In celebration of Black History Month we are delighted to announce the launch of a physical exhibition in the Classics Department hallway (pictured below). Reading University’s Classics Department is committed to decolonising the curriculum and challenging our preconceptions of the non-white world. Our students Chloe Gardner (BA Hons. 2021) and Edward Gregory (current 3rd-year undergraduate) created an online exhibit about Black African Authors in the Roman Empire in the wake of the University’s launch of its Race Equality Review on 24 May 2021. COVID-19 restrictions did not permit a physical exhibit at that time so we have re-animated this project here.
The three authors featured here are ancient African writers: Tertullian, a Berber; Terence, a Libyan; and Apuleius, a Numidian. These authors wrote broadly and across different genres, but each touched on the experiences of their people, even if in a satirical manner.
Throughout history, black and African voices have been silenced systematically to forge a narrative of white supremacy. By casting Western-minority groups as savage or uneducated natives, collective memory now recalls groups of people subdued and modernized by the West. Traditional practices regarding research and interpretation in the Classics discipline tend to reaffirm and strengthen the misconceptions associated with this flawed and dangerous narrative. The field of Classics has been dominated by white, male voices. Through telling stories relatable to them they created an echo chamber of information on the classical world. Perpetuating the idea of a white-washed ancient past is harmful, however, to all. In ignoring data and evidence for a society that was far more influenced by the East and South than was sometimes thought, Westerners have lost or hidden a wealth of knowledge, understanding and answers.
To read more about each of these north African authors and a suggested bibliography see our online exhibition at research.reading.ac.uk/curiosi/black-history.