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“He Was Shot because America Will Not Give Up on Racism”: Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American Civil Rights Movement in British Schools



This article examines how Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement with which he is often synonymous are taught in UK schools, as well as the consequences of that teaching for twenty-first-century understandings of Britain's racial past and present. The UK's King-centric approach to teaching the civil rights movement has much in common with that in the US, including an inattention to its transnational coordinates. However, these shared (mis)representations have different histories, are deployed to different ends, and have different consequences. In the UK, study of the African American freedom struggle often happens in the absence of, and almost as a surrogate for, engagement with the histories of Britain's own racial minorities and imperial past. In short, emphasis on the apparent singularity of US race relations and the achievements of the mid-twentieth-century African American freedom struggle facilitates cultural amnesia regarding the historic and continuing significance of race and racism in the UK. In light of the Windrush scandal and the damning 2018 Royal Historical Society report on “Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History,” this article argues both for better, more nuanced and more relevant teaching of King and the freedom struggle in British schools, and for much greater attention to black British history in its own right.

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The quotation in the title is taken from an anonymous survey of final-year undergraduate students beginning modules on the African American freedom struggle at two universities in the North East of England in 2016. This response was to the question “In your own words, how would you summarize [MLK's] life and career?” Students taking the courses were drawn from American studies, history, history and English, and history and politics degree programmes.



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1 King, Martin Luther Jr., “The Purpose of Education,” Jan.–Feb. 1947, in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Volume I, Called to Serve, January 1929 to June 1951, ed. Carson, Clayborne, Luker, Ralph, and Russell, Penny A. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 123–24.

2 There is now an impressive literature on connections between the modern African American freedom struggle and global liberation movements, including several that focus on US–British and Irish relationships. See, for example, Angelo, Anne-Marie, “The Black Panthers in London, 1967–1972: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic,” Radical History Review, 103 (Jan. 2009), 1735; Dooley, Brian, Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland & Black America (London: Pluto, 1998); Kelley, Robin D. G. and Tuck, Stephen, eds., The Other Special Relationship: Race, Rights, and Riots in Britain and the United States (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); Sewell, Mike, “British Responses to Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1968,” in Ward, Brian and Badger, Tony, eds., The Making of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), 194212; Street, Joe, “Malcolm X, Smethwick and the Influence of the African American Freedom Struggle on British Race Relations,” Journal of Black Studies, 38, 6 (July 2008), 932–50; Tuck, Stephen, The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union: A Transatlantic Story of Antiracist Protest (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014); Tuck, , “The March on London: British–American Connections during the Civil Rights Movement,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, Supplement 11 (2015), 8197; Ward, Brian, Martin Luther King in Newcastle: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England (Newcastle upon Tyne: Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2017); Waters, Rob, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964–1985 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019); Webb, Clive, “Reluctant Partners: African Americans and the Origins of the Special Relationship,” Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 14, 4 (Dec. 2016), 350–64.

3 Individual resources are cited as and when they are referred to in the text. A full list of textbooks and curricula consulted is provided at

4 The Windrush generation refers to those who settled in the UK from British colonies in the Caribbean in the mid-twentieth century, the first of whom arrived on the MV Empire Windrush in 1948. Granted citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by the 1948 British Nationality Act, many who arrived as children travelled on their parents’ passports and never received their own documents. In 1971 they were granted indefinite leave to stay, and so were never formally naturalized. In late November 2017 news reports began to surface of members of the Windrush generation losing their jobs, access to National Health Service care, and welfare benefits. Others were threatened with deportation or detained because they lacked official paperwork retrospectively deemed necessary under the Home Office's “hostile-environment” policies. Introduced by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012, the “hostile environment” was designed to curb immigration and deport huge numbers of non-British residents. See “Windrush Generation: Who Are They and Why Are They Facing Problems?”, BBC News, 18 April 2018, at, accessed 27 June 2018; Amelia Hill, “‘Hostile Environment’: The Hardline Home Office Policy Tearing Families Apart,” The Guardian, 28 Nov. 2017, at, accessed 27 June 2018.

