Black and British: An Illustrated History

Publisher: Macmillan

When he was growing up, David Olusoga didn’t think there had been any Black people in British history because nothing he learned at school told him that there was. When he wrote his book for adults, Black and British, a great number of parents got in touch and asked him to make a children’s version too.

In fact, there were Black people in Britain from Roman times, through the Tudor period – when Britain’s links with the outside world were growing – and into the Stuart period, when English merchants, along with the Stuart royalty, enslaved people from British colonies. In Georgian times, young black boys were often sold to rich British families as servants, brought from plantations in North America and the Caribbean on slave ships. And in Victorian times, even when slavery had been abolished in Britain, the Industrial Revolution still relied heavily on cotton grown by enslaved people.

Later, in World War Two, Black American GIs came to Britain, as did people from Jamaica on the Windrush in 1948, looking forward to making a new life in a Britain that treated them shamefully.

Illustrated with brilliant art by Melleny Taylor and Jake Alexander, this fascinating illustrated book also features key figures from Black British history such as World War One football star Walter Tull, Black Victorian celebrity Sarah Forbes Bonetta, and author and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, who was kidnapped from his home in West Africa at the age of 11 and sold as a slave, later writing a famous book about his experience, which helped persuade British people that slavery was wrong.

Olusoga tells the fascinating – and often heartbreaking - story of Black people in Britain’s history clearly, and with a focus on the real humans involved. Much of the book will doubtless also be an education for many parents, who will also not have been taught Black History while they were at school, as well as their children. This is a truly brilliant and well-realised book, and a must read for all.

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