12 Things To Read And Watch This Black History Month
Here's what our staff members recommend getting your teeth into this October.
This month is Black History Month in the UK, where we celebrate black culture and the way it has shaped British society. There are loads of things you can do to celebrate Black History Month, but we’ve asked our staff what they’d recommend reading and watching to get you started!
10 Brits describe some of their earliest memories of growing up black...
Here’s what they came up with...
BLACKkKLANSMAN is a brand new film by filmmaker Spike Lee telling the true story of American hero Ron Stallworth – the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
In a ground-breaking undercover investigation in the late ‘70s, Ron managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan by pretending to be an eager new recruit, using a white police officer as his in-person cover. BLACKkKLANSMAN relates the true story of a trailblazing black man in history, and it’s entertaining as hell.
Noughts & Crosses (read)
Written by award-winning author and former Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman, Noughts & Crosses is a fantasy book that’s all about flipping racism on its head. In it, there are Noughts and there are Crosses. The light-skinned Naughts are discriminated against for being ‘colourless', and were once enslaved by the dark-skinned ruling class – the Crosses.
The story follows the childhood friendship and developing romance between Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Naught, against the dangerous background of prejudice. When it was published the book caused a sensation, becoming an instant classic, and it made Malorie a hero within British literature. Deffo worth read.
Brit(ish) On Race, Identity, and Belonging – Afua Hirsch (read)
Written by writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, Brit(ish) explores Britain's identity crisis, multiculturalism, and the damaging impact of racism and racial power structures in the UK. She’s an amazing spokesperson on these subjects – take a quick look at this Twitter thread she created, for example.
For a sneaky peak into the essence of what Brit(ish) is about, watch this vid!
Based on the play by August Wilson (which won a Pulitzer Prize btw), Fences is all about Troy Maxson, a character who has spent his life working as a sanitation worker after a missed opportunity to be a professional baseball player. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, it’s about how he deals with the fact that he never got to achieve his dreams, and how it puts a strain on the relationships within his family.
Plus it's directed by Denzel Washington, who also stars in it. Not one to miss.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (read)
Written by Reni Eddo-Lodge, this book is a guide to the missing gaps in our history books where black British history should be. In the book, Reni not only uncovers a lot of hard truths about police brutality and racial discrimination in Britain, but also discusses more generally the modern UK attitudes to race, class and privilege that get in the way of progress.
Definitely a book to read this Black History Month and ironically, given its title, a book we’d hugely recommend for white readers. Emma Watson swears by it.
Natives – Akala (read)
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire is a Sunday Times bestseller written by award-winning musician and political commentator Akala.
The book explores issues around race and class, and addresses the denial and reluctance of many Brits to confront these issues head on. In the book Akala also describes personal experiences that shaped his perspective, like encountering racist teachers and realising when he was young that his mum was white. Definitely worth a read.
We interrupt this article with a video of Akala smashing it in Fire in The Booth. It’s relevant, we promise.
Directed by black British actor, producer and DJ Idris Elba, Yardie centres around a Jamaican character nicknamed “D” whose brother is murdered in Kingston in Jamaica as a boy. D later moves to London, reunites with his childhood sweetheart and child, and has to choose between the life of crime that he’s fallen into and the 'righteous path'.
That decision is made more difficult when he runs into the man who shot his brother all those years ago. Here's the trailer.
Black and British: A Forgotten History – David Olusoga (read)
Black and British: A Forgotten History is an award-winning book written by British Nigerian historian and broadcaster David Olusoga all about the relationships between Britain, Africa and the Caribbean spanning WAY back to Roman times.
It’s the perfect book for Black History Month if you want the full low-down of how black British history is part of the UK’s DNA.
Race – Toni Morrison (read)
Written by award-winning author Toni Morrison, Race shows how people’s identities are bound up in experiences of societal expectations and pressures, and explores this specifically through the subject of race.
In the book you get to see the world through the eyes of different characters, all with different circumstances, and find out how race has affected each of them. It's deep and unsettling, but fascinating.
The Intent 1 & 2 (watch)
The Intent 1 & 2 are crime dramas that serve more as entertainment than education but, hey, one of the perfect ways to celebrate Black History Month is by watching some quality black British films.
The more recent The Intent 2: The Come Up is all about a character called Jay (Ghetts) who struggles to achieve his ambitions due to loyalties both to his crew and his crime boss in London. Perfect for a Friday night.
Freedom Riders (watch)
Now for some serious (but also inspiring) history. The freedom riders were civil rights activists who risked everything to deliberately violate the US segregation laws of the early ‘60s, setting up a commercial bus that white and black people rode together.
These activists were met with mob violence and racism, but remained non-violent throughout, changing history all the while.
Black-ish is a modern comedy film starring Anthony Anderson is all about a successful black man in his 30s who’s worried that living in a predominantly white upper-middle-class neighbourhood has meant his family have stopped being proud of their black roots and have assimilated a little too much.
It explores modern issues of identity and the idea that there is no universal way to be black. It's entertaining too.