5 Assessing teaching standards in every US state in 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) concluded that “the [national] state of education about the civil rights movement is, in a word, dismal.” Sixteen states did not require any instruction about the civil rights movement, and only three states – Alabama, Florida, and New York – received an A grade. See “Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States,” report by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Programme, Montgomery, AL, Sept. 2011, 7. State history standards have often faced more general criticism, most notably in a 2011 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. See Sheldon M. Stern and Jeremy A. Stern, The State of State US History Standards 2011 (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2011), at SOSS_History_FINAL.pdf, accessed 20 June 2018.

6 Derrick Alridge writes of a “messianic master narrative” that has emerged around King, as US textbooks “present prescribed, oversimplified, and uncontroversial narratives [that] obscure important elements in King's life and thought.” Alridge, Derrick, “The Limits of Master Narratives in History Textbooks: An Analysis of Representations of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Teachers College Record, 108, 4 (April 2006), 662–86.

7 Sanders, Vivienne, Civil Rights in the USA, 1945–1968 (London: Hodder Education, 2014), 8283.

8 Though there is increasing evidence that UK schools are using King and other American civil rights heroes to mark Black History Month, British children are most likely to encounter King first in a formal classroom. By contrast, in the US, the annual King holiday – celebrated on the third Monday of January since 1986 – provides what John Wills calls “the stories, images and interpretive frames that give meaning to King and efforts to end segregation in US society,” and exposes children to these topics before they formally study them. See John S. Wills, “‘Some People Even Died’: King, Martin Luther Jr., the Civil Rights Movement and the Politics of Remembrance in Elementary Classrooms,” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 18, 1 (2005), 109–31, 111–12.

9 Loewen, James, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 13.

10 Sanders, 63, added emphasis. Most UK textbooks note that the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision had overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” at the legal heart of Jim Crow society in the South. However, they often present this as more of a “sign of change,” rather than an event that was itself the product of years of black courtroom protests and which had an inspirational effect on local black activism, not least emboldening Jo Ann Gibson Robinson and the Women's Political Council in Montgomery to step up pressure to desegregate the city's buses. Civil rights historians have long debated the periodization of the movement, but tend to make a much stronger case for Brown as the origin of the movement's “‘classic’ phase” than do most UK textbooks. See Lawson, Steven F., “Long Origins of the Short Civil Rights Movement,” in McGuire, Dannielle and Dittmer, John, eds., Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 937. Another catalytic event that receives little attention in UK textbooks is the murder of Emmett Till. Sanders, 61, includes the famous image of Till's bloated corpse, and notes that his murder “encouraged many blacks to become civil rights activists”. Paterson, Willoughby, and Willoughby feature Till's murder in a small 93-word “Key Event” box, separate from the main text. See Paterson, David, Willoughby, Doug, and Willoughby, Susan, Civil Rights in the USA 1865–1992 (Harlow: Heinmann, 2009), 66.

11 Sanders, 99–103.

12 Paterson, Willoughby, and Willoughby, 81. It is worth noting that Paterson, Willoughby, and Willoughby's volume covers a much longer period of American history, and is divided into four sections: African American rights, labour rights, Native American rights, and women's rights. In their previous volume, Civil Rights and the USA, 1863–1980 (Harlow: Heinemann, 2001), the authors gave two pages to discussion of Chicago. However, this coverage was still significantly underdeveloped.

13 In England and Wales, for example, “America, 1920–1973: Opportunity and Inequality,” is an optional course for AQA GCSE History. In 2018 26,268 students were entered for this topic, which accounted for around 25% of a student's studies in GCSE History. In Scotland, “Free at Last? Civil Rights in the USA, 1918–1968,” is one of ten options within category 3 “European and World Contexts” at National 5 (GCSE equivalent). If selected, this course would account for 29% of a student's grade in National 5 History.

14 The current history specifications for Northern Ireland mention civil rights legislation in one optional A level module, entitled “The American Presidency, 1901–2000.” If chosen, this module would account for 20% of a student's A level. There is no option to study US history beyond 1930 at GCSE level in Northern Ireland.

15 This includes nine of the 24 Russell Group universities, a self-selecting body of “research-intensive universities.” See Profile, June 2017,, accessed 27 June 2019.

16 Edexcel and Pearson Publishing are the same company, for example. See Crawford, K. and Foster, S., “The Political Economy of History Textbook Publishing in England,” in Nicholls, J., ed., School History Textbooks across Cultures (Oxford: Symposium Books, 2006), 93104.

