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Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Teni Gogo

(History BA, 2017)

This Black History Month, History Teacher at Ark Pioneer Academy, Teni Gogo, has shared how studying aspects of Black History during her degree at Queen Mary uncovered a passion for History that she has taken with her into her teaching career, and how her work enables her to continue discovering and passing on the wonders that History can offer.


Headshot of alumna, Teni Gogo. She is wearing a white vest top and is smiling.

Why did you choose to study History at Queen Mary?   

I chose to study History at Queen Mary because I was completely won over by the breadth of topics available in the second and third year. I found that other universities were quite narrow in their offer. 

What did you enjoy most about your degree and experience at Queen Mary and how did this experience help prepare you for your career? 

I most enjoyed studying Kate Lowe’s module on Renaissance Encounters in Africa. I found it so deeply fascinating. It revealed an entirely new period of history that challenged how I approached almost every topic. Being able to look for new material and write on topics almost entirely uncovered helped me to experience the ever-changing nature of history as a discipline. This set me up for a career in teaching, in which I could share this process in the classroom. 

During your studies, you chose several modules which allowed you to explore aspects of Black history. How important was it for you to have these options and how did this compare to your pre-university education? 

It was SO important. I had been fortunate enough to be someone who just enjoyed my secondary history education despite not seeing myself in it. Without encountering the relationship between European merchants and African rulers in the renaissance era, the intricacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, together with aspects of post-colonial Africa, it is highly unlikely I would have continued in my pursuit of a career in History. It has set me up to make significant contributions to the History Teaching Community with a rigorous understanding of the African diaspora. 

Teaching might seem like the typical option, but it is the best thing I have ever done! Find a school that lets you really explore the discipline of the classroom, and it will be like you never left university – you get to keep learning and passing it onto a generation who will get to see themselves in the curriculum. 

Why do you think it’s important that we acknowledge Black History Month each year? 

While many people are significantly more aware of the ways in which Black History is a part of British History, I believe it is still important that we make time to reflect on how far we have moved forward and how far we can still go. More work needs to be done for the work many historians are doing to become part of the popular consciousness – for there to be a general awareness of the significance and longevity of Black British History (not something that is important for those across the Atlantic). 

You currently work as a History teacher. How do you acknowledge the month with your students, and have you been able to make any great strides in incorporating more Black history into the curriculum in general? 

Our curriculum is one that is used across several schools and incorporates numerous voices. Our students do not have to explain why William Wilberforce was not the lone activist who ended slavery, but instead understand the significance of slave revolts, as well as the work of white and black abolitionists while they weigh up how much abolition actually changed life for people in Jamaica. This is not a testament to my work but the work of a broad and supportive History teaching community coming together to share their research and work. This is in the hope that we might provide students with a broad history curriculum in which they can come to understand the ‘connectedness’ of history and the importance of a variety of different figures – not just the traditional dominant white men. 

We have taken Black History month to show them what a curriculum might have looked like 20 years ago for them to understand why we make the choices we make, but also what they can do to broaden their knowledge. It is an opportunity for them to see that the job is not ‘done,’ but it is a chance to acknowledge progress and see how we can continue the fight to do ‘Justice to History’ (as Robin Whitburn and Abdul Mohamud would say!). 

As a History teacher, who from Black history do you enjoy teaching your students about most and why? 

Difficult question! It changes with every enquiry. Currently, it is Diego, who travelled with Francis Drake in his circumnavigation of the world. He shows the complexities of racism in the 16th/17th centuries – that Francis Drake would enslave black Africans on the same voyage where he would befriend a Cimarron (an African who escaped slavery in the Americas, or a descendant thereof). It always gets the students to think more deeply about the complexities of racism in modern society, being able to see the variety of factors that contribute to prejudices and racism. 

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates interested in studying or teaching History? 

Teaching might seem like the typical option, but it is the best thing I have ever done! Find a school that lets you really explore the discipline of the classroom, and it will be like you never left university – you get to keep learning and passing it onto a generation who will get to see themselves in the curriculum. Slowly, but surely, we might encourage more black students to study history at GCSE, A Level, Undergraduate level – addressing the huge gap in the academic field. To have a real chance at moving towards a reality where an understanding of the significance of Black British History is part of popular consciousness, we need more David Olusoga’s, more Hakim Adi’s and more Hannah Cusworth’s. That can start with you in the classroom… or you in the lecture hall. There is so much potential!



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