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Schoolchildren taught St Hadrian was ‘black’ scholar – even though he wasn’t

St Hadrian
St Hadrian was offered the chance to become Archbishop of Canterbury by the Pope after arriving in Britain from north Africa

Schoolchildren have been taught that St Hadrian was black despite there being no evidence for the claim.

The Dark Age abbot St Hadrian of Canterbury has been referred to as a “black scholar” in primary school teaching material, despite the holy man being of north African origin and not black.

The seventh-century abbot has been included in numerous overviews of black British history, including those provided by charities and local councils.

One black British history presentation, devised for KS2 pupils and seen by The Telegraph, states that in 670 “a black scholar becomes abbot of an abbey in Canterbury”.

The material adds: “Abbot Hadrian, who was an African-born scholar and noted teacher, became abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul.”

Hadrian, who was offered the chance to become Archbishop of Canterbury by the Pope after moving to Britain, was believed to have been born in the region of Cyrenaica in what is now modern-day Libya, making him possibly of Berber descent.

The claim that he was a black scholar appears in a black British history presentation distributed by Twinkl, a UK company which produces educational material for teachers by teachers, and The Telegraph understands it has been used in schools.

Another Twinkl resource used in schools, a timeline for KS2 pupils covering The Black History of Britain, includes Hadrian as its second entry.

Historian Dr Zareer Masani
Historian Dr Zareer Masani says it's 'absurd that wokedom is reaching across millennia to claim people of colour' - Jamie Lorriman

Hadrian has also been included in a black British history teaching resource for secondary school provided by HFL Education, an educational support service part-owned by Hertfordshire Council, and a similar timeline created by the Surrey borough council of Spelthorne.

He also features in an online teaching resource provided by English Heritage titled Black Lives in Britain. Elsewhere, the charity makes clear he was born in what is now Libya.

The claims that Hadrian was black and his inclusion in black history resources has been criticised by historian Dr Zareer Masani, who said it was “absurd that wokedom is reaching across millennia to claim people of colour”.

Dr Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert, an author and director of the race relations group Don’t Divide Us, has voiced her concerns about the approach being taken to educating young people about British history.

She said: “The compulsive search for ‘lost’ black Britons is not only embarrassing, but it weakens and distorts the truth value of the claim being made.

“This is bad enough for content aimed at adults. For school purposes, where the main aim is to educate the young, it is unconscionable.

“What kind of society is so casual about curriculum content, that it either thinks political interests supersede educational ones, or it can’t tell the difference anymore?’

The branding of Hadrian as a black historical figure follows a similar approach taken to the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who died near what is now York in 211 AD.

The African-born ruler of Middle Eastern and Italian descent appears on numerous lists of black Britons despite not being black, and the Museum of Cambridge recently hosted black history lectures that included a talk on the ancient ruler.

Twinkl has been contacted for comment.