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Windrush Booklist

Red, yellow and green striped background. A black and white photo of the Empire Windrush ship with hundreds of people aboard, smiling and waving.
01 November 2021

If you'd like to expand your knowledge about the Windrush Generation and their incredible impact on British history, have a read of the books below.


Adult Booklist

100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne

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.

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This Lovely City By Louise Hare

The drinks are flowing. The music is playing. But the party can't last. With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England's call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he's taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door. Touring Soho's music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home - and it's alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.

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Black and British A Forgotten History By David Olusoga

David Olusoga's 'Black and British' is a rich and revealing exploration of the 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.

Reserve Black and British, A Forgotten History

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The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman

How do you pack for a one-way journey back to a country you left when you were eleven and have not visited for fifty years? Join Amelia Gentleman on her investigation into one of the most shocking political scandals of modern Britain. Learn about the people directly affected and understand the impact of policy decisions decided by disconnected politicians.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain by Mike Phillips

Broadcaster Trevor Phillips and his novelist brother retell the very human story of Britain's first West Indian immigrants and their descendants, from the first wave of immigration 50 years ago to the present day, discussing their impact on British society.

Reserve Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain


Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Britain was known as the Mother Country: a home away from home; a place that you would be welcomed with open arms; a land where you were free to build a new life. 70 years on, this remarkable book explores the reality of the Windrush experience. It is an honest, eye-opening, funny, moving and ultimately inspiring celebration of the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people.

Reserve Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children


Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook.

In this book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical, and political factors that have left us where we are today. Covering everything from the police, education, and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, 'Natives' will speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.

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War to Windrush by Stephen Bourne

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, Stephen Bourne's 'War to Windrush' explores the lives of Britain's immigrant community through the experiences of Black British women during the period spanning from the beginning of WWII to the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948.

In those short years, Black British women performed integral roles in keeping the country functioning and set the stage for the arrival of other black Britons on the MV Empire Windrush. The book shows first-hand what life was like in Britain for black women through photography and evocative prose.

'War to Windrush' retraces the history of those women who helped to build the great, multicultural Britain we know today. It is a celebration of multiculturalism and immigration, much needed in today's political climate.

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Windrush: A Ship Through Time 

For three decades the Windrush was the maritime Zelig of the twentieth century, playing different roles in the most turbulent years in modern times. Designed in 1930 in the Hamburg boatyard of a Jewish shipbuilder to ferry Germans to a new life in South America, it wasn't long before Goebbels requisitioned her as one of his 'Strength Through Joy' vessels.
However, her duties soon darkened: she became a Nazi troop carrier, a support vessel for the pocket battleship Tirpitz and a prison ship transporting Jews to Auschwitz.
This is Paul Arnott's vivid biography of a unique vessel, combining the memories of people who were there with a gripping account of an extraordinary merchant ship at the end of empires.


Trevor McDonald: An Improbable Life

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 Trevor McDonald: An Improbable Life

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Migrant City: A New History of London

The history of London is a history of immigration. Two millennia ago, Roman invaders founded the city. Since then, it has developed into a global financial capital and multicultural hub in which over three hundred languages are spoken.

Panikos Panayi here explores the rich and vibrant history of London's immigration scene. Ranging from Jewish and German immigrants in the Victorian period to the Windrush generation invited from Caribbean countries in the twentieth century, as well as earlier continental financiers and more recent European Union citizens, Panayi shows how migration has been fundamental to London's economic, social, political and cultural development.

Reserve Migrant City: A New History of London


Young Adult Booklist

This Book Is Anti-Racist By Tiffany Jewell

This is a book that will help in the conversation for change. Tiffany Jewel offers insights and advice on how to create an anti-racist world. This is book can be a helpful aid in the era of Black Lives Matter ging practical guidance and inspiration.

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What Is Race By Claire Heuchan And Nikesh Shukla

Exploring the history of race and society and giving context to how racist attitudes come into being. It looks at identity, the damaging effects of stereotyping and the benefits of positive representation. The authors talk sensitively about how to identify and challenge racism, and how to protect against and stop racist behaviour.

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The Story of Windrush By K.N. Chimbiri

In June 1948, hundreds of Caribbean men, women and children arrived in London on a ship called the HMT Empire Windrush. Although there were already Black people living in Britain at the time, this event marks the beginning of modern Black Britain. Combining historical fact with voices from the Windrush Generation, this book sensitively tells the inspiring story of the Windrush Generation pioneers for younger readers.

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The Arms of Britannia: The Teenage Years of Floella Benjamin by Floella Benjamin

Four years after arriving in England from Trinidad, Floella Benjamin started to make a life for herself in the face of prejudice and discrimination. Brave, funny and wise, Floella's extraordinary story comes to an inspiring conclusion and has a powerful message for teenagers today.

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Children's Booklist

Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephanie

The Windrush generation are named after one of the first ships that arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 1948. In this heart-stopping adventure based on real historical events, Benjamin Zephaniah shows us what it was like being a child of the Windrush generation, an important and intriguing time in Britain that's sure to fascinate young readers.

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Black and British: A Short Essential History by David Olusoga

When did Africans first come to Britain? Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings? Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution? These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history: from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian's Wall right up to the present day.

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Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

The inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. When she was ten years old, Floella Benjamin, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London, to be reunited with the rest of their family. Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn't at all what Floella had expected.

'Coming to England' is both deeply personal and universally relevant - Floella's experiences of moving home and making friends will resonate with young children, who will be inspired by her trademark optimism and joy.

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Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies

This is a fascinating book with clear and well laid out information and photography, providing a great place for mid to older primary aged children to learn about notable contemporary and historical black people and events.

The lives and achievements of figures as diverse as Stormzy, Oprah Winfrey, basketball star LeBron James, poet and novelist Maya Angelou, slavery abolitionist Olaudah Equiano and activist and creator of Afrobeat music Fela Kuti are chronicled in this brilliant book that follows black history across many centuries up until  today.

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John Agard’s Windrush Child

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. With stunning, thoughtful lyricism, internationally renowned poet, John Agard, recalls the journey made by thousands of West Indian children and families who travelled to Britain as part of the Windrush Generation between 1948 and 1971.

Reserve John Agard's Windrush Child