Timelines from Black History

Erased. Ignored. Hidden. Lost. Underappreciated. No longer. Delve into the unique, inspiring, and world-changing history of Black people.

From Frederick Douglass to Oprah Winfrey, and the achievements of ancient African kingdoms to those of the US Civil Rights Movement, Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies takes kids on an exceptional journey from prehistory to modern times.

This DK children’s book boasts more than 30 visual timelines, which explore the biographies of the famous and the not-so-famous – from royalty to activists, and writers to scientists, and much, much more. Stunning thematic timelines also explain the development of Black history – from the experiences of black people in the US, to the story of postcolonial Africa.

Did you know that the richest person ever to have lived was a West African? Or that the technology that made the lightbulb possible was developed by African American inventor, and not Thomas Edison? How about the fact that Ethiopia was the only African country to avoid colonization, thanks to the leadership of a brave queen?

Stacked with facts and visually vibrant, Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legacies, Legends is an unforgettable and accessible hive of information on the people and the issues that have shaped Black history.

DK Books

This year, Mireille Harper was a contributor to the DK Book TIMELINES OF EVERYONE and was sole writer for this collection of TIMELINES FROM BLACK HISTORY. It includes timelines of famous and not-so-famous, historical and present day influential and important people across a range of fields and from all over the globe. In usual DK fashion, it is brilliantly laid out to be visually appealing as well as containing tonnes of interesting information, it is definitely worth having in your libray!

I was given the opportunity to ask Mireille a few questions:

After writing contributions to the ‘Timelines of Everyone’, did ‘Timelines From Black History’ on your own feel daunting
or liberating?

To me, it wasn’t particularly daunting but I knew there was an element of responsibility and I felt I had to really do this book justice, so I was very careful and took my time throughout the process. I think the daunting bit was actually sending the book out into the world! I found writing the contributions empowering – finding out about the lives and histories of those who came before us who changed the world for the better was an experience I feel fortunate to have had.

How did you decide on the timelines to feature?
The process was collaborative in that both DK and I took spreads from previous titles (including content I’d created for Timelines of Everyone) that we though had the most resonance, and the figures that we felt should be celebrated most. I also had the opportunity to share some of my favourite figures for the gallery spread and foreword which was great.

If you could choose one from the book to write more on, which would it be?
I would love to write about Nanny of the Maroons. Nanny, or Queen Nanny as she’s often known, was a leader of the Windward Maroons, a community of formerly enslaved Africans in Jamaica, who fought off the British forces. I talk about Nanny literally every week, just because I think she’s such a hero and she has not received the recognition she deserves. In an ideal world, there’d be international films, books, statues and more dedicated to the legacy of Nanny.

Do you talk to young people about writing?
I talk to lots of young people about writing! I currently mentor three young people who want to work in the creative industries or publishing and I have a network of people within the publishing industry who work alongside me to help young people develop their writing. I’ve been lucky that with the publication of Timelines from Black History, I’ve had many more opportunities to speak to young people.

Do you prefer writing for children or adults?
I like both! Before working on Timelines of Everyone and Timelines from Black History, I had written over 200 articles aimed at adults on everything from travel and lifestyle to arts and culture. Whoever I’m writing for, I just like to know I’m writing about something that I’m passionate about and that matters.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
I am reading an incredible book called This Book Will Make You Kinder by Henry James Garrett. It’s an incredible book on empathy, kindness and how we can become more empathetic, not only to ourselves and one another, but also the world around us.

Mireille Harper

Thanks so much to Mireille for taking the time to answer some questions, and to DK Books for sending me a review copy of TIMELINES FROM BLACK HISTORY – OUT NOW!

A Family Guide to Black History Month

Yoopies UK the childcare platform that earlier this year put together a guide to the Black Lives Matter movement from a British perspective has just released a Family Guide to Black History Month.

Both guides can be downloaded here:

https://yoopies.co.uk/c/press-releases/blacklivesmatter

Teenagers at Risk

I had no idea what to call this post but eventually settled on what it is now, the first in what wil be an irregular series of posts.

