating.  It is remarkable to think that large numbers of Dundonians wanted to listen to Frederick Douglass in 1846.  The series demonstrates that Dundee's history, Scotland's history and the history of the UK is not just the story of rich, white men which is how it can sometimes seem.

As a historian I think that it is important that we recognise that our story and the story of our city is much more complex and diverse than we usually think.

I am pleased that one of the outcomes of the programme is that there is now a plaque on the wall at the Music Centre which marks Frederick Douglass's visit.  As the council intends to stop using this building soon I am asking that we make sure that any future use of the building preserves the historic connection with Douglass which has just been acknowledged.

I also think that we should look to celebrate Dundee's diverse history on a more regular basis. Along with my colleague Councillor Georgia Cruickshank I am looking to see if we can develop a way to celebrate Black History month in Dundee.  Black History Month is marked in October each year and I hope that we can find a way to mark this each year.