17 Nicola Sheldon, “History Examinations from the 1960s to the Present Day,” Project Paper, Institute of Historical Research, 2, at, accessed 1 July 2019. Frequent syllabus changes have increased the pressure on authors and publishers to remain up to date. John D. Clare, a prolific textbook author, describes “writing at a frenetic pace” without copy editors. Quoted in Nicola Sheldon, “History Textbooks from 1965–2010,” project paper, Institute for Historical Research, 2011, 6, at

18 Marsden, W. E., The School Textbook: Geography, History and Social Studies (London: Woburn Press, 2001).

19 Sheldon, “History Textbooks from 1965–2010,” 6.

20 “Section 375(3) of the Education Act 1996 requires the syllabus to reflect that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain.” See Department for Children, Schools and Families, “Religious Education in English Schools: Non-statutory Guidance 2010,” 10, at, accessed 19 June 2018. For Northern Ireland, see Department for Education, Statutory Curriculum, at, accessed 12 Aug. 2018.

21 Curriculum for Excellence: Religious Observance (Time for Reflection), 2014, at

22 Recent research by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales shows that many schools are failing to provide religious education, despite a legal imperative to do so. See the 2017 report at, accessed 19 June 2018.

23 Luker has written that King was “perhaps the greatest American preacher of his era – but he was only very derivatively a theologian.” Luker, Ralph, “Plagiarism and Perspective: Questions about Martin Luther King, Jr.,” International Social Science Review, 68, 4 (Fall 1993), 152–60, 154. See also Miller, Keith D., Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992).

24 Scholars have attributed this to the influence of Ninian Smart, whose work in the late 1960s and the 1970s encouraged a non-confessional religious education in schools, “chiefly to advance an understanding of religion and to promote religious tolerance.” See Barnes, L. Philip, “The Contribution of Professor Ninian Smart to Religious Education,” Religion, 31, 4 (Oct. 2001), 317–19.

25 Baldwin, Lewis, The Voice of Conscience: The Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 4.

26 Thatamanil, John, “The Hospitality of Receiving: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Interreligious Learning,” in Baldwin, Lewis V. and Dekar, Paul R., eds., “In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality”: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of and Ethical Ideal (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013), 131–51, 132–33. Hodder argues that the attempt to cast King as “America's Black Gandhi” was both strategic and short-lived. “The translation of Gandhi into American culture was a selective process which sectioned off the readily transferable message of nonviolence and civil disobedience from what was perceived as Gandhi's more exotic and culturally contingent eccentricities.” See Jake Hodder, “Casting a Black Gandhi: Martin Luther King Jr., American Pacifists and the Global Dynamics of Race,” Journal of American Studies, First View, 3, published online 14 May 2019, at, accessed 27 May 2020. See also Miller.

27 According to Thatamanil, 134, King “had neither the time nor the inclination to attend to the Indic elements of Gandhi's thought.” Miller, 98. King nevertheless faced accusations from white Southern Baptist leaders that he was “rejecting the cardinal tenets of biblical Christianity for the heathen philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.” See Leonard, Bill J., “A Theology for Racism: Southern Fundamentalists and the Civil Rights Movement,” Baptist History and Heritage, 34, 1 (Winter 1999), 4968, 63.

28 Taylor, Ina, Directions, Volume I (Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, 2002), 43.

29 Hitlin, Steven, Moral Selves, Evil Selves: The Social Psychology of Conscience (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 138.

30 Quoted in Robin Toner, “Saving a Dissenter from His Legend,” New York Times, 20 Jan. 1986, A24.

31 Evans, Richard J., “The Wonderfulness of Us (The Tory Interpretation of History),” London Review of Books, 33, 6 (17 March 2011), at, accessed 5 Jan. 2018.

32 Richard J. Evans, “Michael Gove's History Curriculum Is a Pub Quiz Not an Education,” New Statesman, 21 March 2013, at, accessed 19 June 2018.

33 Devolved powers ensured that Gove's reforms applied only to England, despite the fact that Gove is himself Scottish, educated in Aberdeen.