I have been thinking about how dangerous it is to be a teenager today, well since teenagers have been teenagers – too old to be kids but also too young to be considered adults and often driven to dangerous and often foolhardy acts to prove themselves.

These thoughts were brought to the top of my mind by two stories involving teenagers that have been in the news lately. the first being the body-shaming of Billie Eilish:

Billie Eilish Shares Video On ‘Real Bodies’ After Body-Shaming Tweets

and

The ongoing saga of Claudia Conway the daughter of former counselor to Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and George Conway, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, who has been thrust into the national spotlight as a real-life version of Katniss Everdean who will have a hand in bringing down the President using social media:

15-year-old Claudia Conway broke the news of her mother’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Here’s how the teenager took over social media, from bashing Trump in TikToks to trolling her parents on Twitter.

Body-shaming is nothing new, there have been books written and movies made featuring this trope and with the ubiquity of social media and instantaneous video & text communication this has become more pernicious than ever, leading to consequences varying from leaving school to suicide. Billie Eilish has spent most of her career wearing loose, baggy clothes to prevent people from commentating on her body and the moment a paparazzi pic of her goes online she faces a barrage of body-shaming from people (adults) who should know better.

The story of Claudia Conway veers into yet more dangerous territory, when adults place the burden of saving the nation (or the world) onto the shoulders of children, thanks in no small part to the large number of dystopian young adult novels that show adults abdicating their responsibilities and leaving their children to take up arms to bring down corporations and governments.

The two teens I mentioned are high-profile individuals, the first thanks to a relatively short (so far) but phenomenally successful career as musician and singer/song-writer and the second due to having a very public falling out with her parents who are near the epicenter of power in US politics.

What freaks me out is that this is becoming normalized, with people saying things like “They should have known the risks” or explaining away the attacks as being part and parcel of life in the public eye. It has not escaped my notice that these two examples are both young women, thanks to the inherent sexism of the world in which we live women usually bear the brunt of attacks. That is not to say that men are immune, teenage boys are facing increased risks of body shaming and internalized body dysmorphia.

What can we do to combat this? Watch what we say and challenge friends and colleagues who place the burden for saving the world onto the next generation, it is not up to them to fix our errors and problems, we have to start doing that if we have not already. It is up to us as adults and responsible human beings to prevent children from becoming child soldiers; while it may be exciting to read about teens taking up arms to defend a world that has failed them, these works often gloss over the toll fighting and killing can take on a person’s psyche and afterwards, the dangers living with PTSD can bring.

That is not to say that we need to stop stocking such books, but we must remember that fiction is just that – fiction, and while it is exciting, we must not use such materials as guides for the future, but rather warnings of what could happen if we let it.

The Story of the Windrush

The story before the scandal. A book to celebrate the inspiring legacy of the Windrush pioneers.

In June 1948, hundreds of Caribbean men, women and children arrived in London on a ship called the HMT Empire Windrush. Although there were already Black people living in Britain at the time, this event marks the beginning of modern Black Britain. Combining historical fact with voices from the Windrush Generation, this book sensitively tells the inspiring story of the Windrush Generation pioneers for younger readers

Scholastic
THE STORY OF THE WINDRUSH

I have had a copy of this book on the shelves of my school library for some time now having bought the self-published version, but this month Scholastic are republishing it with some small changes, and have excitingly commissioned more from the author, Kandace Chimbiri! I asked her some questions to celebrate:

Your previous books for children, through Golden Destiny, were about more distant periods of history, what prompted you to write about the Windrush generation?
Although my previous books for children focused on ancient African history and this one is modern Black British history, they are all motivated by the same desire. I want to share those missing stories and neglected narratives. The arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 is such an important event in modern British history and yet when I looked for a nice book for children about it, I couldn’t find one! I had heard Sam King speak about his life at a few events and I was really inspired by him. I also knew something of my parents’ experiences of coming to Britain in the 1960s. I just felt that children growing up today in Britain (and in the Caribbean too) should be able to read about the Windrush generation pioneers. 

