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Slavery and Rebels for Freedom

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Slavery and Rebels for Freedom - Cristian

Black History has always been important to know and understand where we have come from, where our ancestors originated from, what our original names and language might be. The longing for this knowledge goes well into our later years and for some of us we never gain the full answers.

In our formative years in Western society, we are taught a rudimentary form of Black History. One that fails to fully inspire or conjure up feelings of pride. Once a year, we languish in the tokenistic ventures of Black History Month which many believe fails to truly celebrate the positive and everlasting triumphs of our Black ancestors and our best teachers.

Many of us were taught Black History at home. Fortunate to have a mother or father who revelled in reading all types of novels but especially those with a Black focus and who self-taught themselves about Black History through music and the teachings of self-love, particularly through Black Cultural Music like Reggae. These influences trickled down to their children who become more educated and open minded about Black History.

The notion of teaching children about black superheroes and other positive narratives has grown exponentially. But not just the ones that white authors write about, but the ones that black authors write about, whom experienced and fought against oppression.  Parents are now able to teach their children about triumphant rebels and simultaneously educate them with keywords related to far locations such as African nations and places home to the world’s diaspora that are not usually highlighted in the mainstream school curriculum or media outlets.

Over the years, an underlying question has seemingly lingered as to why Black History wasn’t taught comprehensively in schools and if it was, it was limited, leaving many of us to wonder whether there was more to Black History other than slavery and servitude and the nobleness of White saviours. Once educated, many can learn that the cost of Black lives was not the main concern or the main driving force behind the decision to abolish slavery. But more about the amount of White lives that were seemingly in ‘danger’ being the real bone of contention in the decision to pass the necessary bills and peace treaties that led to the subsequent abolition of slavery. The violence and troubling backdrop of slavery is often discussed but books like Rebels for Freedom highlight positive narratives related to organisation, union, pride, heroism and dauntless rebellion that are very important to Black History.

Enslaved Black people were instrumental in dissolving the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Their role in the abolition of slavery is often unsung and untold. Most of the mistruths we learn are undone at home and during our later years. With many of us able to classify ourselves as well versed when it comes to Black History. After attending Saturday schools ran by black teachers who all had Afro centric names and garments, who although taught English and Maths also took every opportunity to discuss Black History with a positive slant. Like the author Fayola Massiah of the book Rebels for Freedom, a person who went on to attain a degree in Caribbean history, where modules about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and plantocracy were taught in great detail alongside literature, music and sports of a Caribbean. Subsequently, becoming well versed in Black History and passing on the knowledge to future generations instead of waiting for their later years to learn such history. Fayola Massiah wants our children to be able to be proud of their ancestors. When she asked her nephew what he learned for Black History Month this year; the tone of his voice was informing that he was not elated by what he learnt but instead simply responding that it was ‘fine’ and that he had watched Roots with his school class. He was later given a copy of the ‘Rebels For Freedom’ book that he took it to school the following week, which is when the teacher called to inform the author that they thought the book was ‘amazing’! A somewhat a typical experience, particularly in the UK in schools for Black History Month which occurs in October in the UK. There tends to be a sense of disappointment amongst the community, because there isn’t enough actual knowledge and education on Black History even during Black History Month.

Author Fayola Massiah was inspired to write book ‘Rebels For Freedom’ because of the issues mentioned earlier with regards to the lack of education around Black History. A book consciously written in a child friendly format, it highlights topics around organisation, union, pride, heroism and dauntless rebellion. The violence and troubling backdrop of slavery is not highlighted in this book due to the innocence and young age of the readers. Even so, it provides a child friendly teaching of definitions and narratives around slavery, while not heavily emphasising the violence and cost of black lives. It discusses heroic rebels that include Nat Turner, one of the pioneers of the Haitian Revolution, Black Jacobin, Toussaint Loverture, Sam Sharpe and the leaders of the Demerara Rebellion of Guyana; Quamina and John Gladstone. It also gives meaningful perspective on mental illness that runaway enslaved Africans were diagnosed with like Drapetomania and what it means to be Creole.

If you search long and hard you will find information is out there waiting to be found, but unfortunately our children do not have the inclination or the know, as they often believe that Black History begins and ends with slavery. Books such as Miranda Kauffman’s Black Tudors and David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History are poignant and exceptional and need to more accessible for the youth in schools.

We are in an extraordinary time where social media and advancements in technology are helping us to connect and learn more about what is happening the world around us. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of reading and gaining education and creativity through books. Letting children get lost in the history that books like ‘Rebels For Freedom’ creates. These types of Black History books with teachings that are not covered by the school’s curriculum are necessary and needed for our children.


  • Rebels For Freedom – Fayola Massiah
  • 1001 Things Everyone Should Know about African American History
  • Stolen Legacy
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro
  • The Penguin Atlas of African History: Revised Edition

This page was last updated on 28, November, 2022

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