34 Evans, “The Wonderfulness of Us.”

35 Cambridge Assessment, “Top 10 Topics Studied by A Level History Students,” 13 Aug. 2014, at, accessed 22 Nov. 2018.

36 History was the fifth-most-popular A level subject in 2017, when according to the Joint Council for Qualifications, 50,311 students took A level examinations in history. See, accessed 9 Jan. 2018. For OCR's recent market share see Annual Qualifications Market Report 2017–18, 12, at, accessed 1 July 2019. Cannadine, Keating, and Sheldon argue that UK exam boards are famously “secretive and unaccountable.” See David Cannadine, Jenny Keating, and Nicola Sheldon, The Right Kind of History: Teaching the Past in Twentieth-Century England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 234.

37 Niall Ferguson, quoted in Anushka Asthana and Amardeep Sohi, “Niall Ferguson: ‘Rid our schools of junk history’,” The Guardian, 21 March 2010, at, accessed 8 Jan. 2018. According to data from AQA, the most popular exam board for A level history, “The Tudors: England, 1485–1603” was the most popular A level entry in 2018. The next-most-popular module, “Tsarist and Communist Russia, 1855–1964,” was sat by fewer than half the numbers that selected Tudor history. “Democracy and Nazism: Germany, 1918–1945” was AQA's fourth-most-popular topic, with “The Making of Modern Britain, 1951–2007” third. AQA, Topic Entry Data, 2018.

38 Tom Utley, “If Corbyn Wants to Teach Our Children History, I Suggest He Starts with the Masses killed by Marxism,” Daily Mail, 11 Oct. 2018, at, accessed 21 Oct. 2018.

39 Michael Gove, “All Pupils Will Learn Our Island Story,” speech to the Conservative Party Conference, 5 Oct. 2010, at, accessed 19 June 2018.

40 Christian, Mark, “Black Studies in the UK and US: A Comparative Analysis,” in Davidson, Jeanette R., ed., African American Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 149–67, 156; Cashmore, Ernest and Troyna, Barry, “Black Youth in Crisis,” in Cashmore and Troyna, eds., Black Youth in Crisis (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1982), 15–34, 24.

41 Christian, 155. Birmingham City University launched the UK's first black studies degree in 2017. The UK's first postgraduate course in black studies opened at Goldsmiths, University of London in September 2019.

42 Royal Historical Society, “Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: A Report and Resource for Change,” Oct. 2018, at, accessed 19 Nov. 2018.

43 Evans, “The Wonderfulness of Us.”

44 Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History, 91, 4 (March 2005), 1233–63, 1234.

45 Ward, Martin Luther King in Newcastle, 17. For more on King as a global figure see Sokol, Jason, The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Basic Books, 2018).

46 Ward, 14.

47 For King's new public radicalism and increasingly isolated and embattled position see Fairclough, Adam, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 309–31, 333–45, 352–53; Jackson, Thomas, From Human Rights to Civil Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Laurent, Sylvie, King and the Other America: The Poor People's Campaign and the Quest for Economic Equality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018). For the split with Johnson see Ellis, Sylvia, Freedom's Pragmatist: Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013), 235–38, 254–56. For the FBI campaigns against King see O'Reilly, Kenneth, Racial Matters: The FBI's Secret File on Black America (New York: Free Press, 1989), 121–55, 242–45, 286–91.

48 Sanders, Civil Rights, 99, added emphasis, 120, 149–50.

49 Ibid., 99.

50 Paterson, Willoughby, and Willoughby, Civil Rights, 77. The authors never reveal that 34 people were killed in Watts, just that “14,000 troops were required to restore order and 4,000 people were arrested.”

51 Joseph, Peniel E., “Toward a Historiography of the Black Power Movement,” in Joseph, ed., The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights–Black Power Era (New York: Routledge, 2006), 1–25, 3. Murch illustrates that many key Black Panthers actually repudiated the label Black Power, “and chose instead to emphasize the international, and ultimately ‘intercommunal’ nature of their organizing.” Murch, Donna, “When the Panther Travels: Race and the Southern Diaspora in the History of the BPP, 1964–1972,” in Slate, Nico, ed., Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 57–78, 59.

52 Joseph, 4. See Tyson, Timothy B., Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Theoharis, Jeanne, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Civil Rights Movement outside the South,” in Lassiter, Mathew and Crespino, Joseph, eds., The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 4973.

