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New interactive Black history education books reveal untold stories and heroes

Previously untold historical stories from Suffolk’s Black community and further afield have come to life in three versions of a new interactive history book for teachers and students in primary, secondary and FE education, and for museums and community groups across the county.

Elimu – The Little Book of Knowledge, by Aspire Black Suffolk CIC in partnership with Suffolk County Council, is tailored to include local stories and links to museum collections, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

With a variety of activities, discussion prompts, brightly-coloured design, images and ‘funky facts’, the books encourage students to be proud of their diverse communities, of themselves and to aim high in life.

‘Elimu’ is a Kiswahili (also known as Swahili) term meaning ‘knowledge’. Each page takes readers on a cultural journey where history extending as far back as ancient Kemet (now Egypt) weaves with living history to celebrate Black national and local heroes.

The book was inspired by the award-winning exhibition, Power of Stories, which was created by Ipswich Museums with community curators in 2021, and featured three original costumes from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther film (2018). The costumes are currently touring Suffolk (see below).

Created by Ellisha Soanes and Tonia Wilson, co-directors of Aspire Black Suffolk, with support of the Black community in Suffolk, Elimu is designed to be easily integrated into the curriculum for primary, secondary and FE schools. It can also be used in educational projects by community groups and museums. Working closely with the Association for Suffolk Museums, the content includes links to local museums’ websites, so students can continue their learning journey and discover more about items and stories in the book.

Ellisha Soanes, also Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Eastern Colleges Group, commented:

“Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. These interactive books aim to help influence change which works for all. We hope teachers, families, young people and communities will connect with the stories, and enjoy an educational resource that offers insight into formerly unseen stories from Black history which will enrich students’ understanding of the world they live in. We’re very proud of the book and we’d like to impress that the books are for use all year round, not just during Black History Month. Finally, thank you to Suffolk County Council for the funding and their commitment to helping to make this happen.”

Within the pages of the book, students will meet brave figures from the Windrush generation alongside inspirational role models living on their doorstep, including Nigerian Yoruba princess Remi (Sijuwade) Morrison, community elder Derrick Bobbington Thomas, Africa historian Imani Sorhaindo, social worker Keiran Miles, and BBC Suffolk and 1Xtra radio presenter, Angelle Joseph.

Students are tasked with researching music artist and philanthropist, Stormzy. They will also learn about Black military servicemen in Suffolk who served in both world wars, whilst supporting local communities, as well as wartime heroes such as Mary Seacole, entertainer Josephine Baker, boxer Joe Louise, and innovator Walter Tull.

Students can unlock additional content by scanning QR codes to videos and audio – some of which feature local people.

Councillor Bobby Bennett, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Equality and Communities, said:

 “Suffolk County Council strives to support museums, schools and community groups to take a positive approach to addressing inequality and championing diversity. The Elimu Black history resources are a fantastic way to engage people in exploring, sharing and celebrating Black national and local heroes. We are proud to have commissioned this work in partnership with Aspire Black Suffolk and the Association for Suffolk Museums.”

The regular opportunities for self-reflection means Elimu helps facilitate a meaningful learning experience and is an ideal tool to encourage lively discussion amongst groups of young people.

The print books are currently free for local authority schools, museums and community groups only. However, the PDF books are available via this form:

Aspire’s team and partners offer training and consultancy in teaching Black history and diversity and inclusion.

The Power of Stories exhibition featuring Marvel Studios’ Black Panther costumes will open at Britten Pears Arts (Snape Maltings), Aldeburgh on Saturday 22 October for four months. The costumes are at the Food Museum in Stowmarket until Sunday 9 October.

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