The Faculty of History has established a Race Equality Action Group (REAG) that will build on and consolidate past initiatives in taking significant action to address racism in the Faculty. The project will be led by a committee including expert External Advisors and drawing on existing Faculty, Staff and Student expertise. The plan will include short-, medium- and long-term projects that will focus on five key areas, in liaison with other relevant bodies.
Data collection and listening
Recruitment and staff experience
Admissions and student experience
Events and community history
The first year of the project will focus on collecting both quantitative and qualitative information about race in the History Faculty, both in terms of the experience of staff and students, and in terms of how ideas of race and raced experience are taught and studied. Alongside this, we will develop concrete proposals to swiftly address some of the concerns and issues identified, as well as starting to identify and develop longer-term projects. The fundamental objective of the REAG will be to embed sustained anti-racist practices and structures within the Faculty, to make a significant contribution to improving understanding of the histories of raced experience in Britain and globally, and to foster the careers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and scholars.
Plans for action coordinated by the REAG for Michaelmas and Hilary Term include:
Friday 30th October (week 3) 1-2pm: Black History Month Roundtable on Oxford and the Legacies of Slavery and Empire
Friday 30th October (week 3) 10.30-12pm: An Uncomfortable Oxford Online Tour – Historical Memory and Empire in Oxford
A historiographical and methodological lecture on using race as a category of analysis aimed at all undergraduate and postgraduate students
A staff and student survey on race equality in the History Faculty
A staff member will be nominated as a point of contact for BME students in addition to the Faculty Harassment Advisors
The REAG will draw on and reinforce the important work already undertaken in a number of areas by students and staff, particularly in the wake of the Rhodes Must Fall Campaign since 2016, and in response to the Royal Historical Society’s 2018 report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History. That work includes initiatives across several areas:
At graduate level, in 2019, the Faculty established a Masters scholarship for a UK BME applicant, paid out of Faculty funds (£25k) – awarded for entry in October
Environment and staff and student experience:
A Race Equality Working Group was established in 2016 and has met regularly since to discuss issues around questions of equity and discrimination, and to develop proposals to address concerns arising. The Working Group seeks to integrate student activist organisations keen to address issues of equality among the student body and curriculum into the Faculty’s decision-making processes. In 2018 the REWG met to discuss the Royal Historical Society Report on Race and Ethnicity, and agreed 11 points of action, some of which are underway, some of which it is hoped the REAP will address.
The History Faculty is contributing to the work of the University’s Bullying and Harassment Group with a view to developing more effective mechanisms for reporting inappropriate behaviour
The Faculty has published a Statement of Values including an expression of our commitment to creating an environment in which everyone – at every academic level from undergraduate to professor, and among professional and support staff, regardless of background and identity – can fulfil their potential
In the Faculty building, a seminar room has been dedicated to Professor Merze Tate, the first African American woman to graduate from Oxford. In 2018-19, we had the opportunity to learn more about Merze Tate from Harmsworth Visiting Professor, Barbara Savage, who has been working on her social and intellectual milieu.
The ‘Oxford and Empire’ project, headed by Erica Charters, funded initially by the Humanities Division through a teaching award, and subsequently directly funded by the History Faculty has led to a series of plaques in the city that commemorate individuals whose lives help to demonstrate the range of scholars who have been part of Oxford
The Faculty also supported the development of the Uncomfortable Oxford project, founded by students, which offers tours of the city that raise awareness and create conversations about racial inequality, gender and class discrimination and legacies of empire.
Staff Recruitment and training:
The Faculty has identified Black British History as the target for the next available position in Modern History in the Faculty to be appointed in 2020.
Incoming academic staff, admissions interviewers and selection panel members are provided with implicit bias training; face to face when possible, online if not.
The History syllabus was substantially reformed in 2017-18. They now have to study at least one period of global history along with British and European history. New options have been introduced, including (second year) ‘The Global Twentieth Century, 1930-2003’ and (first year) ‘Haiti and Louisiana: the problem of Revolution in the Age of Slavery’. There is a Masters degree in Global and Imperial History and global and colonial options make up a good part of the revamped masters courses launched in 2018.
The Faculty ran Race ‘Teach-In’ events in 2018 and 2019.