As ever, we have a fantastic line-up of speakers for you, and we are going for shorter presentations so that there’s more discussion time.
We’ll get started with Children’s Publishing. There has been some progress in this area, as 10% of children’s books featured ethnic minority characters in 2019, compared with just 4% in 2017. But only 5% of these had ethnic minority main characters; which is just not good enough when we consider that over 30% of primary school children are from a minority ethnic background. You can read more details in the CLPE’s Reflecting Realities surveys. There is also the issue that between 2007 and 2017, fewer than 2% of all authors and/or illustrators of children’s books published in the UK were British people of colour. But there are reasons for optimism, including the Book Trust Represents project, and their #PassthePen initiative and the Scholastic Voices series. The panel will be chaired by the wonderful Catherine Johnson, who spoke to us at WHBBH3 back in 2015. She has authored several books for young people with Black British protagonists, including Hero, A Nest of Vipers, Sawbones and Freedom and is currently working on a TV drama series based on Black Tudors! He latest book, Queen of Freedom, which tells the story of Nanny of the Maroons, had just been shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize. She’ll be speaking to Kandace Chimbiri, also an author of Black history books for children (Secrets of the Afro Comb, 6,000 Years of Art and Culture, The Story of Early Ancient Egypt, Step Back in Time to Ancient Kush and The Story of the Windrush) who is now writing a prequel to her Windrush book for Scholastic, who will be producing wall charts and teaching resources to accompany both books. Scholastic have also recently published Diver’s Daughter: A Black Tudor story by another of our speakers, writer Patrice Lawrence, who is also on the Jhalak Prize shortlist for Eight Pieces of Silva, which has also been shortlisted for The Bookseller YA Prize. They’ll be joined by S.I. Martin, museum educator and author of children’s books Jupiter Williams and Jupiter Amidships, as well as Incomparable World which has just been reprinted by Penguin as part of the Black Britain, Writing Back series curated by Bernadine Evaristo. We’ll also hear from Karen Sands-O'Connor, author of Children’s Publishing and Black Britain 1965-2015 and teacher and writer Darren Chetty, a contributor to The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, who together have authored this series of articles in Books for Keeps examining the way black, Asian and minority ethnic voices have been represented in the English national story, through children’s literature. As you can tell by the length of this paragraph, I’m very excited to hear what they all have to say!
Next, we’ll look at the state of play in Educational Publishing. The need to get more Black British History into our classrooms has been a constant refrain at WHBBH events ever since they started back in 2014. I recently blogged on the subject with a list of 19 ideas of how to do so without waiting for the Government to take action. One of the points on the list was to work with educational publishers, so I’m really keen to hear what this panel has to say. Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum will be in the chair. I’m delighted she’ll be joining us as she’s been a driving force in pushing for change in the curriculum, producing this report on Black British History in the National Curriculum; working directly with schools, companies and non-profit organisations, and producing teaching resources including some in collaboration with the TES. We’ll be hearing from teacher and history education consultant Hannah Cusworth, who has worked with Oak Academy, The Historical Association, Schools History Project and BBC Teach, via a pre-recorded video. You can also see some of her TV interviews and newspaper comment pieces here. Joining us on the day will be publishers Janice Mansel-Chan (Oxford University Press) and William Goodfellow (Hodder Education), who are both beginning to include more Black British History in their materials, including the Hodder Teaching Black Tudors resources (coming out later this year) as well as WHBBH regulars, the wonderful educational consultancy Justice2History duo Abdul Mohamed and Robin Whitburn, who are also authors of several textbooks as well as Doing Justice to History: Transforming Black history in secondary schools. You can revisit some of their previous appearances, and other WHBBH panels on Education here.
After Lunch, we’ll examine Academic Publishing, with Dr. Meleisa Ono-George in the chair. This is of course a vital part of the jigsaw, as new knowledge continues to be exhumed from the archives, but are academic books prohibitively expensive and who gets access to online journals? Dr. Ono-George is a social-cultural historian of race and gender, with a focus on Black women’s histories in Britain and the Anglo-Caribbean and has recently been appointed as an Associate Professor at Queen’s College, Oxford. We'll have a pre-recorded interview with publisher Alison Welsby from Liverpool University Press, who commissioned Britain’s Black Past, edited by Gretchen Gerzina, which features contributions from many of the leading scholars of Black British History, including Chapter 1 on the John Blanke Project by our very own Michael Ohajuru. Then we'll hear from Dr. Kennetta Hammond Perry, author of London is the Place For Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race and the Director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre at De Montfort University. She was our keynote speaker at WHBBHX in Leicester in 2018, and we’re delighted to welcome her back. Helen Gilmour and Geraldine Richards who publish history journals at Routledge, Taylor and Francis will also bring their perspectives on this important aspect of academic history publishing.
Last but certainly not least, we’ll finish the day with a look at what is known in the trade as Trade Publishing, essentially commercial books aimed at ‘the general reader’, an area where last summer saw books by Black British authors topping both the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists for the first time. Our chair will be Kadija George MBE, literary activist, writer, poet and editor of SABLELitMag, and several anthologies including Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature and C3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (with Courttia Newland). We’ll have a video from Colin Grant, author of Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation, who recently recorded this excellent Thinking Black essay series for BBC Radio 3, launching WritersMosaic, an online platform for new writing from a mosaic of literary voices. Then we’ll hear from historian Robin Walker, ‘The Black History Man’; Patrick Vernon OBE, the co-author with Angelina Osbourne of 100 Great Black Britons and tireless campaigner, most recently in aid of the Windrush generation and part of the #RejectThe Report response to the Sewell report (you can sign the letter, which has over 20,000 signatures already here). Joining them will be editor Hannah Chukwu (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House), who worked with Bernadine Evaristo on the Black Britain, Writing Back series and the #LitinColour project with the Runnymede Trust, and literary agent Natalie Jerome (Aevitas Creative), whose clients include David Harewood and Sir Lenny Henry, and helped found Creative Access, a mentoring and graduate trainee scheme for BAME candidates looking for paid internships across the creative industries and media sector.
After all that, we’ll be encouraging you to fetch a drink of your choice, and join us for the informal chat we miss so much from our IRL Drinks Receptions!
Wow, what a day it’s going to be! Really hope you can join us. It's FREE to attend and you can find the booking form and full agenda here.
If you can't make it, we'll be live-tweeting @BlackBritHist #WHBBHBooks throughout the day, and the recordings will be made available after the event.
And don’t forget to nominate your favourite Black British History Book using the hashtag hashtag #WHBBHBooks If you need some inspiration check out this Black British Music video 'Those African Books Go And Read' by Music4Causes with kind support by Prof Paul Gilroy, Prof Lez Henry and Tony Warner Compiled & edited by Kwaku.