For many people, October marks the dawn of Autumn, that cosy rustic season synonymous with vibrant sepia colours, knitwear, pumpkin hot chocolates and the delightfully terrifying holiday that is Halloween. But did you know that October is also Black History Month in the U.K.? Black History Month is an annual observance that began in the U.K. in 1987 and its aim is to celebrate African and Caribbean history and culture as well as the successes and achievements made by many black and person-of-colour individuals.
Even though October is nearly over and Halloween is almost upon us, I decided to put together a list of four books that would be ideal reading in terms of learning about black history, predominantly in the U.K. but also in America.
Small Island by Andrea Levy – Set against the backdrop of World War II in 1940s London, Small Island tells the story of a Jamaican migrant couple; Gilbert and Hortense who rent the humble lodgings of a conservative English couple; Queenie and Bernard. Gilbert is a war veteran and his wife recently arrived from Jamaica. The two have hopes of living a better life in England, the ‘mother country’ but instead they encounter a life of hardship.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – This books analyses the real and very harmful effects of structural racism and how various institutions and systems in the U.K. are positioned in a way that marginalise and discriminate against black people. It presents a very well worded and multi-facted argument that challenges racist ideals of victimhood and uncovers a previously shrouded history of black people in the U.K. that predates the Windrush generation.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – Is a book that I am still currently reading but which addresses the very rich and unique history of afro hair as well as the racist systems in the U.K. that discriminate against what Western values deems to be ‘unruly’ and ‘untameable’ natural black hair.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi –
Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife.
The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light (A summary taken from Waterstones)
October may be almost over but these recommendations can be enjoyed at any time during the year. They share essential insight into the the history of black people in the U.K. and abroad, that is key to understanding the societal attitudes and structures of today and how our history has shaped them to oppress and discriminate against those deemed to be ‘other.’
Please let me know if there are any other like recommendations you would like to share in the comments below.
Black Lives Matter – https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Black History Month U.K. – https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/