How did you begin your research, and choose which of the hundreds of voices from the ship to highlight?
I was fortunate to have a DVD called Windrush Pioneers so I sat down and listened to it again for the first time in about 10 years. It had interesting interviews with Sam King, Allan Wilmot, Peter Dielhenn and several others. I read Allan Wilmott’s biography (I had also heard Allan Wilmott speak a couple of times at events). I asked my parents a few questions, things that I had never asked them before! I just chose the voices which appealed to me.  There was no real thought to it! I loved how Alford Gardner described his journey with people from other Caribbean islands meeting each other.

Have you done much work with children around the book? Since lockdown have you done any virtual events?
I have done a few virtual events during lockdown. For more than ten years I have been giving talks and museum tours around Black history. I’m used to speaking face to face and enjoying in person interaction. I never thought I would get used to virtual doing virtual events but now I love it! I do a 30-min ‘Meet the Author’ session for children aged 8 to 12. I give a short overview about the book, why and how I wrote it, why it’s important followed by time for the children to ask questions.

Did Scholastic suggest any changes to the book before republishing it? How different is it working on a new book with a big publisher?
Scholastic have been brilliant and I am really happy with the way they’ve improved the book.  It’s a completely different experience working with a big publisher and so far I am loving it. As you know I originally self published The Story of the Windrush. That’s hard because you have to make all the decisions yourself about artists, layout, style, everything! And, I’m really pleased with the new edition of the book. Scholastic have kept the same overall look but there are better captions on the illustrations (both the drawings and the photos). They have also tidied up some of the wording to make it even clearer for readers. And I am especially happy with the tweaks to the map of the British Empire. That’s important for educators.

Have you thought about writing historical fiction?
Not really. I just don’t think I’d be very good at writing historical fiction. I’d love the research side of it but I don’t think I’m that good at making up interesting characters and compelling plots. There are lots of children that love factual books and I’m quite happy writing for them.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race. It’s about Cy Grant’s experience during the Second World War when he was shot down over Nazi Germany. He was from Guyana (or British Guiana as it was called then). It’s interesting but also educational.

What can we expect from you next?
My next book is going to be a sort of a prequel to The Story of the Windrush. I’m working on it now and it’s slowly starting to take shape. I still have more research to do though so it could all change of course….and probably will!

Huge thanks to Kandace for answering my questions!

THE STORY OF THE WINDRUSH is published in the UK on 15th October 2020 by Scholastic

Open Letter of Support & Solidarity with Trans & Non-Binary People from Library Workers

We the undersigned Library workers want to add our voices to those from the UK & Irish publishing community [https://www.thesecondshelf.com/digest/a-message-from-members-of-the-uk-and-irish-publishing-community] and the US publishing community in standing in solidarity with our Trans & Non-Binary colleagues, patrons and fellow humans, and reaffirm our unconditional support of Trans and Non-Binary people and their rights.

We believe that:

Trans & Non-binary rights are human rights

Trans Women are Women

Trans Men are Men

Non Binary Lives are valid

We see you, we hear you and we believe you!

Signed:

