Essential Information

National Maritime Museum
Queen's House
Key Stage Key Stage 2
School Subject Art, History
Resource Type Lesson plans

What is in this resource?

A collection of tools to help you spark inclusive learning about diversity, citizenship and our shared Black British history in the classroom, all year round. Explore the slider below to get inspiration for your lessons and creative activities to engage your students.

Black History at Royal Museum Greenwich

Black British History is more than just the history of the Black experience or heroes. Black British History is our shared British history. Explore this slider and discover different objects, artworks, films, discussion points and classroom activities that can be incorporated into lessons and inspire creative learning back in the classroom.


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Olaudah Equiano was an adventurer, author and abolitionist. Equiano writes that he was born in Eboe, what is now modern day Nigeria. 

After being enslaved as a child, Equiano was sold to a Royal Navy officer. As an adult Equiano worked hard to buy his freedom, and joined many others to campaign for an end to the Transatlantic slave trade.

In 1789 Equiano published his book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano which played an important part in the creation of the British Slave Trade Act in 1807. 

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Classroom activity

  • Continue to see how people today are finding creative ways of celebrating the contributions of people like Equiano, whose achievements in the past were not widely recognised. 
  • Learn more about the Transatlantic slave trade by visiting Understanding Slavery website .
  • Discuss more recent events, which are history in the making such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the experience of Black and ethnic minority communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Watch a spoken word poet respond to Equiano's story

Poet Tatiana Ellis performs her powerful piece inspired by the biography of Olaudah Equiano - African, adventurer, author, abolitionist

Why not create your own spoken word performance?

Watch Tatiana's short tutorial and learn three simple steps to you can create your own spoken word poem.

Create your own spoken word

Spoken word is a form of poetry that is written to be said and heard, rather than read. 

Discussion points

How do you feel after watching this performance by Tatiana Ellis? How would you respond to Equiano's story? What do you feel passionately enough about to speak out? 

Classroom activity

1. Choose a topic that is important to you. Write down why it is important and how you feel about it.

2. Put this into a structure. It doesn’t have to be linear, but think how your structure will impact people. 

3. Think about the performance of your poem.  You will want the words to flow into each other and fit together, so that it makes an impact.

How can art be used to celebrate the past?

Images (portraits, statues and busts) can help form a record of our story. Despite his important historical position, there is only one image of Olaudah Equiano that was recorded from life.

This sculpture of Olaudah Equiano was made by Christy Symington MRSS to celebrate his life and achievements. The shape of Africa forms the back of Equiano’s shoulders to symbolise his heritage.

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Create your own art to celebrate the past

Discussion points

Whose life and achievements do you think should be celebrated? 

Which shape would they choose to represent their heritage?

Classroom activity

Design your own sculpture to remember the achievements of this person. 

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Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools is a large oil painting by Kehinde Wiley who uses his art to celebrate black culture represent important ideas. This artwork shows four figures taking a journey in a rickety boat with a tree trunk growing where the mast would be. 

The painting challenges legacies of Empire by responding to old master paintings: in this case, Hieronymus Bosch’s panel of the same name in the collection of the Louvre. The painting makes visible not only the problems that confront contemporary migrants, but legacies of maritime history such as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.


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Classroom activity

Look at Ship of fools by Kehinde Wiley and choose one of the characters to think about. Can you finish the sentences below as if you were them? Can you turn your sentences into a poem?

I feel...
I hope...
I am leaving...
I am going on a Journey to...
This tree reminds me of...



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Nelson's Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare MBE

 Watch this film to discover the story behind this inspirational artwork.

Find out more

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle is a scaled-down replica of Nelson's flagship HMS Victory. This artwork questions British expansion in trade and empire made possible through Nelson's victories at sea.

Shonibare's trademark material is the brightly coloured ‘African’ batik fabric we can see on the sails. This type of fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence. 

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Classroom activity

In groups become art detectives and investigate:

  1. What was Nelson famous for? 
  2. Why do you think Shonibare has used ‘African’ material?
  3. What do you think is Shonibare's message (in a bottle)? 
  4. Can you make your own message in a bottle?
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Black sailors

Watch these films to learn the story of John Simmonds (1783–1858) a black sailor who served with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Diversity, Art and Citizenship Key Stage 2 schools session

Explore our fascinating objects and artworks celebrating contributions of Black people from the African diaspora throughout history and today in our Diversity, Art and Citizenship Key Stage 2 schools session. This digital session is available throughout the year with National Curriculum links in History, Art and Citizenship.