Stephen Bourne, Black Poppies

Stephen Bourne is a really interesting and engaging speaker. He is a community historian and author specialising in black British history and communities using first hand accounts to bring their history to life.

Stephen Bourne, Black Poppies

I first heard Stephen talk in February 2014 at The National Archives where he talked about his career and how he was drawn into researching black British communities through his adopted ‘aunt’ Esther [podcast: Black in the British Frame]. Last week (27 January) he was again at The National Archives talking about his new book Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War (The History Press, 2014).

The first half of the book and his talk is about black service personnel and the second half he describes the wider community and the home front. He hopes that the book will dispel a number of myths such as there wasn’t a black British community until the Windrush, that Africans and Caribbeans didn’t serve in the First World War and that there weren’t black officers. Among the many people and accounts he describes are Herbert Morris, a young Jamaican in the British West Indies Regiment who was executed for desertion in 1917 and one of those pardoned in 2006, Alhaji Grunshi of the Gold Coast Regiment who fired the first shot for the British in WWI, Walter Tull a professional footballer and officer, cabaret singer Mabel Mercer, the future Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Manley, the British West Indies Regiment raised in 1915 and trained in Seaford, Sussex, and the 1919 race riots which took place in many British ports and the murder of Charles Wootten.

Most of the people and events he describes are not well known and I hope that this important book will stimulate further interest and research.

Stephen appears on several videos on YouTube including an interesting interview about Black Poppies.

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