  • Matt Imrie Librarian & Editor: Teen Librarian
  • Caroline Fielding School Librarian & UK Editor: Teen Librarian
  • Lesley Martin
  • Zoey Dixon
  • Colette Townend, Librarian
  • Lucinda Murray, Children’s Librarian
  • Cheryl Walton (South Australia)
  • Anjali Pathiyath, High School Librarian, London
  • Jérémie Fernandes , Academic Librarian (Scotland)
  • Deborah Varenna
  • Josh Neff, Information Specialist, Kansas, USA
  • Dan Katz, School Librarian
  • Emerson Milford Dickson, School Librarian
  • Binni Brynolf, Systems Librarian
  • Cathy Harle, Academic Library Assistant, Cardiff
  • Dawn Finch, Author & Librarian
  • Emily Wheeler, Academic Librarian
  • Maura Farrelly, School Librarian
  • Hayley Lockerbie, Librarian
  • Barbara Band, Independent library consultant and advisor
  • Claire Warren, School Librarian
  • Robert Sell, Academic Library IT Officer, Cardiff
  • Ash Green
  • Jenny Foster
  • Ian Clark
  • David Hughes, Librarian
  • Mobeena Khan
  • Alex Mees, school librarian, London
  • Bethan Ruddock
  • Samantha Lockett, SLS Librarian
  • Rachel Playforth, NHS Librarian
  • Jamie R. Librarian, UK
  • Lauren Smith
  • Stuart Lawson, Academic Librarian
  • Michael-Israel Jarvis, School Library Assistant
  • John Trevor-Allen, Librarian
  • Jennifer Dion, Teen Librarian, Pointe-Claire, Canada
  • Emma Sweeney, Library Worker
  • Hannah Beckitt, NHS Librarian

Please add your name in the comments below & your name will be added to the main body of this post

One of the signatories has made a significant point that I agree with fully and feel compelled to add to this post:

our support has to go beyond the signing of an open letter. We need to work in all areas of library services to ensure trans and non-binary people do not face discrimination and are supported by their libraries.

The Runaway TARDIS

Cue music:

The Doctor Who theme tune give me goosebumps every time I hear it! Segun Akinola‘s take on it is just perfect, he kept everything that was classic and cool about it and added a new twist that improved it immeasurably!

Unable to make friends at her new school, Lizzie packs a bag and runs away. After accidentally stowing away in the TARDIS, she meets the Doctor, a mysterious woman who claims to be a time-traveling space alien. When the TARDIS malfunctions, Lizzie and the Doctor are sent catapulting through time and space, visiting the pyramids, the dinosaurs, an alien planet, and more. Along the way, Lizzie learns that making new friends isn’t so hard after all . . . but will she ever be able to get back home?

Doctor Who The Runaway TARDIS is Quirk Books latest POP Classics adaptation and their first featuring the BBC’s Doctor as played by Jodie Whittaker.

It is no secret that I love Doctor Who, which is a bit weird as unlike many fans I did not grow up watching it from behind the sofa, I did not grow up watching it at all. I discovered the novelizations by Terrance Dicks at a second-hand booksale. These were my introduction to the universe of The Doctor and when the show regenerated in 2005 I was one of the many people rejoicing and have watched it ever since.

If I had to choose just one word to describe The Runaway TARDIS, that word would be:

Honestly it is! It is one of the best adaptations of the show that I have ever seen! They have taken everything that is good and wonderful from the show and turned it into a picture book that is perfect for everyone from hardcore Whovians to folk that may have never encountered the Doctor before they happily decided to pick up this book.

If you or someone you know has moved and is missing their friends or has a feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation (honestly in this time of Covid-19 I think that describes just about everyone) then this book is the perfect choice!

“Everyone gets lonely sometimes'” said the Doctor. “But I make new friends wherever I go, and I never forget the old ones.”

Kim Smith’s art style is perfect in capturing the sense of awe and wonder on the face of the Doctor’s latest companion as they shoot through time and space in an out-of-control TARDIS.

There are also loads of Easter eggs hidden in the book to keep people poring over the book for ages, honestly it is such a delightful read I think that everyone should buy a copy (or borrow it from their local library).

Doctor Who: the Runaway TARDIS is based on the Doctor Who series by Chris Chibnall; it is illustrated by Kim Smith and published by Quirk Books. It is available from all good bookshops and your local library now!

Competition time:

I also have a copy to give away, if you (yes you) would like to win yourself (or someone you love) a copy of The Runaway TARDIS then just comment on this post with your best (or worst) Doctor Who joke e.g.:

I was at a party full of World Heath Organization medics over the weekend.

I thought I was going to a Doctor Who convention.

If you don’t know a Doctor Who joke then any good joke will do!

