Black History at the Crossroads: Bonnie Greer OBE in conversation
When the history of people is so complex, how can historians cut through politics and myth in order to get to the facts in a way that still allows for nuance?
In a world that seems more polarised than ever, writer Bonnie Greer will use her extensive research into Black history to reveal how people – their lives, beliefs, and behaviours – have rarely ever been black and white.
To mark Black History Month, acclaimed writer, playwright, and former Trustee of the British Museum, Bonnie Greer OBE were in discussion for an evening where the complex and largely unheard stories of people of African descent from across the world and across the ages are brought to life.
Whilst researching for her acclaimed Audible series In Search of Black History, Bonnie came face-to-face with a wealth of important figures – saints, philosophers, warrior women, and king’s heralds – whose place in Western history had been hitherto sidelined.
She will share stories of the unique lives that have been lost, hidden, and distorted down the centuries. She will also speak of the need for historians and writers to disentangle fact from myth, and the trickier job of re-balancing narratives that have become entwined with politics, even if an exercise like this reveals uncomfortable paradoxes. Ultimately, Bonnie will explain why we shouldn’t shy away from paradox and nuance if we are to truly appreciate the richness and complexity of our shared human history.
Bonnie Greer OBE, is an American-British playwright, novelist, and critic. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the eldest of seven children. Although she began writing plays at the age of nine, Bonnie initially set out on a legal career, the career of choice for a black girl coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. She decided to return to writing instead of pursuing the law and went on to study playwriting in Chicago and in New York. Bonnie has been a regular contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review and Question Time. She was a panel member on the show that also featured Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Commenting after the recording she called it ‘probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life’. The encounter formed the basis for her libretto for Errollyn Wallen’s opera, Yes(2011), commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre. Her plays have been produced on BBC Radio 3 & 4; BBC 2; and in the West End. She has won the Verity Bargate Award for best New Play and has been shortlisted for the John Whiting Award. In 2010 Bonnie was named by the Observer as one of the 300 Public Intellectuals in the UK – the only female playwright – and was also awarded an OBE. She has been Deputy Chair of the British Museum, and has served on the boards of RADA, London Film School and Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Bonnie is currently Chancellor of Kingston University. Her acclaimed eight-part Audible series In Search of Black History was released in 2020.
Miranda Lowe is a Principal Curator and museum scientist at the Natural History Museum, London. With over two decades worth of collections management and curatorial skills she cares for a plethora of historically-important specimens, she also presents lectures on both curatorial research and popular science. Her scientific expertise is in peracarid crustacea and in coral taxonomy. Miranda directly manages both the Crustacea and cnidaria, and associated minor phyla collections. Miranda is a founding member of Museum Detox, and also mentors students as part of the Social Mobility Foundation ‘Aspiring Professionals’ scheme and the Prince’s Trust. In 2013, Miranda was one of three finalists for the National Diversity Awards ‘Positive Role Model Award for Race, Religion & Faith’, receiving a Certificate of Excellence for her achievement. Most recently she has received the accolade of being listed in BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour Power List 2020: Our Planet.
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