Pioneering Black Archive to Publish Children’s Books on Black British History

The George Padmore Institute (GPI) is delighted to announce the publication of two new books for five-to-eight-year olds, written and illustrated by award-winning author Ken Wilson-Max. Based on the unique archive collections housed at the Institute, the books tell stories of black history that still resonate today. Dream to Change the World, to be published in October, is based on the late John La Rose’s personal papers, and creatively depicts John’s early years in Trinidad. The second book, Jump Up, coming out in February 2022, draws on the Institute’s Carnival archive collection and the early history of Carnival.

George Padmore Institute writer in residence Ken Wilson-Max said: 

Having grown up in a large, culturally blended family meant it was not difficult to create empathy-based stories, where those reading could imagine for a moment what it feels like to be those they read about. When I was approached to become the writer in residence at the George Padmore Institute it felt like a significant career milestone would finally be crossed. Working with the GPI team has been a very rich and rewarding experience. My hope for the books is to show people that we are more similar than different and equally entitled to history, culture, pride and dignity. These stories are accessible to all children and encourage them to step into another experience of the world.’ 

Ken Wilson-Max

These two new books will be the first in a new series of black history books published by the Institute, helping to fill the void in reading material for younger children that the 2020 Black Lives Matter campaigns highlighted. The GPI will host two events to mark the publication of this landmark series, and will be giving some copies of the books away to local schools, black supplementary schools and others.  

Educational consultant and writer Joanna Brown expressed her support, saying: 

‘All children have the right to see themselves represented in the books they read and the history they learn. We know how important it is for us to nurture black children’s sense of self-worth and pride in their own heritage — and all children benefit from a properly inclusive education. These beautiful books will help to fill a vital gap in the curriculum by shining a light on a fascinating cultural history. What an inspiration for budding writers and historians!’ 

The publication of these two new books was made possible by an Arts Council England grant which has also enabled the GPI to develop a new website and create nine short films about some of its archive collections. The first film, on the New Cross Massacre Action Committee archives, features GPI Trustees Roxy Harris and Linton Kwesi Johnson, as well as academic Vron Ware, writer Rex Obano and former GPI poet in residence Jay Bernard.  

GPI Chair Roxy Harris said: John La Rose, the late founder of New Beacon Books and the George Padmore Institute, once remarked that British colonial policy deliberately withheld information from the population and tried to establish a discontinuity of information from generation to generation. So the GPI is pleased to be able to contribute to challenging such discontinuities this year by publishing these beautiful books for children and by making a substantial series of short films offering the public an introduction to a wide range of our archives highlighting the activism and achievements of Black Britain.’  

Categories: UK News

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