Stephen Small: Black Europe

Stephen Small
16 May 2018
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Free drop-in event, no need to book
Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building

‘We are here because you were there!’ Black Europe as a Living Legacy of Colonialism.

Stephen Small, PhD Department of African American Studies University of California, Berkeley

"Europe is made up of at least 46 nations, and a population of more than 770 million people. Black people of African descent are estimated at more than 7 million people, with at least 90% of us in just 12 nations. These nations are the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium; Spain, Germany and Italy; Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

In this presentation, I bring Black people in Europe to the centre of academic and political analysis; and define, describe and elaborate the circumstances of Black people across these twelve nations today. Who are we? How did we get here (historically)? Where are we located? What are our economic, political and social circumstances? What are our main organizations, including Black women’s organisations? What are our activities and priorities?

Most studies of Black people in Europe highlight the distinct differences in each nation. For example, many Black people in the UK arrived from the 1950s, as British citizens, from nations colonised by Britain, and when we arrived we spoke English and were mainly Christians. Today, there are more nationally elected Black politicians in the UK than any other nation in Europe. In fact, the UK has 18 such politicians, while the other 11 nations collectively have a total of 4 nationally-elected Black politicians between them.

This contrasts sharply with the experience of Black people in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Italy; they arrived as refugees, from nations that had not been colonies, they did not speak the national language when they arrived and they were overwhelmingly Muslims. These nations have a total of 1 nationally-elected Black politician between them.

In this presentation, however, I highlight striking similarities in our experiences across these 12 Europe as a whole. Historically, this includes European nations working collectively through the processes of colonialism and imperialism to exploit African land and labor, they include direct and palpable legacies of colonialism and imperialism. And they include the active recruitment by governments and companies of hundreds of thousands of Black people to live and work in Europe. They also include institutional racism.

Today, in the 21st century, I describe these striking similarities with the concepts of ambiguous hyper-visibility, an entrenched vulnerability, and irrepressible resistance and resilience. Each of these experiences are inextricably gendered.

I conclude with a description of how Black organizations and Black women’s organizations across Europe have always resisted institutional racism and are at the forefront of social mobiliSation for social justice, equality and a more equitable and humane Europe."


Professor Stephen Small has taught in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley since 1994. He earned his PhD in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, (1989); his MSC in Social Sciences, from the University of Bristol (1983); and his BA (honours) in Economics and Sociology from the University of Kent at Canterbury (1979).

He has taught at universities and summer programs in England, France, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil and Zimbabwe. His most recent book is 20 Questions and Answers on Black Europe, Amrit Publishers, The Hague, 2018. He is co-editor of Global Mixed Race , 2014; co-editor of New Perspectives on Slavery and Colonialism in the Caribbean, 2012; and co-editor of Black Europe and the African Diaspora, 2009. His next book is tentatively entitled: “Inside the Shadows of the Big House: 21st Century Antebellum Slave Cabins and Heritage Tourism in Louisiana”, to be published in 2019.

Stephen Small was born and raised in Liverpool.

This event is part of our Ink and blood event series.