Black History Month is now an annual event marking and celebrating the achievements, contributions and challenges of Asian and Black people throughout history. It’s an opportunity to express the diversity, culture and heritage of Asian, Black and Caribbean diaspora communities in all areas of life – including the cultural, economic and political.
Black History Month in Britain is, of course, in October after the first celebration was held in October 1987 – the event in London was part of African Jubilee Year. Birmingham’s first Black History Month celebrations appear to have taken place in the late 1990s.
Whilst it’s important to continue to mark the month, it’s equally significant to look at the efforts made throughout the year as part of an ongoing effort to provide a platform for diversity and make Asian and Black history part of the mainstream narrative of a nation’s history.
The Black History Collection
In Archives & Collections, we make a contribution by purchasing new additions to the Black History Collection throughout the year. The Black History Collection is a collection of printed books – it’s often presumed to be an archival collection of original handwritten documents, and our own archive does indeed contain such materials, but the Black History Collection is not part of the archive. On our website, you can find out further information about the Black History Collection with details of the criteria we use to decide which publications are suitable for adding to the collection, information on the availability of lending materials, finding aids and guides to assist research and reading lists for researching Birmingham’s Asian and Black heritage.
The Black History Collection is a collection of reference books; that means the books can only be read inside the library. It was formed in the late 1990s as a call to reflect Birmingham’s ethnic diversity and provide access to an accessible collection of books on Asian and Black histories. The collection’s main themes are:
- The international development of Black and Asian histories – how national identities have developed for those nations included in the geographical radius of the collection – this includes African nations, all nations of the Indian Subcontinent – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – and all Caribbean nations of predominant African heritage.
- Global political struggles such as the civil rights movement.
- The contexts of Empire, colonialism, slavery, racism, migration.
- Local and West Midlands based Black and Asian histories.
Library of Birmingham Race Equality Group
In the aftermath of last year’s Black Lives Matter movement and the subsequent publication of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business Statement of Intent’ (2020), which highlighted the racial inequalities within Birmingham, the Library decided in late 2020 to form a Race Equality Group pooled from staff working across all the Library’s services. Representation on the group reflected Birmingham’s rich ethnic diversity and one of the issues the group decided to re-examine was Stock Management Policy. As a consequence, the policy has been revised to reflect a growing understanding of how a non-inclusive policy may have impacted library purchases and acquisition of stock in the past. The group recognised that the perspectives of all our communities are needed to reflect the full story of Birmingham.
Stock is selected using a variety of methods which include:
- Recommendations and requests from customers and staff.
- Using defined profiles and rankings provided by the library’s designated supplier.
- Consulting bibliographical sources from reputable publishers and booklists.
With a limited budget and facing all of the obstacles the Covid-19 pandemic placed in our way, it was possible to commit funds to purchase new additions to the Black History Collection. The collection rightfully receives a large share of the overall annual book budget allocated to Archives & Collections.
The following is a list of selected titles purchased over the past 15 months:
Brathwaite, Candice, I Am Not Your Baby Mother – What it’s like to be a black British mother (2020) 306.874308
(Ed.) Burroughs, Robert & Huzzey, Richard, The Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade – British policies, practices and representations of naval coercion (2018), 326. 80941
Chapman, Jane L., African and Afro – Caribbean Repatriation, 1919 – 1922 (2018), A 305.896041 BHC
De Barros, Juanita, Reproducing the British Caribbean – Sex, Gender and the Population after Slavery (2014), A 304.632097
Drescher, Seymour, The Mighty Experiment – Free Labor versus Slavery in British Emancipation (2002), A 331.117209
(Ed.) Falola, Toyin & Hoyer, Cacee, Global Africans – Race, Ethnicity and Shifting Identities (2018), 305.896
BHC, Hirsch, Afua, BRIT(ish) – On Race, identity and Belonging. (2018), 305.800941
Huzzey, Richard, Freedom Burning, Anti – Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (2012), A 941.081
Lammy, David, Tribes – How Our Need To Belong Can Make or Break Society (2020), 328.41092
Lawrence, Doreen, And Still I Rise – A Mother’s Justice For Peace (2006), 364.152092
Livesay, Daniel, Children of Uncertain Fortune, Mixed – Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733 – 1833 (2018), A 305.23089
Lowery, Wesley, They Can’t Kill Us All – The Story of Black Lives Matter (2017), 305.896073
Payne, Tamara, The Dead Are Rising – The Life of Malcom X (2020), A 320.546092
Twine, France Winddance, A White Side of Black Britain – Interracial Intimacy and Racial Literary (2010), 306.846089
(Ed.) Weissinger, Sandra E. & Mack, Dwayne, A Law Enforcement in the Age of Black Lives Matter (2018), 305.896073
Please see the library catalogue for further details, including the availability of lending copies which can be issued to your valid Birmingham library membership card.
Paul Taylor, Archives & Collections Co-ordinator