Greater acknowledgement needed of Black Scottish history, say authors
19 October 2022
A Cardiff University academic says more needs to be done to recognise and archive the history of Black people’s lives, work, and creativity in Scotland.
Dr Francesca Sobande has worked with layla-roxanne hill to document Black people’s experiences and histories for their book, Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland.
They have gathered first-hand interviews, studied archive material and creative work, and charted the activism of Black people from the eighties onwards to offer extensive insights into an area of history often overlooked until now.
Dr Sobande, who herself grew up in Scotland during the nineties, said: “With this research, we aim to celebrate the lives of Black people in Scotland; it is clear they are part of Scotland’s past, present, and future. But the material on Scottish history that we came across painted an incomplete picture of Black Scottish life which left us thinking about how Black Scottish history has been treated.
“Even though Black people’s presence in Scotland spans centuries, when I was growing up there, recognition of this was lacking. Although a lot has changed since then, acknowledgement of Black Scottish history needs to extend much further beyond Black history month, traumatising media depictions, and tired tropes such as the archetypal ‘strong’ and ‘respectable’ Black person.
Black Oot Here includes accounts by Black people in Scotland from all walks of life. It brings together interviews, survey responses, photography, and analysis of media and archived material reflecting on Black Scottish history, while considering the future that may lie ahead.
Co-author layla-roxanne hill, who is a writer, curator, and organiser, said: “Our time spent scouring archives in Scotland and online also saw us poring over papers and press clippings. All too often, history is assumed to be old and the presence of Black people in Scotland is assumed to be new or temporary.”
Dr Sobande, who is based at the University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture, added: “Black Scottish history is not hidden in plain sight. Instead, the making, impact, and archiving of such history occurs in many spaces, and is happening right now.
“However, many questions remain: Will Scotland’s future involve more institutions converting their Black Lives Matter (BLM) statements of support into sustainable action? Will we see the day that Black Scottish history is consistently taught across all stages of education in Scotland? That remains to be determined, but what is undeniable is that Black people have been and are intrinsic to modern Scottish life.”