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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'
Paperback

ALSO AVAILABLE IN OTHER FORMATS:

  • Hardcover
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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6011-9
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: September 2021
  • BIC Category: Mixed heritage / mixed race groups or people, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Adoption & fostering, HISTORY / Military / World War II, HISTORY / Social History, Humanities / Second World War, History, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Second World War

Description

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.

Reviews

'In this thoughtful and poignant work, Lucy Bland not only meticulously details the history of Britain's 'brown babies' but, by placing their voices at the very centre of her scholarship, offers invaluable fresh perspectives. Bland's compassionate and insightful foregrounding of these moving memories of racial mixing and mixedness can't be applauded strongly enough. An outstanding achievement.'
Chamion Caballero, Goldsmiths, University of London

'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

'An important advancement of the historio-graphy and, due to its clear style and unique source material, is ideally suited for use in the classroom, as well. Graduate students will benefit in particular from Bland's careful discussion of her methodology ; for undergraduates and graduate students alike, Bland's skillful use of oral history and biographical material makes her book highly accessible and engaging.'
Res Militaris

'[...] Professor Bland seamlessly weaves the stories of more than forty of these children for whom she has obtained in-depth interview material and who form the core of the book. The result is a work of substantial scholarship, accompanied by forty pages of notes and an extensive bibliography. The story appears close to the author's heart which also makes it a humane and compelling narrative that is written with lucidity and precision.'
Peter J. Aspinall (2021), Ethnic and Racial Studies

'Meticulously researched and sensitively handled, Britain's 'Brown Babies' not only makes a major contribution to the history of black people in Britain, but through it, shines a light on attitudes to illegitimacy and, in particular, race in the 1940s and 1950s - attitudes which are shockingly familiar to us still today.'
History Workshop Journal

Awards

Social History Society Book Prize

Contents

Introduction
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'
Bibliography
Index

Author

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

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