I originally wrote this blog post during the George Floyd protests, at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was prompting students to reconsider their own fields in a much more compelling way than ever before. Since then, numerous resources have been created and also brought to my attention. It is excellent news that many in our field engaged with the movement, but this also means that it is impossible to include them all in one short blog post. I have chosen the ones I find more relevant for GCSE and A-Level Students. Scroll to the bottom for the latest additions, and please do let me know if you know of any other accessible links for secondary-aged students.
When starting to study the ancient world, many people ask this:
Were all Romans white... and were their slaves black?
What was it like to be black in Antiquity?
Is Classics a haven for white supremacists?
I've searched the internet for valuable resources so that you can dive in and start thinking about life in the ancient world, the projection of modern concepts into Antiquity and the importance of political engagement for all classicists.
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Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. A fantastic lecture by Mary Beard on whiteness and the ancient world:
2. This Forbes article by Sarah Bond that sadly attracted quite a lot of attention from white supremacists but succeeded in making the issue of white supremacism in Classics more visible.
3. A very interesting article by Sarah Derbew in the Getty Museum's blog,
along with access to plenty of images: An Investigation of Black Figures in Classical Greek Art. If you find her work interesting, you should take a look at her latest publication, Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity.
For a thorough look at colour in Classical art and the study of race in Antiquity, 'The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Antiquity' by Margaret Talbot is a great resource with plenty of links.
An interesting review of the way we learn about ancient Britannia can be found in the article 'Roman Britain in Black and White'.
Classics is slowly catching up in engaging with Critical Race Theory. Here are some articles that you will find very useful on the topic:
This long feature of Dan-el Padilla in the New York Times provides a very insightful look. Elena Giusti is also a specialist in the field and has recently published very relevant blogposts: Race Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Classics Classroom and Centring Africa in Greek and Roman Literature, while Decolonising the Classics Classroom.
For a very general overview of the concept of race across time, the Wikipedia summary offers a simple starting point with plenty of links to choose your own investigative journey.
An excellent source of ideas including a very thorough bibliography can be found in the Multiculturalism, Race and Ethnicity in Classics Consortium (MRECC), the antiracist resources in the Society for Classical Studies, and the Equality and Inclusion Resources from Warwick University.
Are you thinking about a degree in Classics?
If you are considering studying Classics at university, it is important that you check the programs at different universities, as well as their response to calls for a change in Classics. Some universities have been very proactively confronting these issues, and this reflects in their curriculum. This is the case of the Classics Department at Warwick, whose example and application to the courses you can find here, or look at their module 'Africa and the Making of Classical Literature' here as an example of what they do.