Paul Gilroy: Black Britain – A Photographic History
Star rating: 4/5
Paul Gilroy is one of this country’s foremost commentators on race issues, writes Mark Drinkwater. Perhaps best known for his scholarly analyses such as There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, Gilroy’s latest publication is filled with iconic images.
It’s 100 years since the birth of colour photography, and so it seems unusual that a photography book should feature only black and white pictures, although they obviously lend themselves well to the subject matter, which often concerns the contrast between black and white cultures.
With any collection, there will always be gripes about what’s been omitted. I’m intrigued to know why there’s no mention of the photographer Bert Hardy, who in the 1950s took a striking collection of pictures of black communities in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay or more recently, activist Linda Bellos who instigated Black History Month in the UK.
But there are plenty of figures I’m pleased to see included, such as Harold Moody, a black GP who in spite of discrimination from his medical peers in the 1930s, was much admired by those he served – the predominantly white working class people of Peckham.
In Southwark, where I work, ethnic minorities might soon no longer be the minority. So an awareness of history is important for my work as indeed it should be for others.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark