Black Studies in the UK and US:
A Comparative Analysis
Miami University, Ohio
Although my association with the field of Black Studies1 now spans some sixteen years, in the formal sense of teaching the subject matter in the UK and US, my connection goes back at least twenty years in terms of fighting for its existence in the British education system. Thus, this chapter must be part-autobiographical due to the deep connection I have with the themes and perspectives of this book. That stated, the essence of this chapter will be to highlight some of the key factors in the development of Black Studies in the UK context compared to the US. I therefore examine the origins and development of Black Studies from the perspective of both nations. Within the British context, the city of Liverpool will be a focus as it is a key example of the struggle to develop a Black Studies curriculum via grassroots Black community educational advocates. However, because the US is qualitatively different in terms of its Black Studies experience, this chapter will make reference to both the historical and contemporary development in the North American academy.
Before we start though, it is important to give the reader an insight into my background and qualifications to write this chapter. As already touched on, when I reflect on my experience in education in the UK and US, the notion and practice of Black Studies has been at the heart of my social background, activism, and scholarship. The fact that I was born in the 1960s— literally a child of the ’60s—when Black students, with some progressive White students, were fighting for Black Studies on US campuses during the Civil Rights Movement, makes the intersection of my biography and history that more relevant, as we shall see.
My father arrived in Liverpool from Jamaica during World War II to work