How easy is it to find books about aspects of black British history suitable for children? According to one senior staff a Waterstone Book Shop, this has been a very difficult task. There are simply not enough books available for children and young people about Black British History. As a lecturer with thirty years experience teaching in this subject area, this has been a frequent question asked of me by parents and teachers. Now at last, a more positive response can be given. There is a new book which helps to address this issue. The book in question, published by New Generation Publishers, is called History on the Page: Adventures in Black British History.
This amazing new book is a collection of short fictitious stories about black people who actually lived and worked in Britain, and is aimed at children. At the end of each story, there is a summary page of key facts about the black person in question, so readers are made aware of some basic factual information about each character. This is the first book of its kind to be published in Britain. The purpose of the book is to introduce readers to a version of British history where they learn about the lives and contributions of black people who came to work or settle in the country.
This is not meant to be a one-off publication, I have already begun working on the second, in what will be a series of books. The main idea behind the stories centre on a group of children living in contemporary Britain who go back in time and have amazing encounters with people of African and Caribbean origin. The main way they do this is by repeating the words ‘I wish, I wish to be part of the history on the page.’ In a matter of seconds they find themselves back in time meeting a key black person. In this first book and the one to follow, all these black characters actually lived and worked in Britain. In subsequent books, the black characters come from all over the world.
Some of the black characters in the first book include; Septimius Severus who was an African Roman Emperor who came to Britain to help defend England against attacks from the Caledonians north of Hadrian’s Wall. There is a story about Andrew Watson who was a black man who captained the Scottish national football team in the late 19th century. There is also the story of Claudia Jones who was originally from Trinidad and Tobago and was a Marxist and, soon after arriving in Britain, established what later became the Notting Hill Carnivals. She is buried beside Karl Marx at the Highgate Cemetery in North London.
Although I have published a number of academic books about aspects of African Caribbean studies, this is my first publication for children. I have tried to use my knowledge and expertise in the subject as well as my experience of working with young people in schools and colleges, to produce an accessible resource for children. This new book is available world-wide through online outlets such as Amazon and can also be ordered from any major bookshop.
Dr Tony Talburt is an associate university lecturer, writer and education advisor. He is a specialist in African Caribbean Studies and has nearly 30 years teaching experience in higher education, FE colleges and schools. Dr Talburt has been providing training and consultancy in schools, colleges, local authority departments, community groups and churches around the issues of African Caribbean cultural awareness as well as black history since 1988. His recent publications include, Food of the plantation Slaves of Jamaica, 2004, Trafford Publishers and Rum, Rivalry and Resistance: Fighting for the Caribbean Spirit, London, Hansib Publishers 2010.