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The History of A Black History Website

Over the years, The Black Presence in Britain Website has been through quite a few changes, and as it’s Black History Month, I thought I’d share some of the many different looks the site has gone through, with you, the loyal readers.

The Black Presence in Britain Website was first created back in 1998. I was at University, studying Politics. Part of my course was a history module called The Black & Asian Presence in Britain 1780-1945, Origins, Experiences and Changing Identities. My tutor was Dr Barbara Bush, of Staffordshire University.

Early Black Internet Pioneer

Being a penniless student, some of the textbooks on Black British History that I needed to excel at my studies were rather pricey.  I needed to hit the library, of course though, there were a limited amount of books available on this topic.  My thoughts turned to the Internet, and whilst the internet was still young in those days, I felt sure that I’d find a wealth of information there.  However, the truth of the matter was that most of the black history online at that time, was coming from the United States.

“I decided that I’d make my own website”

I decided that I’d make my own website dedicated to Black British history.  The aim was to make something that might be of some use to other students studying similar courses.  I never dreamed that all these years later, I’d still be writing the site.

Black Presence in Britain website 1998-2000
Built in Netscape Composer, Graphics edited in PaintShop Pro (ouch, those colours)

Back then, I didn’t really know anything about how to host a website. I didn’t even understand the importance of having a proper Domain names or url.

So I found a website that offered free hosting, it was called Geocities. Geocities allowed anyone to create a homepage and host it on the Geocities servers. You could add in extra snippets of code to extend your website’s functionality. Some people added counters and Guest Books. I think the original url of the site was something crazy like http://www.angelfire.com/ny/CoolLife

An Age of Black Website Collaboration

In the 90’s a lot of the black owned sites had a better network than exists today. It was the Pre Facebook era and we all collaborated and shared content.  I allowed my site content to be shared on the popular site Blacknet. The pages are still there today, although somewhat tucked away.

By the turn of the Millenium,  the site had taken on a different style. I wanted a three column look to try to emulate the newspaper websites.

Black Presence Website 2000
HTML coding with three columns.

2001

Black Presence 2001
Black Presence 2001

2003

The Black Presence in Britain 2003
The Black Presence in Britain 2003

2004

Black Presence 2004
Black Presence 2004

Black Presence Goes Dynamic

Around 2006, the site had about 60 pages. I was beginning to find it almost impossible to maintain the site using just html. I was aware that I could improve the management of the website by using a database and a dynamic website language such as ASP or PHP.

In the end I chose PHP due to the type of web hosting I had. That was quite a learning curve as I’d already learned some ASP and making websites with it at work, but PHP it was. It made building the Black Presence site so much easier, and I quickly increased the number of biographies on the site.

Black Presence in Britain PHP
Black Presence upgraded to PHP. 2006

I also thought we’d have a brief departure from red and run with blue for a while.

Black British Forums

It was at this time when The forums were really busy. We had some really great contributors back in those days, We also had our fair share of Forum trolls too, but they all helped to make the a community pretty vibrant place to be.

Black British Forums
Black British Forums

Sadly though, the spammers got the better of the system that used PHPBB2 they relentlessly spammed the forum, slowly driving the regular users away. In the end I decided to close the Forums, and despite trying to revive them several times the spammers kept getting in. It was time to find a better platform.  I’d been hearing a lot about a platform called WordPress.

Moving Black Presence to WordPress

After playing around with Drupal for a few months, and hating it. I settled on WordPress. I thought I’d download a copy first, and build a test website on my home server. WordPress really was so easy to understand from an admin point of view, and very easy for users to work with I knew that it was the right platform for the Black Presence in Britain. I played around with a couple of themes and looks before I got it to the present look.

First WordPress version
2009 WordPress
Second WordPress version
Second WordPress version
The Penultimate WordPress build
The Penultimate WordPress build 2011 / 2012

The Future For Black Presence?

I work in Web Marketing and I have noticed that lot of the web has come full circle. We are going back to simpler layouts, better text, less flashy stuff, and simple navigation structures. That’s almost certainly going to be the way this site goes. Right now though, that’s taking some serious planning. There are a lot of articles that need to be migrated properly or I risk losing traffic and alienating old visitors.

Ultimately I want to harness the power of our social media following where Black Presence has literally thousands of followers and fans. I always try to put a timescale on these things and life keeps getting in the way. Remember this site is run without external funding or sponsorship.

Whatever happens, I do hope that you have enjoyed the site over the years and that you will continue to enjoy it and contribute to it in the future. Thanks you all, you made this site great.

Please leave a message below if you have been a member in the past or have found the content on this site useful.

7 thoughts on “The History of A Black History Website

  • 14th October 2013 at 10:50 am
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    Congratulations to Black Presence for 15 years of excellence in Black history in the digital sphere. Thank you for your wonderful contribution.

    Reply
    • Profile photo of Phil Gregory
      27th October 2013 at 9:54 am
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      Thanks so much for your positive words. This site will continue to strive to make black history information more publically accessible.

      Reply
  • 26th April 2015 at 4:00 pm
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    Thanks for all your work. I wonder what you think of the present state of Black British History now–is enough local research being done? And if so is it collated effectively?

    Reply
  • 11th June 2015 at 2:32 am
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    Hi
    I hope this email finds you well.

    In the interests of maintaining that which has been started, I just thought I should share with your site that on 1st June 2014 I was appointed as the Poet Laureate to the Mayor of Walsall. Unless records to the contrary are found I think it may be safe to suggest that this appointment represents the first of its kind for the Britafrican Caribbean community that have lived and continue to live in the town.
    The appointment was for one year and was an amazing experience. A collection of some of the poems that gained me the recognition that led to the term are accessible via the link.
    Please be my guests.
    regards
    Peace

    Reply
  • 22nd September 2015 at 7:42 pm
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    It is well known that African sculpture affected what became the Cubist-style of late 19th/early 20thcs. Europe.
    Not nearly so well is Black influences on European music. On page 83 of his “Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain”, Peter Fryer (1984) refers to so-called “Turkish” orchestras of the late 18th/early 19th cs. were swiftly lacking Turks and were replaced by Blacks. So much so, the Turkish ambassador to Prussia felt able to dismiss them as having nothing Turkish about them.
    Fryer (ib.) cites a British musicologist surnamed as Farmer describing these mainly Black orchestras as seriously influencing such as Mozart, Beethoven, etc.
    Fryer’s (ib.) pp. 428, 429/30 refers to Beethoven composing music for the Black musician named George Bridgetower. One recognition of his talent was his being 1st violinist in the private orchestra of the Prince of Wales. In 1802, Bridgetower travelled to Europe where he met and befriended Beethoven.
    Regards,
    H. Bourne

    Reply
    • 3rd July 2016 at 11:34 am
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      Hyra you to remember that classical music has a stronge moorish influence and you look at chevalier de st George and the likes other moorish philiphers Zayah means black bird

      Reply

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