No. of Pages: 464
In 2003, Patrick Vernon, frustrated with the lack of attention and education regarding Black historical figures who are an intrinsic part of British history, launched a campaign inviting the public to vote for a Black Briton whom they most admired. The campaign was hugely successful and lead to many Black historical figures being included in the school curriculum as well as the construction of statues and memorials.
Now, in 2020, Vernon, alongside Angelina Osborne, has relaunched this campaign in the form of a book. Through this medium, Black individuals from past to present, who have more often than not been dismissed and overlooked, are being rightly celebrated for their incredible achievements.
In 100 Great Black Britons, Vernon and Osborne have curated a thoughtful collection of inspiring Black Britons who challenged and overcame racial barriers and made significant progress in their field. The biographies are condensed into three to five pages, spotlighting their notable personal accomplishments and imprints made on society.
The book covers an expansive selection of Britons of African and Caribbean heritage who are; both alive and dead, from the 16th century to the present day, from household names like Lewis Hamilton to lesser-known hidden figures such as John Blanke, and covering a myriad of occupations including politicians, activists, actors, musicians, abolitionists, authors and lawyers. The book also contains a pleasant compilation of images of some of the individuals.
Concurrent to the individual’s achievements, Vernon and Osborne provide the context where many of the biographies are set against the backdrops of the 2018 Windrush scandal, increased racism from right-wing groups in the 1970s and 80s, plus the recent Black Lives Matters movement. No doubt, discrimination and underrepresentation proved to be a motivating factor for many individuals, thus the hardships, struggles and injustices they faced demonstrate just how necessary it is to celebrate their success in breaking barriers, becoming pioneers in their fields and creating a positive change in Britain for future generations.
Aside from each individual’s advancements in their professions and society as a whole, the book in itself is a success. It gives recognition, though long overdue, to these figures and in turn bridges the many gaps in British history where Black individuals stand in their rightful place in the timeline. It is indeed a vital historical resource that will be valuable in educating all Britons.
100 Great Black Britons is certainly an empowering and timely read, though one that will always remain relevant and necessary. I hope to see numerous future volumes published to celebrate the many more Black individuals that helped shape ‘Britishness’, who also deserve to be commended.
Purchase here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07TMCC9ZV/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
My book review also features in Aspects of History Issue 2 – a new magazine dedicated to history and historical fiction. Purchase issue 2 here: https://aspectsofhistory.com/product/issue-2-of-aspects-of-history-magazine/