Reviews /

Bright Stars of Black British History

Authored by J.T Williams
Illustrated by Angela Vives
Published by Thames and Hudson

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Black history is British history.

J.T Williams highlights in this book the wonderful and important tales of fourteen unsung figures of British history who have often been unrecognised for their achievements. Charting the impact of people from The Roman era to modern day, the book allows for a discovery of British history from voices often unheard. Within this treasure chest of unsung heroes, the stories of figures such as the storyteller Mary Prince throughout to the founder of the Notting Hill Carnival, Claudia Jones illustrates how it is only when we understand the stories of people from all different communities that we understand our own story.

The illustrations of this book by Angela Vives are truly captivating. One of the most striking, yet easy to miss elements of the illustrations are the wonderful page borders that tell the tale of the individual characters. These unassuming details show the care, the detail and the dedication that the author and illustrator have both taken in order to bring these historical figures back to life and bring justice to their own stories.

This book is a must for any classroom. All teachers want their children to feel valued in their classroom and this book is a stone in the wall of that work to bring all children into the language of learning. When children see themselves, they can be themselves. I was a little ashamed to not know the stories of some of these important people and this can be a little challenging but it offers that challenge to teachers – to change perspectives, to look again at the stories that we tell and to ensure that the stories we tell really tell the story of our shared history.

Bright Stars of Black British History would support any learning into periods of British history, it would stimulate conversations amongst learners, as well as staff, about the stories that we thought that we knew. It would be a fantastic start for biographical writing, especially when looking at biographies of famous people. The book would also stimulate discussion in questions around why some people’s stories are told and others are not. Due to the quality of the writing and detail that is included, this book would be most suited to those learners aged 10 years and above.

This beautiful, important book is too important to live in a school library – the book should live and breathe as part of every classroom and will inspire others to tell their stories – stories that may otherwise have been whispers of the past.

Longlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2024

Longlisted for the 2024 Information Book Award Age 13-16 Category