Black History Month Reading List: Black History is World History

Collage of covers of books featured in the post

Our second reading list for Black History Month 2021 is inspired by the Black History is World History Educational Sessions that we have been running on Wednesday evenings throughout October, with Black History Educator Linford Sweeney. Each session focused on a different theme, including Ancient African Civilisations and Empires; Trade, Enslavement and Resistance; Black British History to 1945; and The Windrush Generation and UK Civil Rights.

Here is our selection of books for adults and children inspired by the sessions, including some recommendations from Linford himself. All of these books can be accessed in our Library during Central Library opening hours.

Written by Annie Dickinson, RACE Centre Library Assistant.

For Adults:

Cover of How Europe underdeveloped Africa

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. Guyanese historian Walter Rodney’s classic analysis of the history of colonialism and imperialism was first published in the 1970s and remains relevant to this day. It makes the powerful argument that wealthy countries and international capitalism are directly responsible for the impoverishment of the African continent.

The Lost Kingdoms of Africa by Gus Casely-Hayford. Combining history and archaeology with travel stories and anecdotes, this book presents a journey through the pre-colonial history of Africa. It tells the story of ancient Africa’s major kingdoms, civilizations and cultures.

Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South by Stephanie M. H. Camp. This book explores acts of resistance by enslaved women – an area often overlooked by historians. Camp looks at the different ways in which women in the Deep South resisted the brutal and dehumanizing effects of slavery: from escape attempts, to holding secret parties and posting abolitionist material on their cabin walls.

Resistance, Rebellion & Revolt: How Slavery was Overthrown by James Walvin. This book shows that resistance by enslaved people played a crucial role in bringing about the downfall of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. From outright rebellion to smaller acts of defiance, Walvin looks at the ways that the enslaved secured their own freedom.

Black and British: a Forgotten History by David Olusoga. Black and British tells the story of Britain’s long and complex relationship with people of African and Caribbean descent. It encompasses Roman Britain, the British Empire, both world wars and the industrial revolution, and shows that the history of Black Britain is the history of the nation as a whole.

Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer. First published in 1984, Peter Fryer’s influential study is the definitive history of Black people in Britain. Beginning with the Roman period and ending with the Black uprisings of the early 1980s, this is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in Black History.

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala. Part memoir, part polemic, Natives recounts the hip-hop artist and writer Akala’s personal experiences growing up mixed-race and working-class in the 1980s and 90s, and demonstrates the intersections of race and class in Britain.

With Hope in their Eyes by Vivienne Francis. This book is a compilation of the true stories of some of the early Black settlers who arrived in Britain from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush. The stories span fifty years and tell of the hopes, dreams and experiences of the Windrush generation.

For Children:

African Beginnings by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson. This picture book tells the story of ancient African kingdoms in an engaging and accessible way, with sections on the history of each kingdom or area and on ancient African culture. Illustrated with beautiful paintings by Floyd Cooper.

Unheard Voices, collected by Malorie Blackman. This books brings together stories, poems and first-hand narratives on the topic of slavery, by both those who were slaves and contemporary writers, including Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Langston Hughes and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin. The true story of Baroness Floella Banjamin, who came to England from Trinidad aged 10 as part of the Windrush generation. The story follows Floella’s experience moving home, making friends, and adjusting to life in a new country.

The Story of the Windrush by K. N. Chimbiri. This book tells the story of the Windrush in a way that is accessible to young readers, using illustrations, photographs, text and timelines. This book tells the story of the Windrush in a way that is accessible to young readers, using illustrations, photographs, text and timelines.