Britain’s ‘brown babies’

The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War

By Lucy Bland

Britain’s ‘brown babies’


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3326-7
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: May 2019
  • BIC Category: History, Second World War, Mixed heritage / mixed race groups or people, Adoption & fostering, HISTORY / Military / World War II, HISTORY / Social History, Humanities / Second World War, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Humanities / Social & cultural history


This book recounts a little-known history of the estimated 2,000 babies born to black GIs and white British women in the second world war. The African-American press named these children 'brown babies'; the British called them 'half-castes'. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry their white girl-friends. Nearly half of the children were given up to children's homes but few were adopted, thought 'too hard to place'. There has been minimal study of these children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. The book will present the stories of over fifty of these children, their stories contextualised in terms of government policy and attitudes of the time. Accessibly written, with stories both heart-breaking and uplifting, the book is illustrated throughout with photographs.


'Lucy Bland's stories of Britain's Brown Babies evoke a potent mix of rage, tears, joy and thankfulness: rage at everyday racisms, both institutional and individual, tears for the cruelties suffered, joy at the love and care that some found and thankfulness that we can hear these voices.'
Catherine Hall, Emerita Professor of History, UCL

'Using oral histories as well as revealing analyses of governmental policies and the politics of racially warped institutions, Lucy Bland's wonderful book lays out in no uncertain terms how the stigma of illegitimacy coupled with racism shaped the experiences of children born to white British women and African American G.I.s during and in the aftermath of World War II.'
Sonya O. Rose, Professor Emerita of History, Sociology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan

'Lucy Bland's book beautifully and carefully recovers the intimate, painful and sometimes joyous stories of Britain's 'brown babies'. [.] Throughout Bland writes with sensitivity, care and an astute sense of her positionality as interviewer, offering an exemplar of undertaking this essential oral history research. [.] Her meticulous attention to the ways in which these children navigated their own sense of belonging and difference - at home, in the care system, in British society and with their American families - is a tremendous achievement, with important findings for historians of migration, Black Britain, childhood and family alike.'
Women's History


1. British women meet black GIs
2. Keeping the 'brown babies'
3. 'Brown babies' relinquished: experiences of children's homes
4. Adoption, fostering and attempts to send the babies to the US
5. Secrets and lies: searching for mothers and fathers
6. After the war and beyond
Appendix: the case study 'brown babies'


Lucy Bland is Professor of Social and Cultural History at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

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