Skip to main content

Black History Month Booklist 2022

The words Black History Month Time For Change in white over a green, yellow and red paint stripe on a black background.
08 September 2022

Essex Library Services: Black History Month Booklist 


The theme for Black History Month UK 2022 is Time for Change: Action Not Words, with the aim to learn from the past and improve the future. Here’s a selection of our recommendations for what to borrow from Essex Libraries library and e-library.


Adults Booklist


100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon

Patrick Vernon's landmark '100 Great Black Britons' campaign of 2003 was one of the most successful movements to focus on the role of people of African and Caribbean descent in British history. Frustrated by the widespread and continuing exclusion of the black British community from the mainstream popular conception of 'Britishness', despite black people having lived in Britain for over a thousand years, Vernon set up a public poll in which anyone could vote for the black Briton they most admired. The response to this campaign was incredible. As a result, a number of black historical figures were included on the national school curriculum and had statues and memorials erected and blue plaques put up in their honour. Now, with this book, Vernon and Osborne have relaunched the campaign with an updated list of names and accompanying portraits.

Reserve 100 Great Black Britons 


Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race By Reni Eddo-Lodge

In February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were constantly being led by those who weren't affected by it. She posted the piece on her blog, and gave it the title: 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race'. Her powerful, passionate words hit a nerve. The post went viral, and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own, similar experiences. Galvanised by this response, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. The result is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

Reserve Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race


Maybe I Don’t Belong Here By David Harewood

A groundbreaking account of the effects of everyday racism on the identity and mental health of Black British men, explored through the lens of Homeland and Supergirl actor David Harewood's personal experience.

Reserve Maybe I Don't Belong Here


Britain's Black Regiments By Barry Renfrew

In three global conflicts and countless colonial campaigns, tens of thousands of black West Indian soldiers fought and died for Britain, first as slaves and then as volunteers. These all but forgotten regiments were unique because they were part of the British Army rather than colonial formations. All were stepchild units, despised by an army loath to number black soldiers in its ranks, and yet unable to do without them; their courage, endurance and loyalty were repaid with bigotry and abuse. This is a saga of war, bondage, hardship, mutiny, forlorn outposts and remarkable fortitude.

Reserve Britain's Black Regiments


Black and British A Forgotten History By David Olusoga

David Olusoga's 'Black and British' is a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, 'Black and British' reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare's 'Othello'. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intimately entwined for centuries.

Reserve Black and British, A Forgotten History


The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman

Paulette Wilson had always assumed she was British. She had spent most of her life in London working as a cook; she even worked in the House of Commons' canteen. How could someone who had lived in England since being a primary school pupil suddenly be classified as an illegal immigrant? It was only through Amelia Gentleman's tenacious investigative and campaigning journalism that it emerged that thousands were in Paulette's position. What united them was that they had all arrived in the UK from the Commonwealth as children in the 1950s and 1960s. In 'The Windrush Betrayal', Gentleman tells the story of the scandal and exposes deeply disturbing truths about modern Britain.

Reserve The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment


Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

You're British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from? 'Brit(ish)' is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be 'colour-blind' have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race. Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. We are a nation in denial about our past and our present. We believe we are the nation of abolition, but forget we are the nation of slavery. We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. 'Brit(ish)' is the story of how and why this came to be, and an urgent call for change.

Reserve Brit(ish)


Voices of the Windrush Generation by David Matthews

With over 20 first-hand accounts from men, women, and children of Windrush, this work sheds light on the true impact of one of the most disastrous and damaging scandals in recent memory, and gives a platform to those most affected - those whose voices have yet to be truly heard. Their stories provide intimate, personal and moving perspective on what it means to be black in Britain today, and the heartache the 'hostile environment policy' our government has created has meant for those who have called this country home for half a century and more.

Reserve Voices of the Windrush Generation


Lovers and Strangers By Clair Wills

The battered and exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers - to rebuild, to fill the factories, to make the new NHS work. From all over the world and with many motives, thousands of individuals took the plunge. Most assumed they would spend just three or four years here, sending most of their pay back home, but instead large numbers stayed - and transformed the country. Drawing on an amazing array of unusual and surprising sources, Clair Wills' book brings to life the incredible diversity and strangeness of the migrant experience. She introduces us to lovers, scroungers, dancers, homeowners, teachers, drinkers, carers, and many more to show the opportunities and excitement as much as the humiliation and poverty that could be part of the new arrivals' experience.

Reserve Lovers and Strangers


Homecoming by Colin Grant

When Colin Grant was growing up in Luton in the 1960s, he learned not to ask his Jamaican parents why they had emigrated to Britain. 'We're here because we're here', his father would say, 'You have some place else to go?'. But now, seventy years after the arrival of ships such as the Windrush, this generation of pioneers are ready to tell their stories. 'Homecoming' draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s.

