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People of all ages could benefit from a timeline of black history in Bermuda thanks to work carried out by an antiracism group, one of its leaders has said.

Cordell Riley, the vice-president of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, added it was hoped that school lesson plans could be based on Black History in Bermuda: Timeline Spanning 5 Centuries.

He said: “We have had people who are over 70 say they never knew this information, they were never taught this.”

Mr Riley added that since the launch of the document, which was produced with help from the Human Rights Commission, people have contacted CURB to reserve hard copies for themselves and for their grandchildren.

He said: “They want to pass this information on at a very early age.”

Mr Riley added: “It’s definitely for everyone and it’s given us some ideas as to how to go forward.

“For instance, we believe that we need to have somebody take that, maybe hire some curriculum designers, and make some lesson plans for teachers.”

Mr Riley explained that historians often wrote from their own point of view “and that’s usually been white males and white females”.

He said: “We have things written that slavery in Bermuda was benign and we know that’s totally not true, especially when you read Sally Bassett and Mary Prince – when you read those stories you find that it certainly wasn’t benign, so we have to change the narrative and give a more balanced view of what the history is like in Bermuda.”

The publication is available free online but it is expected to be ready to buy in print for $25 by the end of this month to raise funds for CURB.

A spokesman for the charity said it was hoped that the timeline will “provide people with a greater understanding and perspective of the history of Bermuda and black Bermudians”.

He added: “Brutal laws and punishments were imposed from the beginning of enslavement in 1616 and throughout the subsequent 218 years of chattel slavery.

“Post-emancipation in 1834, laws and sanctions were imposed for a further 137 years of segregation, systematically ensuring one group stayed on top and the other in subservience and disenfranchised.

“By the 1970s, Bermuda had accumulated a succession of laws, policies and social rules that marginalised and disenfranchised black Bermudians across multiple spheres of life.

“These were laws and policies that sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination in hotels, restaurants, employment, hospitals, maternity wards, theatres, funeral homes, home ownership and churches.

“Today, that history of oppression has serious legacy issues for Bermuda with social, political, health and economic ramifications, continuing inequality and inequity, identity conflict and the tragedy of collective and intergenerational trauma.”

The spokesman said: “Despite this oppression, the Black History in Bermuda Timeline celebrates those Bermudians of African descent who fought countless battles to overcome their oppression to achieve and excel.

“This timeline honours those ancestors and is dedicated to their fight for freedom and racial justice.”

Curb acknowledged the former Commission for Unity and Racial Equality for printing the first timeline in 2003 – Bermuda Timeline: Significant Events in the History of Bermuda’s Race Relations from the 17th Century to the Present.

An expanded version that covered three booklets was produced in 2009, then called 400 Years of Bermuda’s Race Relations.

The spokesman added: “Over the next ten years CURB gathered and compiled further research, incorporating new research from contemporary black historians.

“Over the years much of this work featured in CURB’s various research papers, submissions to Government, and included in CURB’s tory of Racism and Structural Racism workshops.

“As the timeline developed, it became an important resource and one that the CURB council, and the Human Rights Commission, felt was important to be shared with the public.”

The charity thanked people who researched, wrote and collected the history of black Bermudians.

Its spokesman added: “With a project of this magnitude it is likely something or someone is missed out or overlooked, and we are grateful for those who provided additional information and/or peer reviewed the draft manuscript to ensure the Black History in Bermuda Timeline is as complete as possible.

“The timeline is a living document and a constant work in progress and has been published online where it will be updated regularly.”

Members of the public should contact CURB if they noticed errors or omissions, or could provide research and citations for new material so that amendments could be made in later publications.

*Black History in Bermuda Timeline can be found on C’s website atwww.uprootingracism.orgor on the Human Rights Commission website atwww.humanrights.bm. To reserve a book version of the publication, call 707-1496 or e-mail admin@uprootingracism.org.

Cordell Riley (File photograph)

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Published October 18, 2020 at 10:31 pm (Updated October 18, 2020 at 10:30 pm)

Public demand for CURB history book

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