53 The Butler presents black power as a negative force, dividing black America after a time of great unity. See Eddie Glaude, “Princeton Professor Analyzes ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler.’ Radio Interview with Dean Richards,” WGN Chicago, 20 Aug. 2013, The Butler personifies this ideological divide through its protagonist Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whitaker), who struggles with and temporarily disowns his son Louis (David Oyelowo) during the latter's transition from peaceful nonviolent activist to black power advocate. See Megan Hunt, “‘Southern by the Grace of God’: Religion and Race in Hollywood's South since the 1960s,” PhD diss., Northumbria University, 2016, 186–7, at

54 Sanders, 105.

55 Martin Luther King, “Notes on American Capitalism,” n.d. (1951), in The Papers of Martin Luther King, 435–36.

56 Sanders, 132, 84.

57 Julian Bond, “Remember the Man and the Hero, Not Just Half the Dream,” Seattle Times, 3 April 1993, available at, accessed 4 Jan. 2018.

58 Jackson, From Human Rights to Civil Rights, 359.

59 None of the textbooks assessed for this article afford the March on Washington its full title – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

60 Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream,” 28 Aug. 1963, in Washington, James M., ed., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 102–6.

61 Gosse, Van, “Consensus and Contradiction in Textbook Treatment of the 1960s,” Journal of American History, 82, 2 (Sept. 1995), 658–69.

62 Chappell, Marisa, Hutchinson, Jenny, and Ward, Brian, “‘Dress Modestly, Neatly … as if You Were Going to Church’: Respectability, Class and Gender in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Early Civil Rights Movement,” in Ling, Peter J. and Monteith, Sharon, eds., Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 69–100, 7072.

63 Murch, “When the Panther Travels,” 60, argues that the internal migration of millions of Americans between 1940 and 1970 necessitates a diasporic approach to northern civil rights and black radicalism.

64 Clare, John, AQA B: Modern World History (Oxford: Pearson/Heinemann, 2009), 229.

65 Works that challenge these dichotomies include Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis, eds., with Woodard, Komozi, The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside the South (New York: New York University Press, 2019); Sugrue, Thomas, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2009); Lassiter, Matthew D. and Crespino, Joseph, eds., The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Theoharis, Jeanne and Woodard, Komosi, eds., Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles outside the South, 1940–1980 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

66 Gosse, 663.

67 See Aldridge, “The Limits of Master Narratives”; Wills, “Some People Even Died”; Baldwin, Lewis V. and Burrow, Rufus Jr, eds., The Domestication of Martin Luther King Jr.: Clarence B. Jones, Right-Wing Conservatism and the Manipulation of the King Legacy (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013); Alderman, Derek H., “School Names as Cultural Arenas: The Naming of US Public Schools after Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Urban Geography, 7, 2 (2013), 601–26; Alderman, , “Street Names and the Scaling of Memory: The Politics of Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr within the African American Community,’ Area, 35, 2 (June 2003), 163–73; Inwood, Joshua F. J., “Searching for the Promised Land: Examining Dr Martin Luther King's Concept of the Beloved Community,” Antipode, 41, 3 (2009), 487508; Baldwin, Lewis V. and Dekar, Paul R., eds., “In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality:” Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of an Ethical Idea (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013).

68 Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights, 360–61. See also, Turner, Ronald, “The Dangers of Misappropriation: Misusing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy to Prove the Colorblind Thesis,” Michigan Journal of Race & Law, 2, 1 (1996), 101–30.

69 Weiss, Jana, “Remember, Celebrate, and Forget? The Martin Luther King Day and the Pitfalls of Civil Religion,” Journal of American Studies, 53, 2 (May 2019), 428–48, 432.

70 Ward, Martin Luther King in Newcastle upon Tyne, 14. A recent exception is Sokol, The Heavens Might Crack. See also Rice, Alan, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010).

71 President Ronald Reagan quoted in Peter Goldman, “Dr. Kins Last Victory,” Newsweek, 27 Jan. 1986, 16.

72 Eddo-Lodge, Reni, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 28, 1, 100–1, original emphasis.

73 Ibid., 231–32.

74 David Olusoga, “We Risk Losing Slices of Our Past if We Don't Root Out Racism in Our Universities,” The Guardian, 21 Oct. 2018, at, accessed 26 May 2020.

75 Yomi Adegoke, “It's Black History Month – and at Last We're Celebrating British Heroes,” The Guardian, 17 Oct. 2017, at, accessed 28 Nov. 2017.

