To mark the start of Black History Month, our Director of Engagement Gillian Jackson has put together a short list of essential reading this October, to help you expand your knowledge of the Black literary canon.
Going through school, I learned history from a white-centric point of view. I remember visiting the British Museum as part of a module on African Art for GCSE, and at no point was it mentioned that the objects we painted were all stolen.
The Brutish Museums sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums. Since its first publication, museums across the western world have begun to return their Bronzes to Nigeria, heralding a new era in the way we understand the collections of Empire we once took for granted.
This book is a must read for those of you interested in heritage and contested heritage.
Michael Donkor is the freshest new voice in Black British literature, and Hold crosses borders and brings Ghanaian culture to life in Britain. It is an intimate coming-of-age novel moving between Ghana and London. It’s a story of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness; of learning what we should cling to, and when we need to let go.
This is the tale of Neville Staple, the frontman of The Specials. Set in 1979 in Thatcher’s Britain, he recounts his struggles in a country crippled by strikes, joblessness and a race and class divide. He colours this time with anecdotes of sound system clashes, rude boy culture, and you can feel the music with every story he tells.
I must admit, I’ve not read this one yet but it’s on my bookshelf. I watched a documentary on Zephaniah’s life and it made me recognise the pivotal role he’s had as a commentator of social justice in Britain, as one of the first poets of his kind. If you are not familiar with his poetry, then buy a few of his books while you are at it!
A Black History of Britain is a history book we should all have. It’s a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. The text flips between research, original records and contemporary interviews, and tells a rich history reaching back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare’s Othello.
Hopefully these books will help you to understand the context of our futures, and also it’s a brilliant time to celebrate some of the giants paving the way for us today.
If you are interested in doing wider reading or research on Black History Month, then head – HERE.