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23rd November 2018

The UK only has one black, female, history professor

A study by the Royal Historical Society recently found that less than 100 history professors working in the UK are from a black background.
The UK only has one black, female, history professor
Photo: Bath Spa University @ Wikicommons

Dr. Olivette Otele, who was awarded a professorship and a chair in History from Bath Spa University last month, is currently the only black, female, history professor in the UK.

It was also reported by the Royal Historical Society that fewer than 100 History professors working in the UK today are from a black background. 94% are from a white background, with the survey suggesting that almost one in three black and minority ethnic historians working for universities have experienced “direct racial discrimination and abuse.”

Professor Otele, speaking to the BBC, said: “I think structural barriers prevent people who look like me and from other ethnic backgrounds from reaching the ladder and achieving certain things.

“You have to work harder, much harder.”

She added: “I’ve worked very hard and kept pushing and had a family, it’s hard. I’m tired. It’s bleak. Men go faster than us [in terms of professional progress].

“[Women] have the brains, the capability and the power to do it. Students — follow your dreams. Be realistic but follow your dreams. It can happen.

“I want to show women who look like me it can be done. I’m not superhuman.”

Professor Otele, born in Cameroon, specialises in collective memory and geopolitics and holds a PhD in history from Sorbonne University in Paris. Otele, focusing many of her papers about the colonial history of Britain and France, has also written about politics, slavery, and feminism.

The Royal Historical Society has imposed that a lack of diversity may be to blame for the impact on the “quality of teaching, learning, and research in history in the UK,” and has given suggestions on how to improve the system.

The research conducted states that the “histories of migration and ethnicity, and histories of race, imperialism, and decolonisation has transformed our knowledge and understanding of the British, European, and global past.” The Society believes working to tackle this issue is a main priority.

The Young Historians Project, a scheme set up by young people, aims to support young historians of African and Caribbean heritage in the UK.

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