Sacked Black history pioneer nominated for top award

A banner reading 'Celebrating Black History Month in Newham'

Newham-based academic Hakim Adi, who has pioneered the teaching of black history in Britain, has been nominated for a major national award in the midst of controversy over his dismissal from Chichester University. 

By Neandra Etienne

Newham-based academic Hakim Adi
Newham-based academic Hakim Adi

A campaign was launched to save Newham-based academic Hakim Adi’s job and thousands of supporters signed a petition expressing fears that Professor Adi’s redundancy and the suspension of his ground-breaking master’s degree course on The History of Africa and the African Diaspora was a major blow to the teaching of black history in Britain. 

Now Professor Adi has been nominated for the prestigious Wolfson History Prize where he could win up to £50,000. 

He said: “Being shortlisted is extremely important not just for me but for all of us who have worked so hard to study, research and write about this history, a history which is so often hidden and marginalised.” 

The university of Chichester said the course he was teaching was suspended because it is not financially viable, but the union representing university teachers, the University and College, slammed the decision. 

Jo Grady, the Union General Secretary described the decision to sack Professor Adi’, the UK’s first African-British professor of history and to shut down a course created to train black academics, was “nothing less than an attack on black academia”. 

Professor Adi’s course aimed to train black academics and Grady added that the decision underlined why it was “no surprise that only one per cent of UK professors are black.” 

Professor Adi, who has lived in Newham since 1979, told Newham Voices: “Black History, meaning the history of African and Caribbean people, is part of the history of Britain and world history. It’s important that nobody is left out of history. It must include us all.” 

Professor Adi’s place on the 2023 Wolfson History Prize shortlist follows publication of his recent book African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History. The prize recognises and celebrates books which combine excellence in research with readability. 

The winner, who will be announced at a ceremony on 13 November, will receive £50,000 with shortlisted authors receiving £5,000 each. The prize is awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity with a focus on research and education.