Reserve Homecoming


Surge by Jay Bernard

Jay Bernard's powerful debut traces a line between two significant events in recent British history: the New Cross Massacre of 1981 in which thirteen young black people were killed in a house fire - and the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The collection stems from research undertaken about the New Cross Fire during a 2016 residency at the George Padmore Institute.

Reserve Surge


Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer

There were Africans in Britain before the English came here'. In his epic history that spans from the Roman conquest to the present day, Peter Fryer presents two thousand years of Black Britons. This is the story that shows Britain as it always has been: a deeply woven quilt of many races and cultures that have influenced and shaped the country we understand it to be today.

Reserve Staying Power


Black British Lives Matter by Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder

In response to the international outcry at George Floyd's death, Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder have commissioned this collection of essays to discuss how and why we need to fight for Black lives to matter - not just for Black people but for society as a whole. Recognising Black British experience within the Black Lives Matter movement, seventeen prominent Black figures explain why Black lives should be celebrated when too often they are undervalued. Drawing from personal experience, they stress how Black British people have unique perspectives and experiences that enrich British society and the world; how Black lives are far more interesting and important than the forces that try to limit it.

Reserve Black British Lives Matter


Loud Black Girls by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

The authors of 'Slay in Your Lane', Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, ask black British female writers to focus on what happens next? - what does the future hold in the uncertain post-Brexit world of Donald Trump and the rise of the far right, where there is also more opportunity for black woman to thrive than there has ever been before?

Reserve Loud Black Girls


Tribes by David Lammy

David was the first black Briton to study at Harvard Law School and practised as a barrister before entering politics. He has served as the MP for Tottenham since 2000. Today, David is one of Parliament's most prominent and successful campaigners for social justice. He led the campaign for Windrush British citizens to be granted British citizenship and has been at the forefront of the fight for justice for the families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. In 2007, inspired by the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and looking to explore his own African roots, David took a DNA test. It revealed that he was 25% Tuareg tribe (Niger), 25% Temne tribe (Sierra Leone), 25% Bantu trive (South Africa), with 5% traces of Celtic Scotland and a mishmash of other unidentified groups. Both memoir and call-to-arms, 'Tribes' explores both the benign and malign effects of our need to belong.

Reserve Tribes


An Improbable Life by Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald is an extraordinary man - and he has led an improbable life. Now in his 80th year, he is known and loved by people the world over for his humility, charm and natural ease. As a natural storyteller and communicator, he has few equals. In this book, Sir Trevor recounts his personal experience of world events and interviews with globally famous - or notorious - figures. He has witnessed war and death and risked his own life to meet and talk with despots and liberators. We read about his first trip to South Africa, and obtaining the first British television interview with Nelson Mandela; his reflections on the Windrush generation; and experiencing Barack Obama's momentous inauguration as President of the USA. We are also present at his dramatic meetings with Saddam Hussein (the first and only one by a British television correspondent) and Muammar Gaddafi.

Reserve An Improbable Life


Under Fire: Black Britain in Wartime 1939-45 by Stephen Bourne

During the Second World War all British citizens were called upon to do their part for their country. Despite facing the discriminatory 'colour bar', many black civilians were determined to contribute to the war effort where they could, volunteering as air-raid wardens, fire-fighters, stretcher-bearers and first-aiders. Meanwhile, black servicemen and women, many of them volunteers from places as far away as Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Nigeria, risked their lives fighting for the Mother Country in the air, at sea and on land. In 'Under Fire', Stephen Bourne draws on first-hand testimonies to tell the whole story of Britain's black community during the Second World War, shedding light on a wealth of experiences from evacuees to entertainers, government officials, prisoners of war and community leaders.

Reserve Under Fire: Black Britain in Wartime 1939-45


The Black History Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained, foreword by David Olusoga

Discover the rich and complex history of the peoples of Africa, and the struggles and triumphs of Black communities worldwide. With profiles of key people, movements, and events, 'The Black History Book' brings together accounts of the most significant ideas and milestones in Black history and culture. This vital and thought-provoking book presents a bold and accessible overview of the history of Africa and the African diaspora - from the earliest human migrations to modern Black communities.

Reserve The Black History Book


Manifesto On Never Giving Up by Bernadine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo's 2019 Booker win - the first by a Black woman - was a revolutionary moment both for British culture and for her. After three decades as a trailblazing writer, teacher and activist, she moved from the margins to centre stage, taking her place in the spotlight at last. Her journey was a long one, but she made it, and she made history. 'Manifesto' is Bernardine Evaristo's intimate and inspirational, no-holds-barred account of how she did it, refusing to let any barriers stand in her way. She charts her creative rebellion against the mainstream and her life-long commitment to the imaginative exploration of 'untold' stories.

Reserve Manifesto On Never Giving Up


Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangarembga

In five short essays, the award-winning writer dissects the nervous condition of being not only Black, and not only a woman, but also quote-unquote "postcolonial". Weaving together the experiences, events, intersections, and negotiations of her multifaceted identity, Dangarembga offers a powerful vision of Black liberation.

