Our book recommendations for Black History Month UK 2021

Updated: Apr 18

Our list of books to read during BHMUK21 including fiction and non-fiction titles


Manifesto: A radically honest and inspirational memoir by Bernadine Evaristo

From the bestselling and Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo's memoir of her own life and writing, and her manifesto on unstoppability, creativity, and activism.

Bernardine Evaristo's 2019 Booker Prize win was a historic and revolutionar occasion, with Evaristo being the first Black woman and first Black British person ever to win the prize in its fifty-year history. Girl, Woman, Other was named a favorite book of the year by President Obama and Roxane Gay, was translated into thirty-five languages, and has now reached more than a million readers.

Evaristo's astonishing nonfiction debut, Manifesto, is a vibrant and inspirational account of Evaristo's life and career as she rebelled against the mainstream and fought over several decades to bring her creative work into the world. With her characteristic humor, Evaristo describes her childhood as one of eight siblings, with a Nigerian father and white Catholic mother, tells the story of how she helped set up Britain's first Black women's theatre company, remembers the queer relationships of her twenties, and recounts her determination to write books that were absent in the literary world around her. She provides a hugely powerful perspective to contemporary conversations around race, class, feminism, sexuality, and aging. She reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. In Manifesto, Evaristo charts her theory of unstoppability, showing creative people how they too can visualize and find success in their work, ignoring the naysayers.

Both unconventional memoir and inspirational text, Manifesto is a unique reminder to us all to persist in doing work we believe in, even when we might feel overlooked or discounted. Evaristo shows us how we too can follow in her footsteps, from first vision, to insistent perseverance, to eventual triumph.


The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption by Lee Lawrence

Winner of the 2020 Costa Biography Award.


What would you do if the people you trusted to uphold the law committed a crime against you? Who would you turn to? And how long would you fight them for?


On 28th September 1985, Lee Lawrence's mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again. In the chaos that followed, 11-year-old Lee watched in horror as the News falsely pronounced his mother dead. In Brixton, already a powder keg because of the deep racism that the community was experiencing, it was the spark needed to trigger two days of rioting that saw buildings brought down by petrol bombs, cars torched and shops looted.


But for Lee, it was a spark that lit a flame that would burn for the next 30 years as he fought to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing. His life had changed forever: he was now his mother's carer, he had seen first-hand the prejudice that existed in his country, and he was at the mercy of a society that was working against him. And yet that flame - for justice, for peace, for change - kept him going.


The Louder I Will Sing is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man. It's a story both of people and politics, of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response.


Black British Lives Matter by Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder

Featuring essays from David Olusoga, Dawn Butler MP, Kit de Waal, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and many more.


In response to the international outcry at George Floyd's death, Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder have commissioned this collection of essays to discuss how and why we need to fight for Black lives to matter - not just for Black people but for society as a whole.


Recognising Black British experience within the Black Lives Matter movement, nineteen prominent Black figures explain why Black lives should be celebrated when too often they are undervalued. Drawing from personal experience, they stress how Black British people have unique perspectives and experiences that enrich British society and the world; how Black lives are far more interesting and important than the forces that try to limit it.


"We achieve everything not because we are superhuman. We achieve the things we achieve because we are human. Our strength does not come from not having any weaknesses, our strength comes from overcoming them" Doreen Lawrence.


"I always presumed racism would always be here, that it was a given. But the truth is, it was not always here, it was invented." David Olusoga


"Our identity and experience will shape every story, bleed into every poem, inform every essay whether it's about Black 'issues' or not" Kit de Waal


Maybe I Don't Belong Here. A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery by David Harewood

'As a Black British man I believe it is vital that I tell this story. It may be just one account from the perspective of a person of colour who has experienced this system, but it may be enough to potentially change an opinion or, more importantly, stop someone else from spinning completely out of control.' – David Harewood


Is it possible to be Black and British and feel welcome and whole?


Maybe I Don't Belong Here is a deeply personal exploration of the duality of growing up both Black and British, recovery from crisis and a rallying cry to examine the systems and biases that continue to shape our society.


In this powerful and provocative account of a life lived after psychosis, critically acclaimed actor, David Harewood, uncovers devastating family history and ...


Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

Nobody free till everybody free. Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is working on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches... Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky's War in Jamaica, 1760.


This is Why I Resist, Don't Define My Black Identity by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu

In This Is Why I Resist activist and political commentator, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu digs down into the deep roots of racism and anti-blackness in the UK and the US. Using real life examples from the modern day, Dr Shola shows us the different forms racism takes in our day-to-day lives and asks us to raise our voice to end the oppression. She delves into subjects not often explored such as racial gatekeepers, white ingratitude, performative allyship (those black squares on Instagram), current identity politics and abuse of the Black trans community.


Where other books take White people by the hand to help them negotiate issues of race, This Is Why I Resist offers no sugar-coated comfort, instead it challenges and asks WHEN will White people progress on race inclusion. Black Lives Matter and change is now.


The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling out Racist Stereotypes by Elijah Lawal

In order to have an honest and open conversation about race, we need to identify areas where things are not right. The Clapback: How to Call Out Harmful Stereotypes examines the evolution of the negative stereotypes towards the black community and arms you with the tools to shut them down once and for all. Taking readers on a journey through history, and providing facts and detailed research, this is an eye-opening and refreshing look at race and language. With a light-hearted, razor sharp wit and a refreshing honesty, The Clapback is the handbook the world needs, dishing out the hard truths and providing a road map for bringing some 'act right' into our everyday lives.


The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Oladah Equiano

The autobigraphy of the leading African abolitionist, Oladah Equiano, was reissued ahead of Black History Month Uk with a new foreword by David Olusoga. A new audiobook will also be released read by rapper, actor and author Ben Bailey Smith, also known as Doc Brown. Olusoga will read his own foreword. Additional material is provided by author and professor James Walvin from York University.

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All