How important is it to be able to tell your own story about what happens to you? How does it feel if your lifestory is written for you and your voice and words are denied? It’s the ultimate expression of freedom to be able to state and broadcast your own thoughts and feelings about your life.
Beswick Library recently welcomed the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust to the Library for a great programme of Black History workshops, showcasing works from AIUET’s Race Archive collections. The workshops were a fascinating look at the lives of two 18th century enslaved persons Mary Prince and Olaudah Equiano whose reading and writing abilities, unusually for that time, enabled them to describe in their own words, in great detail, the reality of their own lives and their desire for freedom and self-determination. In Mary’s own words, “To Be Free is Very Sweet”.
Teachers from local schools St Brigids RC Primary School and the School of the Resurrection brought Key Stage 2 children to hear Mary and Olaudah’s own accounts and explore their biographies and those of other black historical figures. Pupils were able to understand something of what slavery meant and that having your own voice and being able to tell your own story is so important for a free and civilised society. We went on to begin writing our own life accounts and children were able to continue their autobiographical works back at school and at home.
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust is currently based at Manchester Central Library and their excellent Resource Centre is free to visit and includes hundreds of books on the history of race, migration and ethnicity, many of which can be borrowed by schools or members of Manchester Libraries. The Race Archive contains a wide range of documents, leaflets, posters, photographs and ephemera donated by BAME communities across Greater Manchester. If your school would like to explore the Resource Centre and Race Archive, contact them via their website Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (racearchive.org.uk)