Black history podcast: Young woman launches new project

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THIS WEEK The Voice spoke to the host of a new Black History podcast [@thehistoryhotline], Deanna Lynn-Cook. 

Inspired by the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Deanna started the podcast to better educate people on Black history.

She tells us why a better understanding of Black history is everyone’s responsibility, why we need more Black educators and how people have responded to her project.

Tell us about the podcast

Its overall aim is to educate people on Black and Caribbean history.

I think it’s really important that we do learn some of the things that have happened in this country, and why society is now the way it is… That’s why I created a Black history podcast.

I think we have a social responsibility as Black people, to inspire and empower us to continue on – especially in the times we’re living in right now.

Deanna Lynn-Cook, host of The History Hotline podcast

What inspired you to start it?

At the start of lockdown, I was doing my dissertation research at home. Everyday, I would come down for dinner and my mum would ask what I’ve been doing today and I’d always talk to her about my research. She’d always be quite shocked because she didn’t really know the topics and events I was talking about.

Academia is all well and good, but it’s not always accessible to our community. I wanted it to be Black history, not just for Black people but also anyone who wants to listen. For those who don’t want to spend hours in the archives – it’s a quick fix of Black history every week – 20-30 minutes to learn something you may not have known before.

Then George Floyd was unfortunately murdered, and then the Black Lives Matter movement grew. There was a huge call for Black history. I thought: ‘Why not?’ It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – create content to make history more accessible.

How has the podcast been received? 

The podcast has been received really well! I’m so grateful for the support I’ve got. A lot of older family friends have really enjoyed it because they lived through the things I’m discussing. It’s interesting that they didn’t necessarily know what was going on and the things that were being fought for on their behalf.

Also, across the board Black people and white people have been enjoying it and saying that these things should be taught in schools.

I think we have a social responsibility as Black people, to inspire and empower us to continue on – especially in the times we’re living in right now. The podcast even has listeners in America [according to Spotify statistics].

Excluding Black and brown people from history lessons… creates racial tensions.

Deanna Lynn-Cook, host of The History Hotline podcast

Tell us a bit about yourself

At the moment, I’m studying a History masters at the University of Birmingham after completing my undergrad at Queen Mary’s in English and History.

My dissertation is about Black British and Caribbean history – I’m looking at Caribbean women and how they’ve navigated British society in the 1940s –  specifically within two professions – nursing and teaching.

I’m looking at the things they did whilst in Britain to make British society better for Black people, their families and themselves.

Black history is not just for black people.

Deanna Lynn-Cook, host of The History Hotline podcast

How would you encourage those from non-Black backgrounds to engage with black history ?

I think that Black history is not just for Black people. Above all else, it’s an interesting history.

Black people, en-masse, have not been in this country that long. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been here since the 3rd century. But in massive groups and to the point where we’re making waves in culture and society, that’s all in the post-war era of the 1940s and 1950s.

The fact that it’s a recent history means everyone should be involved.

If you don’t have the time to pick up a book then the podcast is perfect to listen to when you’re cooking dinner, or on a walk, or exercising. It’s not long, it’s not boring – I hope! And I’d encourage anyone to have a listen.

How and why does the curriculum need to change?

Within history specifically, I think that we need to include more global histories and how they impact British histories.

Britain had an empire which colonised a large part of the world, so British history intertwined with so many regions across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean. Not teaching this denies children of knowing the actual past of this country.

Excluding Black and brown people from history lessons is really problematic. It creates racial tensions. The fact that we are erasing this history in our schools is a problem.

I do want to acknowledge that there are so many teachers who try and include as much Black history as they can into their teaching: whether that be in history, in RE or in geography. There are teachers that try to reflect a more rounded curriculum in their classrooms, but it needs to be nationally implemented.

How does representation in academia affect performance?

Representation in academia is hugely important, I’ve never had a Black teacher or lecturer. 

Though it didn’t have a negative impact on me, because I went to supplementary schools when I was younger with Black teachers.

My mum’s a teacher and my nan was a teacher in the 60s-90s. We went to the shop the other day, and this man came up to my family and said my nan used to teach him. He said, having a Black teacher at the age of 5 was so powerful to him. He’s never forgotten it.

That was so inspiring to think that he, in Handsworth, Birmingham, had this memory from his education which stuck with him and made a real impact.

It would help in many cases to have a Black teacher to teach Black history. However, non-Black teachers can and should do the work to engage with young people when it comes to Black history.

Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

You can listen to the History Hotline podcast here:


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