Taking place in the month of October, Black History Month is the central point of focus for a nationwide celebration of Black History, Arts and Culture throughout Britain. The month of October was selected by the Greater London Council to coincide with the Marcus Garvey celebrations and the Jubilee; a symbolic bringing together of a British institution and the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. To celebrate this, we’ve created a library of our titles that look at black Britain. Some of the books chosen are powerful political acts of rewriting; they are histories; chronicles of radical movements; and scholarship that traces the formation of black British identity. These are Pluto’s essential titles on black Britain:
Reimaging Britain: 500 Years of Black and Asian History by Ron Ramdin
Many people’s understanding of multiculturalism is that it is a twentieth-century phenomenon, beginning with the Windrush generation, becoming the – all too fragile – multicultural ‘conviviality’ of the present day. Ron Ramdin disrupts this fallacy, presenting the long history of Black and Asian people in the British Isles, spanning a 500-year period, from 1500 to the present day. In bringing the largely hidden histories of these immigrant communities to the fore, Ron Ramdin’s wide-ranging study is an act of rewriting that challenges conventional histories of the British Isles.
Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer
A deeply political history of black people in Britain, Peter Fryer reveals how Africans, Asians and their descendants, previously hidden from history, have profoundly influenced and shaped events in Britain over the last two thousand years. In the foreword to the 2010 edition, Paul Gilroy attends to the politics of the project, writing that ‘by showing where the labour and imagination of diverse black people had contributed to the making and re-making of Britain, shaping its radical traditions, social institutions and political habits, Staying Power answered the nationalism and racism that obstructed the paths to authentic inclusion and belonging.’ Originally published in the 1980s, the book’s longevity and continued relevance evidences its central place in the formation of black British identity, whilst emphasising the significance of Fryer’s critical engagement with the historiographies.
The Changing Pattern of Black Politics in Britain by Kalbir Shukra
Looking at the history of black political consciousness from the 1950s, starting with early instances of black organisation, to the deliberations over black Labour Party factions, and more recent issues arising from race, class and social change in the 1990s and beyond, Shukra demands a reassessment of treatise of race since the 1950s. The book engages with a range of black epistemologies. Shukra’s contrasting of strategies and modes of theorising race in the UK and the US demonstrates her recognition of a black diaspora, and the shared knowledges, experiences and politics that can produce. Her attention to the tensions between Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, prompts an analysis of the politics of ‘blackness’. She concludes that the key issue in black politics has always been the need for acceptance by the host society and polity. The seemingly narrow perspective of black resistance movements and politics in fact allows for a scopic look at the black British experience.
Black People in the British Empire by Peter Fryer
A sequel to the much-acclaimed Staying Power, Fryer’s book is similarly predicated on the belief that knowledge of Black history is not just important to Black people, but to white people too and integral to building a truly convivial multicultural nation. Fryer exposes the cruelties, exploitation and oppression enacted upon black people during the reign of the British Empire and in doing so figures them into the nation’s history. This action shows that black Britons are not external to British history, or from the legacy of Imperial might, but are indivisible from it.
A Different Hunger: Writings on Black Resistance by A. Sivanandan
Counteracting prevailing ideas that allowed racism to proliferate was the sole focus of A. Sivanandan’s work. In his writing he sought to make sense of the presence of non-white immigrants, showing that it was related to the country’s colonial history and economic needs. He resisted the idea that the black population – the victims of racism – were the problem, instead showing that it was white society and government and state policies that enabled and maintained racism. This book is a history of those that do the same. Looking at black struggles against racisim from the 1940s to the uprisings of Brixton and Toxteth in the 1980s, his work responds to the actions of the most discriminated against in society.
Catching History on the Wing: Race, Culture and Globalisation by A. Sivanandan
A highly politicised group of social workers, teachers, undergraduates and their lecturers, youth leaders, and members of emerging Black youth and feminist organisations emerged during the 1970s and 1980s, and the work of A. Sivanandan bore a profound influence on their lives and political thought. To quote Colin Prescod’s foreword, ‘writing, for Sivanandan, is just another way of fighting’ and this book, consisting of various articles that span Sivanandan’s career, illustrates that. Each article was specially selected for their relevance to today’s most pressing issues, the essay on Racism Awareness Training, highlights the dangers of personalising anti-racist measures, has relevance in the age of ‘Prevent’. ‘New circuits of imperialism’ looks – in part – at the effect of globalised mass culture, which today is compounded by the Internet’s sovereignty. His scholarship on Asian and Afro-Caribbean struggles in Britain situates Black Lives Matter and the Shutdown campaign in a historical lineage, likewise the renewed discussion of ‘Political Blackness’. Sivanandan has been writing for over forty years and this is the definitive collection of his work.
All books are available to buy on the Pluto website