(this competition is open internationally)

Thank You Joseph Coelho

Tatenda says thank you every day, wherever he can. Thank you to Mom and Dad for making breakfast, thank you to the post lady for delivering his favorite comic, thank you to his teacher for marking his work and thank you to the shop worker stacking shelves. But lately, it seems no one can hear his thank yous: their heads are too foggy with worry. So Tatenda decides to say his biggest “Thank you” ever. He stands on tiptoe, brings his arms down like a huge rainbow . . . and this time, his thank you helps the whole community feel better!

Frances Lincoln Books
Thank You, with words by Joseph Coelho and pictures by Sam Usher

THANK YOU is a beautiful book. Joseph was inspired by the Clap for Carers during lockdown and royalties from the book are being donated to Groundwork UK, a federation of charities nationwide “mobilising practical community action on poverty and the environment”. Sam Usher’s illustrations are full of movement and so joyful, really bringing the words to life.

I’ve long loved Joseph Coelho, as a performer and writer, and when Frances Lincoln offered the chance to interview him about THANK YOU I jumped at the chance, while cheekily asking him about other recent titles with other publishers as well – he really is unstoppable at the moment!

The last few years have seen you publish poetry collections, novels, and picture books (as well as plays) for all ages of children and young people! When you have an idea, do you immediately know what you want to do with it or does the form come as you start writing?
What a super question. I don’t know immediately it’s a bit of trial and error, I have found however that if a story is deep enough it can often work for several mediums. Such as my poem If All The World Were Paper which was first published in Werewolf Club Rules but became a starting point for my picture book with Allison Colpoys If All The World Were...

THANK YOU is full of movement. Did you have an idea of how it should be illustrated or did you hand the text to Sam Usher to run with?
All picture books are really a collaboration between writer, illustrator, designer and editor so it’s hugely important that there is space for everyone to express themselves through the book. I am now in the habit of not thinking too much about the visuals, I focus on making sure the text works by itself, that the story is clear with or without illustrations so that the illustrator has scope to really put their mark on the book.

THE GIRL WHO BECAME A TREE, Otter Barry Books, is strikingly illustrated by Kate Milner

What is it about Daphne’s story that inspired you to write THE GIRL WHO BECAME A TREE?
I’ve always been interested in physical transformations as metaphor for internal change. It’s poetry made manifest. So when I came across the greek myth of Daphne it felt like the ideal subject for a story I’d been working on about a girl dealing with the death of her father. As with all the myths there are so many layers and ways to interpret that it felt like  a gift to explore through poetry.

ZOMBIERELLA is deliciously different, first of a 3 part series, but are there other fairy tales you would like to retell?
There are!  Book 2 is based on Rumplestiltskin and is called Frankenstiltskin. I have many ideas in development for many of the other tales some of which get a mention by the Librarian at the start of Zombierella who has discovered a section of the library full of fairytales that have gone bad, so I have a library to fill!

ZOMBIERELLA, Walker Books, is brilliantly illustrated by Freya Hartas

What is your favourite kind of event to do with/for children? How have you found digital events?
I love doing festival events with large audiences, you get a real sense of togetherness and occasion. I thrive off of getting large audiences to interact with each other.  I love the joy that can be generated as students hear their peers from different schools coming up with poetic lines or add to a group poem with people they’ve only just met.
Making everything digital has been interesting, it’s definitely far more time consuming than expected with even a five minute video taking the best part of a day but it is wonderful that we have this technology available to get us through these difficult periods.

Librarians across the country are so grateful for your enormous support, what drives that passion?
Libraries have always featured heavily in my life, from living on estates where I had a library next door, to my first Saturday job, to working at the British library whilst studying at UCL, to touring theatre shows designed to be performed in libraries. I’m immensely grateful to libraries and the services they provide for turning me into a reader and by association a writer. I also sincerely believe that library provision it key to helping communities thrive so it really is an honour to be in a position where I can celebrate these wonderful spaces.

