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St Gabriel's pupils enjoy historic Black Classicists exhibition at school



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Pupils at St Gabriel’s in Newbury have been enjoying a historic Black Classicists exhibition at the school.

The exhibition, curated by American professor Michele Valerie Ronnick, showcases the work of African-American classicists who broke down barriers of colour in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

They wrote Greek and Latin textbooks, lectured widely and published extensively.

Head of Classics Marc Ives in action (56874698)
Head of Classics Marc Ives in action (56874698)

The exhibition has toured the USA widely, but until this year had never been seen outside America.

A spokesperson from St Gabriel’s said during the George Floyd trial in the USA, the school’s pupils wanted to know more about issues of colour and race in the ancient world.

“For a number of reasons, the world of Classics has traditionally been seen as a predominantly white and western field, despite the fact that ‘classics’ covers not only ancient Greece, Rome and western Europe, but also Africa and Asia,” they added.

Marc Ives and former mayor Billy Drummond (56874694)
Marc Ives and former mayor Billy Drummond (56874694)

The school’s head of classics, Mark Ives, contacted Professor Ronnick to see if it would be possible to show the exhibition in the UK.

She immediately agreed and the project, with the help of a grant from Harvard University Press, was up and running.

The exhibition has had an official opening at St Gabriel's, with an opening address from Professor Ronnick, and also been seen at Oxford University, Cheney School in Oxford and Downe House School, in Cold Ash.

The exhibition at St Gabriel's (56874707)
The exhibition at St Gabriel's (56874707)

It has future showings scheduled for Cambridge and Bristol Universities, the Ure Museum Reading and schools from as far apart as Bristol to Doncaster.

At the Oxford showing, St Gabriel’s Sixth Form classicists were invited to give a presentation on how the exhibition began, why it matters, and the classicists themselves.

They also discussed the direction that Classics as a discipline should progress, “to ensure fantastic academic work such as this is not hidden again”.

St Gabriel's sixth formers in Oxford (56874705)
St Gabriel's sixth formers in Oxford (56874705)

The then-Newbury mayor Billy Drummond attended the exhibition’s grand opening at St Gabriel’s on May 10.

He said: “It was wonderful to be invited to the Black Classicists’ event.

“What a truly insightful, thought-provoking event to learn about the black community who have given back to education and made a difference in history.”



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