Reserve Black and Female


Black People in the British Empire by Peter Fryer

'Black People in the British Empire' is a challenge to the official version of British history. It tells the story of Britain's exploitation and oppression of its subject peoples in its colonies, and in particular the people of Africa, Asia and Australasia.

Reserve Black People in the British Empire


Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the Great War by Stephen Bourne

In 1914 there were at least 10,000 black Britons, many of African and West Indian heritage, fiercely loyal to their mother country. Despite being discouraged from serving in the British Army during the First World War, men managed to join all branches of the armed forces and black communities made a vital contribution, both on the front and at home. By 1918 it is estimated that the black population had trebled to 30,000, and after the war many black soldiers who had fought for Britain decided to make it their home. 'Black Poppies' explores the military and civilian wartime experiences of these men and of women, from the trenches to the music hall.

Reserve Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the Great War


Children's Booklist


The King is Dead by Benjamin Dean (Young Adult)

James has been a prince all his life, and since he was born, he's been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father unexpectedly dies, James is crowned king at seventeen, and his life irrevocably changes.

Reserve The King is Dead


When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando (Young Adult)

When fourteen-year-old Shaq is stabbed outside of a busy shopping centre in Manchester, three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together.

Reserve When Our Worlds Collided


Clean Up! By Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Picture Book)

Join lovable, passionate Rocket as she sets off on a mission to save a Caribbean Island from plastic pollution!

Reserve Clean Up!


My Hair by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimahara (Picture Book)

My birthday's coming up so soon, I'll need new clothes to wear. But most of all, I need to know, how shall I style my hair? Will it be dreads or a twist out? Braids or a high-top fade?

Reserve My Hair


My Skin, Your Skin by Laura Henry-Allain, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu (Children's Non-Fiction)

My Skin Your Skin is a powerful book to help children and adults have meaningful discussions about race and anti-racism and empowers children to be the best versions of themselves

Reserve My Skin, Your Skin


JoJo & Gran Gran Go To The Hairdressers by Pat-a-Cake (Picture Book)

JoJo goes to the hairdresser for the first time ever with Gran Gran and learns all about how much fun it can be to help out. She even has her hair done, too!

Reserve JoJo & Gran Gran go to the hairdresser


Granny Came Here On The Empire Windrush by Patrice Lawrence, illustrated by Camilla Sucre (Picture Book)

Ava is asked to dress as an inspirational figure for school, but who should she choose? Granny suggests Winifred Atwell, Mary Seacole or Rosa Parks, but Ava's classmates have got there first - and she must choose someone else. But who?

Reserve Granny came here on the Empire Windrush


Ways To Grow Love by Renee Watson (Children's Fiction, S)

Ryan Hart and her family are back in another instalment of stories about a Black girl finding her way and her voice as she grows through change and challenges.

Reserve Ways to Grow Love


John Agard’s Windrush Child by John Agard, illustrated by Sophie Bass (Children's Non-Fiction, Poetry)

With one last hug, a child says goodbye to his grandmother and the shores of his Caribbean home, before stepping into an adventure across the ocean, to an unknown horizon and a sky full of hope.

Reserve John Agard's Windrush Child


Migration: Journeys Through Black British History by Millie Mensah (Children's Non-Fiction)

Discover how migration has been part of British history right from the start. For example, did you know Black people lived in Britain during Roman times? Or that there was a Black trumpeter in Henry VIII's court? Learn how migration is important to Britain's identity and history, and how it continues today.

Reserve Migration: journeys through Black British history


Legacies: Black British Pioneers by Lania Narjee (Children's Non-Fiction)

Discover inspiring stories about key figures from Black British history. Learn about the links between different legacies and how people from the past paved the way for modern day heroes.

Reserve Legacies : Black British pioneers


Alison Hammond’s Black In Time: The Most Awesome Black Britons From Yesterday To Today by Alison Hammond (Children's Non-Fiction)

Get ready to meet a whole bunch of AWESOME people who have helped shape the world we live in. So, are ready for you a journey Black in time? Course you are, let's go!

Reserve Alison Hammond's Black in time : the most awesome Black Britons from yesterday to today.


Black History Matters by Robin Walker (Children's Non-Fiction)

Learn about the history of black people, looking at African kingdoms, slavery, apartheid, the battle for civil rights and much more..

Reserve Black History Matters Walker


When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Picture Book)

A timely, powerful and much-needed picture book exploring the background to the Black Lives Matter movement for young children.

Reserve When we say Black Lives Matter


Diver’s Daughter by Patrice Lawrence (Children's Fiction, S+)

This story explores the life of a young West African girl, Eve, living with her mother in the Southwark slums of Elizabethan London.

Reserve Diver's Daughter