5 books to read for UK Black History Month
This October, during UK Black History Month, we are proud to publish Stella Dadzie's new book A Kick in the Belly: Women, Slavery and Resistance – the story of how enslaved women struggled for freedom in the West Indies. Stella Dadzie is best known for her co-authorship of The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s lives in Britain which won the 1985 Martin Luther King Award for Literature, and we recently re-published as a Feminist Classic (see below). She is a founder member of OWAAD (Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent), a national umbrella group that emerged in the late 1970s as part of the British Civil Rights movement, and was recently described as one of the “grandmothers” of Black Feminism in the UK.
Alongside these two incredible books, we have three further recommended reads: Walter Rodney's classic analysis of the impact of slavery and colonialism on the history of international capitalism, Ron Ramdin's pioneering history looking at the roots of Britain’s Black working class, and Hazel Carby's critically-acclaimed memoir exploring British identity and imperialism.
See our longer reading list on Black radicalism here.
The story of how enslaved women struggled for freedom in the West Indies.
“Stella Dadzie has given us another chapter in women's history by uncovering resistance that is uniquely rooted in controlling reproduction. This is a meticulously researched narrative that privileges the people who were so brutally treated that it was easy to assume they had no agency. We now know that such an assumption would be mistaken. This is an essential addition to the corpus of historical study into the nature, legacy and impacts of the period of African enslavement. It's finally a work that allows us to better understand and recognise how women disrupted the principal economic principles supporting the enslavement of generations of people.” – Arike Oke, Director of The Black Cultural Archives
A Kick in the Belly is one of our Verso Book Club October reads. See more here.
The Heart of the Race is a powerful corrective to a version of Britain’s history from which black women have long been excluded. It reclaims and records black women’s place in that history, documenting their day-to-day struggles, their experiences of education, work and health care, and the personal and political struggles they have waged to preserve a sense of identity and community. First published in 1985 and winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize that year, The Heart of the Race is a testimony to the collective experience of black women in Britain, and their relationship to the British state throughout its long history of slavery, empire and colonialism.
This new edition includes a foreword by Lola Okolosie and an interview with the authors, chaired by Heidi Safia Mirza, focusing on the impact of their book since publication and its continuing relevance today.
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is an ambitious masterwork of political economy, detailing the impact of slavery and colonialism on the history of international capitalism. In this classic book, Rodney makes the unflinching case that African “mal-development” is not a natural feature of geography, but a direct product of imperial extraction from the continent, a practice that continues up into the present. Meticulously researched, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains a relevant study for understanding the so-called “great divergence” between Africa and Europe, just as it remains a prescient resource for grasping the multiplication of global inequality today.
In this new edition, Angela Davis offers a striking foreword to the book, exploring its lasting contributions to a revolutionary and feminist practice of anti-imperialism.
In this pioneering history, Ron Ramdin traces the roots of Britain’s disadvantaged black working class. From the development of a small black presence in the sixteenth century, through the colonial labour institutions of slavery, indentureship, and trade unionism, Ramdin expertly guides us through the stages of creation for a UK minority whose origins are often overlooked. He examines the emergence of a black radical ideology underpinning twentieth-century struggles against unemployment, racial attacks and workplace inequality, and delves into the murky realms of employer and trade union racism. First published in 1987, this revised edition includes a new introduction reflecting on events over the past four decades.
“Where are you from?” was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post-war London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby’s place in her home, her neighbourhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.
Moving between Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby’s family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire’s interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.