Jackie and Mr Chrouch (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain
To be part of history, and shape the future, someone needs to hear your story and remember it.
The Making of Black Britain oral history project is dedicated to telling those stories. To capture the everyday of everyone; every colour, class, and creed, from generation to generation – the real people who make up Britain today.
And through this, learn how Black Britain emerged, reflecting the changing landscape of our nation – a label that has much to say about us all.
Diane Louise Jordan, founder
Diane, broadcaster and TV presenter, is the founder of The Making of Black Britain oral history project.
Diane was inspired to begin this project after reflecting on her life, her parents' lives, and her Jamaican heritage.
The wedding of Diane’s parents, Harold and Norma, in North London (1958)The Making of Black Britain
Diane Louise Jordan:
Towards the end of my parents’ lives, in an attempt to find out more about my own history, I began bombarding them with questions about theirs, hoping to record as many of their memories as possible. Why did they leave Jamaica in the early ’50s for Britain, never to return? What kind of Britain did they find? I had so many questions.
Diane (2021) by Vanley BurkeThe Making of Black Britain
When my parents, Harold and Norma died, so did part of my story.
I really regretted taking so long to start this conversation. Talking with friends, some like me, first generation black British, I realised they too share feelings of incompleteness regarding their heritage.
They too have thoughts and questions about the ‘Black British’ label we grew up with, that at one time referred to all non-white people in the UK.
Young Men on a seesaw in Handsworth Park (1984) by Vanley BurkeThe Making of Black Britain
My personal story is part of a bigger, uniquely British narrative that’s still unfolding, still affecting not just British-born children of migrants, but all Brits of every class, colour, creed, and generation that make up our nation today.
And so 'The Making of Black Britain' was born; at its heart, it’s a storytelling project created to document and preserve our life experiences, for us and generations to come. It’s a ‘living’ archive, particularly poignant for communities like mine, whose history has been truncated or lost.
Edna Mae family photo (1958)The Making of Black Britain
The archive has been created to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1948 British Nationality Act, a pivotal Act of Parliament that formalised what already was; that anyone born anywhere in the Empire was in fact British. The Act triggered mass migration to the ‘mother country’ from its former colonies and dominions.
A group of MOBB storytellers (2021) by Vanley BurkeThe Making of Black Britain
The British Nationality Act of 1948...
So the question is why that changes, and why the British government in 1948 felt the need to pass an act? Because the other important thing to remember about the British Nationality Act of 1948, is that it doesn't really create any new rights. It really is intended to codify the existing rights and existing situation.
The right of entry into the UK. So effectively, an open door
It's important to remember that people born in the UK have this shared category of citizenship with people in the colonies, people in Jamaica, people in Barbados. Those no distinction in the law between them. And the expectation was that as those colonies achieved independence, those citizens would change their status to be citizens of independent Commonwealth countries, but would still have the same rights of entry and residence in the UK.
It means different things to different people.
Britishness is not about being rooted in a particular territory in a particular soil. The idea of Britishness was an imperial construct. It's about a kind of a global identity.
Lola and Vanley, London (2021)The Making of Black Britain
The Making of Black Britain seeks to give a voice to all people and document how we live. It provides a space for all viewpoints to be heard, including those we may not share, however challenging or uncomfortable.
The project encourages cross-cultural and intergenerational conversations about what it is to be British, and explores how we all experience this thing called ‘Britishness’.
Mr Chrouch, Leeds (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain
Mr Chrouch, 93: three generations of a father's love
...and I often say, "I would put it to you that there's a lot of black men that don't fit that stereotype." And I said, I often say "I can't relate to what you're saying, because that's not what I grew up with," you know, which is the truth.
Do you want to take part in The Making of Black Britain oral history project?
Go to www.themakingofblackbritain.org to register your interest.