“We Came to Live in Birmingham” – a resource pack for teachers in all schools

Birmingham is a city of immigrants, growing from a population of less than a hundred thousand two centuries ago to the city of over a million today – and still growing. The Commonwealth Games are an opportunity to celebrate the cultural diversity of Birmingham but they are also an opportunity to help children and young people in our schools to understand the journeys and experiences of the people who have come to Birmingham to live and work here, and have made the city what it is today.

Many of them have come from Commonwealth countries; many others have come from elsewhere, including Eastern Europe and South East Asia. They are the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of the children and young people in our schools today. Wherever they have come from they have stories to tell, and their stories will have many connections and things in common, often of backgrounds in relative poverty and perhaps oppression, and a desire to make a better life for themselves and their children.

To understand the roots of Birmingham’s prosperity we have to reach back further in time, into the centuries of Empire, based on the invasion and conquest of what are today’s Commonwealth countries and and the exploitation of workers through slavery and forced labour. It is a history in which Birmingham, and some of its leading citizens, played an influential role. 

But it also means celebrating all those in Birmingham who have campaigned for social justice, from the Birmingham Ladies’ Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves in the early 1800s to the struggles and campaigns against racial discrimination in the period from the 1940s up to the present day.

This free 120 page resource pack consists mainly of stories and accounts, written and in some cases on audio and video, that I have collected together. I have organised the materials in 9 themes. It is not intended that you use all the resources here. On the contrary, it is entirely up to you to make use of whichever resources you find useful and in whatever order you choose.

The 9 themes are:         

  • Family Histories – page 4
  • Migrant Stories – page 12
  • Stories for Children and Young People – page 27
  • Black History – page 45
  • The Slave Trade – page 62
  • Birmingham and the Slave Trade – page 78
  • South Asian History – page 89
  • The Handsworth Riots – page 99
  • Some reading for teachers – page 104

This pack was produced in association with BCU, Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) and Birmingham Race Impact Group (BRIG). The pack was first made available in January and can be accessed on the BEP website – contact Lucy Kevern. It has also been publicised to members by Birmingham NEU. It can be downloaded at Teaching Pack FINAL PDF

I hope that, following the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, teachers will want to make use of it in the coming autumn term to explore issues that the Games raise.

Richard Hatcher




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