During the month of October, throughout the country, in schools, libraries and other community spaces, Black History Month is celebrated. Celebrations provide the opportunity to find out more about black history and discover the figures from the past who might have previously been overlooked.
In our blog today, we share a few reading recommendations for all ages that you’ll find on our library shelves and in our BorrowBox collection.
You can explore our Inclusive Reads page for even more reading suggestions.
Black England: A Forgotten Georgian History by Gretchen Gerzina
Georgian England had a large and distinctive Black community. Yet all of them, prosperous citizens or newly freed slaves, ran the risk of kidnap and sale to plantations. Their dramatic, often moving story is told in this book.
First published in 1995, this new edition includes a foreword by Zadie Smith and explores the lives of historical figures such as Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano.
The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph
It’s 1746 and Georgian London is not a safe place for a young Black man, especially one who has escaped slavery. After the twinkling lights in the Fleet Street coffee shops are blown out and the great houses have closed their doors for the night, Sancho must dodge slave catchers and worse. The man he hoped would help – a kindly duke who taught him to write – is dying. Sancho is desperate and utterly alone.
So how does Charles Ignatius Sancho meet the King, write and play highly acclaimed music, become the first Black person to vote in Britain and lead the fight to end slavery? It’s time for him to tell his story, one that begins on a tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, and ends at the very centre of London life. And through it all, he must ask: born amongst death, how much can you achieve in one short life?
Finding My Own Rhythm by Motsi Mabuse
From competing in tournaments round the world to being crowned Latin dance champion, becoming a beloved Judge on Strictly Come Dancing and starting her own dance school, Motsi Mabuse has never let anything hold her back from fulfilling her dreams.
In this book, Motsi opens up about the determination, hard work and resilience it took to get to where she is today from the moment she fell in love with the glitterball world as a young child watching a dance tournament whilst on holiday. She takes us back to growing up in apartheid South Africa where she experienced exclusion and discrimination, raising money to compete in cut-throat international competitions and the huge leap of faith she took giving up her law degree, moving to Germany to be with her dance partner and throwing everything in to becoming the best dancer she could be.
It’s 1954 and, in this new novel by Sarah Lee set in Barbados, Ruby Haynes spots an advertisement for young women to train as nurses for the new National Health Service in Great Britain. Her sister, Connie, takes some persuading, but soon the sisters are on their way to a new country – and a whole new world of experiences.
As they start their training in Hertfordshire, they discover England isn’t quite the promised land; for every door that’s opened to them, the sisters find many slammed in their faces. And though the girls find friendships with their fellow nurses, Connie struggles with being so far from home, and keeping secret the daughter she has left behind in search of a better life for the both of them.
Black Poppies: The Story of Britain’s Black Community in the First World 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.
Journey Back To Freedom by Catherine Johnson
Born in what is now Nigeria in 1745, Olaudah Equiano’s peaceful childhood was brought to an abrupt end when he was captured and enslaved aged 11. He spent much of the next ten years of his life at sea, seeing action in the Seven Years War. When he was finally able to buy his freedom, he went on to become a prominent member of the abolition movement and in 1789 published one of the first books by a Black African writer.
Journey Back to Freedom focuses on Equiano’s early life, demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit and one man’s determination to be free.
Legacies: Black British Pioneers written by Lania Narjee and illustrated by Chanté Timothy
Discover inspiring stories about key figures from Black British history. Learn about Britain’s Black STEM heroes, like Dr Cecil Belfield Clark who changed medicine; incredible musicians from Evelyn Dove to Arlo Parks; sports stars who broke new ground, like Maurice Burton and Lewis Hamilton; and activists like Olive Morris and Claudia Jones who fought for their communities. Learn about the links between different legacies and how people from the past paved the way for modern day heroes.
Creeping Beauty by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas
Eshe and her twelve sisters are Fairy Godmothers, honoured for the incredible gifts they can bestow. But Eshe’s special abilities are a little different – she can glimpse into the future! And, one day, Eshe foresees something terrifying: a world blanketed in creeping vines and a girl covered in thorns. Eshe needs to stop her vision becoming true, but it will require old and powerful magic.
And she won’t be able to do it alone.