GIs who were stationed in Aberysychan village, Wales

Monk Family"Circa1944"

Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives
London, United Kingdom

During the second world war villages up and down the country became unknowing participants in a great social experiment. There would be a mixing of races, which would leave a lasting legacy across Britain. By 1944, over a million US soldiers had landed in Britain. And around a hundred and thirty thousand of these GIs were black soldiers, who were mostly sent to rural parts of Britain.
But there was a problem. The segregated US sent a segregated army to Britain. Black and white troops lived in separate camps, they ate in separate canteens, and spent their free time in separate clubs.
The question for the British government and the British people was would they tolerate segregation in the towns and villages of Britain? Would British pubs, dancehalls and restaurants in Britain refuse to admit black men?Would railway carriages be reserved for whites only?
From 1942 onwards, white GIs tried to use violence and threats to force racial segregation upon the British. But millions of people were so appalled by what they witnessed that they refused to have anything to do with American racism or segregation. Across the nation there were countless acts of kindness towards the black GIs.
Then, just as suddenly as the black GIs arrived, in June 1944 they were gone, joining the combat on the beaches of Normandy. But they left a lasting legacy.
There were hundreds of so called ‘brown babies’ who were left behind across the country. For some this would lead to years of shame and secrecy. In many communities, the secret history of the mixed race children is only now being uncovered.
This photo was featured in Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016), a BBC series revealing the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and people whose origins are in Africa.


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