On 22 June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, in Essex. On board were hundreds of immigrants from the Caribbean recruited to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War through their work in the new National Health Service and other sectors. The annual commemoration of Windrush Day on 22 June recognises and honours the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants and aims to “keep their legacy alive for future generations, ensuring that we all celebrate the diversity of Britain’s history”.
For Windrush Day 2022, Special Collections & Archives has on display a selection of the children’s books newly acquired for the Children’s Literature collection on the theme of ‘Windrush and wider’. They join the current Peninsula of Pictures exhibition in the Sydney Jones Library up to the end of June, and will then be on display over the summer in the Harold Cohen Library exhibition case.
These new acquisitions and ongoing additions will build on the Children’s Literature collections and diversify their representation of children’s lives in stories and pictures. They will be in dialogue with the historic collection of pre-1914 books, and complement the Oldham collection which includes international folk tales and fairy tales, and children’s books up to the 1950s.
The main themes are books by and about the Windrush generation:
And West African, Caribbean, and African-American folk tales (especially Anansi stories), with modern interpretations of classic works, for example Aesop’s Fables illustrated by multi-award-winning African-American illustrator Jerry Pinkney:
An initial selection drew on books recommended for Windrush Day by Seven Stories, the national archive of modern and contemporary children’s literature in Newcastle. Closer to home, the Children’s Black interest collection in Toxteth Library has an excellent and wide-ranging selection of titles, developed over several decades. Staff at the Library have been helpful with advice, and information about the vital role of specialist Black British bookshops such as Source Books on Myrtle Parade (1988-1998) and independent publishers, including Black-owned publisher and bookseller Jacaranda Books. CILIP – the professional association for librarians – also publishes Pen & inc., a twice-yearly magazine and listings promoting diversity and inclusion in children’s books.
Alongside the Children’s books, Special Collections holds a wide variety of books published in 1948 which reflect the Britain that Windrush passengers arrived in. There are pamphlets spelling out the post-Second World War challenges throughout Europe, books on the emerging Cold War, material in the Gypsy Lore Society collection revealing other ethnic and racist prejudices, and works for dentists in the newly-established National Health Service.