Celebrating Diversity

Get inspired by Black History Month 2021

Proud To Be

As Black History Month UK draws to a close, we’ve selected some great, inspiring resources that represent this year’s theme, Proud to Be.

Are you familiar with the late and great Toni Morrison? A writer, editor and professor, her impressive bibliography spans the full range of human emotion and experience, from the haunting Beloved to the riveting Jazz. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, it’s also worth taking the time to read her non-fiction work Playing in the dark: whiteness and the literary imagination.

David Olusoga (OBE) is a black British historian and television broadcaster/presenter who has spent a significant portion of his life battling misconceptions and shining lights on the forgotten. Take a moment to have a look through some of his works:

LGBTQ+ voices

With the theme Proud to Be, we cannot in good conscience go without mentioning some of the great LGBTQ+ figures in black history. A literary great, James Baldwin was a black gay American who turned his experiences into art and activism. Some of his best known works, The Fire Next Time and Giovanni’s Room, are available in the library, along with the compilation of his essays exploring race, sexuality, and social class Notes of a Native Son.

Just as notable is the self-described ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’, Audre Lorde, whose poetry and activism had no small impact on the world. Explore some of that impact with her poetry and essay collection Your silence will not protect you or her autobiographical novel Zami: a new spelling of my name.

Inspiring figures

A lady so great in her field we have a building named for her, Mary Seacole was a Jamaican-British nurse and businesswoman who set up the famous ‘British Hotel’ behind the lines during the Crimean War, breaking barriers and saving countless lives. Read about her extraordinary life in Mary Seacole: the making of the myth or Mary Seacole: the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea.

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, by Christina Sharpe, is an interesting breakdown of black art and black representation in media and cultural works, while I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite explores black motherhood in a country that portrays a very narrow view of motherhood in media.

Sound and vision

If reading isn’t your thing, try this fascinating documentary on the birth of Urban British Reggae through the difficult Thatcher years: Reggae in a Babylon.

Or revisit some old school CDs and listen to some classics from Dame Shirley Bassey, the Welsh Diva sang a notable three Bond film themes.

Then there’s Hidden Figures, a 2017 film about the incredible black women without whom the moon landing would not have happened – even if you’ve seen it before, it’s such a great watch it could surely do with another. Last but not least, absolutely worth a watch is imagine… Lemn Sissay: The Memory of Me. This documentary followed the publication of his memoirs My name is why – the story of growing up the only black child in a sleepy town outside Wigan and a journey of self-discovery.

Broadening our search, The National Archives also host Black British history on record, a resource designed to support the discovery of documents (birth certificates to newspaper clippings) relating to Black British history. There’s also the Black Cultural Archives in London, the only national heritage centre dedicated to the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain.

Leisure reading

We round off our list with just a few honourable mentions from our Leisure Reading collection, available on the ground floor of Clifford Whitworth Library, for when you want to take a break from academia:

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