76 The Historical Association, T.E.A.C.H.: Teaching Emotive and Controversial History, 3–19 (London: The Historical Association, 2007), 4; Foster, Nardia, Out of Slavery: Learning about the History of British Black Caribbean People (Bristol: Redcliffe, 2004), 6.

77 The Historical Association, 15. This reflects the SPLC's findings from the US, in which southern states, and those with large African American populations, tended to require more formal learning about the civil rights movement.

78 Eddo-Lodge, 54.

79 James Loewen, “Preface: Lies My Teacher Told Me in the Age of Alternative Facts,” in Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (New York: The New Press, 2018), xi–xx, xx.

80 April-Louise Pennant and Nando Sigona, “Black History Is Still Largely Ignored, 70 Years after Empire Windrush Reached Britain,” The Conversation, 21 June 2018, at, accessed 27 June 2018. In December 2018 the BCA received a £200,000 interim payment from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport after more than 100 Members of Parliament signed a letter urging the government to commit funds to the archive, which had received Heritage Lottery Funding since 2014. Sally Weale, “London's Black Cultural Archives get £200,000 Stopgap Funding for Survival,” The Guardian, 13 Dec. 2018, at, accessed 27 June 2019. The significance of the archive was made clear when it emerged that the Home Office had destroyed the landing cards of thousands of Commonwealth migrants in 2009, thus eradicating the evidence of their legal arrival in Britain between 1947 and 1971. The BCA argued that such documents should have been passed on to them when they were no longer “needed” by the central government. “BCA exists to ensure the preservation of this history,” it announced, “as our remit is to preserve the narratives of the people.” Quoted in Eleanor Rose, “Black Cultural Archives Urge Government to Hand Over Important Documents to Avoid Second Windrush Fiasco, Bosses Claim,” Evening Standard, 20 April 2018, at, accessed 8 Nov. 2018.

81 Pennant and Sigona.

82 Kehinde Andrews, “Why Britain's Schools Are Failing to Tackle Racism,” The Guardian, 12 Aug. 2015, at, accessed 28 Nov. 2017.

83 Andrews, Kehinde, Resisting Racism: Race, Inequality, and the Black Supplementary School Movement (London: Institute of Education Press, 2013), 18.

84 Andrews, Kehinde, “The Problem of Political Blackness: Lessons from the Black Supplementary School Movement,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39, 11 (2016), 2060–78, 2071.

85 The Historical Association, 13, added emphasis.

86 Eddo-Lodge, 55, added emphasis.

87 Here, a student was answering the question “What relevance do you think studying MLK and/or the civil rights movement may have for modern Britain?” For further information on this informal, anonymous survey, see the affiliation note.

88 In a rare and fleeting reference to the influence of African anticolonial struggles on King, Sanders, Civil Rights, 73, notes that “African Americans were fascinated by the emergence of independent African nations,” and that King attended independence celebrations in Ghana, along with Vice President Richard Nixon, Adam Clayton Powell, and A. Philip Randolph.

89 Tuck, Stephen, “Malcolm X's Visit to Oxford University: US Civil Rights, Black Britain, and the Special Relationship on Race,” American Historical Review, 118, 1 (Feb. 2013), 76–103, 82.

90 Ibid., 80.

91 See, accessed 3 June 2020.

94 See “Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement,” Heroes and Villains, The National Archives, at, accessed 27 June 2018.

95 Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (1996), 16.

96 True Tube, Stop and Search Me, Film and Assembly Plan (2010), at, accessed 22 Nov. 2018.

97 State-funded schools can join the Into Film Club for free, where they have access to thousands of titles and related-resources. For Selma-specific resources see For an account of the SRTRC screenings of Selma see, both accessed 23 July 2018.

98 Into Film, “Civil Rights on Film: Selma Assembly,” at; Into Film, “Selma: Film Guide,” at, both accessed 23 July 2018.

99 Olusoga, David, Black and British: A Forgotten History (London: Macmillan, 2016), 25.

100 King, “The Purpose of Education.”

The quotation in the title is taken from an anonymous survey of final-year undergraduate students beginning modules on the African American freedom struggle at two universities in the North East of England in 2016. This response was to the question “In your own words, how would you summarize [MLK's] life and career?” Students taking the courses were drawn from American studies, history, history and English, and history and politics degree programmes.

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“He Was Shot because America Will Not Give Up on Racism”: Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American Civil Rights Movement in British Schools



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