One of my favourite pages from THANK YOU

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
I’m a serial dipper and always have several books on the go at present I’m reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, a book that everyone should read. I’m also reading an anthology of short stories on the theme of the sea published by the British Library called From The Depths and Other Strange Tales Of The Sea Edited by Mike Ashley – Recommended for anyone who likes a shot of creepy adventure. I’m also a big book listener and am currently listening to Children Of Time By Adrian Tchaikovsky for all sci-fi fans who aren’t scared of spiders!

What can we expect from you next?
I have a busy year ahead with book 2 of Fairytales Gone Bad and some more picture books coming out. I’m also working on a brand new middle grade adventure series which is yet to be read by anyone! Eeeek! But I love this period because at the moment it’s just me telling a story to myself or rather hearing characters tell me their story.

Joe Coelho Portraits Hay Festival 2018

Joseph Coelho is an award winning poet and performer from London, although he now lives by the sea. In 2019 he won the Independent Bookshop Week Picture Book Award for If All the World Were. He has been long-listed for The Carnegie Children’s Award with his poetry collection ‘Overheard In A Tower Block’, which was also shortlisted for the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award and Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. He won the 2015 CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award with his debut poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules. His debut Picture Book, Luna Loves Library Day was voted one of the nations favourite picture books by a survey led by World Book Day. His other poetry books include How To Write Poems and A Year Of Nature Poems

Skunk and Badger

No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?

Skunk and Badger is a wonderful take by two titans of the children’s book world: Amy Timberlake wielded the words and Jon Klassen created the illustrations. I will not lie, I am a fan of both, but Jon Klassen is one of my all-time top five artists and when I was offered a chance at an early copy I leapt at it!

I was not disappointed! This is a gentle, hilarious tale of a budding friendship, misadventure, chickens and underscored by the virtues of tolerance and understanding,

Skunk and Badger is timeless! Although aimed at a young audience this tale will find fans in readers of all ages.

Written by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen and published by Algonquin Young Readers. It is out on September 15 – I urge you to pick up a copy (or borrow a copy from your local library and then pick up your own copy to keep, read and reread).

Stupid Black Girl: Essays from an American African by Aisha Redux

When I first met you, I thought you were just a Stupid Black Girl.

Everyone has a story inside them – about their life and experiences, everyone’s story is different. For example I am a first generation immigrant in America, I came to the USA from South Africa via the UK. I am an invisible minority as I am white even though my identify is African. Aisha is a first generation American with West African parents, there are some intersections (immigrant family, African background) but even more differences. To stay safer in America all I have to do is not open my mouth and nobody passing me on the street will know that I am not from here, Aisha on the other hand was born here – she is more American than I will ever be, heck, she can even run for president of the USA – something I can never do but her skin color automatically puts her in more danger than I will ever face here.

But this post is not about me, it is about this wonderful, brutally honest (at times painful) collection of personal essays about her life, beliefs and experiences as a Muslim American African.

Stupid Black Girl is a brilliant book to pick up if you are looking to learn about experiences outside your own, even if you have begun immersing yourself in African/African-American/Minority experiences in the USA then this book needs to be on your reading list!

In reading this book you will learn about the experiences of others, and, at the same time you may learn a bit more about yourself…

Highly recommended! If I gave out star ratings this book would get five of them!

Stupid Black Girl is written by Aisha Redux, illustrated by Brianna McCarthy and published by Street Noise Books. It is available now!

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being a Library Worker

Things that are said (& celebrated) about Libraries, Librarians and Library Workers: 

  • Librarians are freedom fighters,  
  • Librarians are revolutionary,  
  • Librarians are rebels, 

Things that are not usually said or celebrated about libraries (but are still true): 

  • Libraries and Library Workers are (or have been) complicit in: 
    • In book banning 
    • In book burning 
    • In segregation 
    • In upholding white supremacy 

Many, mostly white (it has to be said) library folk have drunk the library kool-aid and believe uncritically everything (positive & affirming) that has been said about libraries. Heck for years I was one of them, I uncritically celebrated libraries without considering the history of library services in the countries I have lived and worked in until I took a look at myself, where I came from (South Africa) and what I stand for; then started poking around in the history of my career in my home country and further afield. 

