(LONDON) Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP announced today it welcomed award-winning author, highly regarded historian and accomplished broadcaster David Olusoga as a guest speaker in honor of Black History Month.
"We were delighted to host David Olusoga and discuss the importance of Black history and its role in the UK and around the world," said Katten London managing partner Christopher Hitchins. "These events are great opportunities to strengthen our inclusive Katten community, celebrate the rich history and significant contributions of diverse individuals and broaden our perspectives of various cultures."
A professor of public history at the University of Manchester, Olusoga is a British Nigerian historian, presenter, BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and a columnist for The Observer and BBC History Magazine in addition to writing for The Guardian. His TV series include Union, Empire, Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World's War, A House Through Time and the BAFTA-winning Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners. Olusoga was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to history and to community integration in 2019 and the British Academy's President's Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the humanities and social sciences in 2021.
"Black History Month is one of the best-ever American imports to come to Britain," Olusoga said. "It's an American idea, which began in America in the 1920s and was brought to Britain in 1987 where it emerged in a very small, very modest way. It was only celebrated in one local authority in London, and I think anyone who'd been at one of those early Black History Month events in the late 80s, early 90s would not have dreamed that it's become what it's become today. It's now part of the culture, part of the calendar of thousands of companies and corporations, universities, charities and institutions in every form."
In a discussion moderated by Michelle Johnson, director of administration in London, Olusoga talked about the success of Black History Month and how it has enabled a small minority population in England and Wales to inscribe their history into the larger national narrative. He commented about pivotal events in the UK's history including the Bristol Bus Boycott, which led directly to the 1965 Race Relations Act, and his book Black and British, in which he explores the uncomfortable relationship between white Britons and their intertwined history with Black history, before moving on to the global perspective on race relations.
With the theme being "Saluting our Sisters," he spoke about the significance of highlighting remarkable Black women in UK history, which has been neglected for a number of reasons.
"For all sorts of ways, there's a double silencing of female voices, partly because they were a smaller population and partly as a set of reasons of literacy, and also the background [of] misogyny, which is always a drumbeat of history. So, it's this sort of double active recovery that needs to happen," Olusoga said.
One of the exciting things about British history, he said, is discovering new people, including individuals involved in the abolition of slavery in Britain, underscoring the importance to share those stories.
"We need stories, and to not have your story as part of the bigger narrative is almost to be invisible. And that's exactly what happened to Black people in Britain and in other countries," Olusoga said.
Running throughout October in the UK, Black History Month creates a platform for people to share, celebrate, learn and understand the impact of Black heritage and culture. This event was part of Katten's Perspectives Speaker Series, which seeks to introduce a range of ideas and perspectives to promote the value of diversity and enhance Katten's efforts to foster an inclusive environment.