Nowadays I am still a library-stan, I have seen and can see how libraries can affect the lives of those who use them in a positive way.  Of course people have to be able to  access the services that libraries provide to have their lives changed by them. I still fully support all that is good in public libraries but I also acknowledge the darker side that has largely been airbrushed out of the public library narrative. What follows are but a few examples of what overwhelming whiteness in libraries has been responsible for. 

In South Africa, Public Libraries were segregated under the apartheid regime and non-white South Africans were denied library services altogether or had a substandard service. 

Read Library philosophy vs. Apartheid legislation: Cape Town City Libraries: 1952-1972 by Kathleen Laishley 

Not content with segregation, the apartheid regime doubled down with book banning as well as burning books that they disagreed with. Librarians were complicit in this. 

Librarians at institutions across South Africa were tasked with removing banned books and the works of banned people from the shelves, and monitoring their usage. They received a weekly update in the Government Gazette and were expected to enforce the banning of books with immediate effect.

In the end, book burning was about power – the abuse of  power by the agents of  censorship, and the reluctance to confront power by those who aided and abetted censorship 

There has been segregation in many US libraries over the years, When Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of a new public library in Atlanta in 1902, scholar and activist W. E. B. DuBois, then a professor at Atlanta University and a strong proponent of African American education, spoke out publicly against the injustice of a public facility that refused service to a full third of Atlanta’s population. (https://dp.la/exhibitions/history-us-public-libraries/segregated-libraries

 In 2016 when accepting a National Book Award Representative Elijah Cummings recounted  how he was denied a library card in Alabama in 1956: 

“Some of you know I grew up in rural Alabama, very poor, very few books in our home, I remember in 1956, when I was 16 years old, going to the public library to get library cards, and we were told the library was for whites only and not for coloureds. And to come here and receive this honor, it’s too much.” 

The Dewey Decimal Classification System still carries many of the biases of it’s creator Melvil Dewey. It took until 2019 for his name to be removed from the ALA’s top honor. In the 1930s librarian Dorothy Porter started to decolonize the DDC by unpicking the racist way in which he treated Black authors. 

This brilliant article on BookRiot shows how libraries have and in some cases still are complicit in upholding white supremacy (and how it can be dismantled).  

Homophobia was also prevalent in early editions of the DDC and although it is being weeded out, many traces still remain. The religion section still skews heavily in favor of Christianity, with non-Christian faiths only making an appearance in the 290s. 

In 2017 a lack of diversity in the library profession lead to accusations of bias and worse being made against the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the oldest book award for books for children & young people in the UK. This controversy has lead to institutional changes in the way that the awards are run and has also lead to the formation of groups to help work towards increasing the diversity of the profession in the UK, so never let it be said that protests change nothing.

Today libraries are still largely staffed by white folk, most of them women many of who fall under the middle-class label, for a career that is majority female, it is weird that male library staff are very over-represented in library management positions – patriarchy it is not a bug, it is a feature (if you are a man that is). 

As the profession slowly (oh so slowly) diversifies, existing staff come face to face with our biases, both conscious and unconscious.  This is uncomfortable, for those of us who feel we are anti-racist, anti-imperialist and can lead to hurt feelings and lashing out when we are confronted with our failures in being good allies, and for our colleagues of colour who experience almost daily microaggressions from their colleagues and upon whom many white library workers place their needs for education on being better at becoming antiracist and working in a diverse workplace. 

It behooves all of us working in public libraries no matte where we are in the world to educate ourselves on how to be better allies in life and in libraries to our colleagues of colour, our LGBTQ+ colleagues an dour patrons. Libraries are no place for the false white saviour narrative, we are not rockstars (I hate that term – but that is a rant for another day), we must all work towards being open, inclusive in our lives as in our careers and make our profession a place that mirrors the world as it is and as it should be – diverse and vibrant, not a monochrome example of how things used to be. 

Further Reading & Resources