Historian talks at BU about black community during World War II

Historian Stephen Bourne was at Bournemouth University to share the forgotten stories of black people who helped Britain’s war effort.

His talk, Mother Country – Britain’s Black Community on the Home Front 1939–45, took place in a packed lecture theatre of students and staff in Bournemouth House on Tuesday.

He said: “I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout and the diversity of people in the room, with such a wide mix of students from different courses.

“I think it is important that these stories are told and their contribution needs to be explained to young people.

“Time is running out as we are getting further and further away from World War II and young people need to get out there and talk to older people.”

Stephen is an author of 19 books, looking at the secret histories which are often ignored, forgotten and overlooked.

His talk covered some of stories of black people during World War II – from children who were evacuated to find that no–one in rural villages wanted to take them in, to a mother who wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill after they were forced out of their local air–raid shelter by police.

He also talked about some of the black people who contributed to the war effort – such nurses who came over from the West Indies and other British Colonies to help.

He said: “During the war, people did pull together – in spite of all the negative stories. “For every negative story, I found a positive story – and that is very important for me as part of a history of black Britain.

“Some historians portray black people in history as victims, but I don’t think that is healthy and I don’t think that is the bigger picture.”

The talk was one of a number of events taking place at Bournemouth University throughout October to mark Black History Month.

On Monday 29th October there will be a screening of film The Help, in Kimmeridge House, from 6pm. The screening is open to staff, students and members of the public.

On Tuesday 30th October, there will be a culture evening in the Loft, in Poole House, which will feature live music, West African food and a display of fashion. The event runs from 7pm and is open to staff, students and the public.

Dr James Palfreman–Kay, equality and diversity adviser at Bournemouth University, said: “We celebrate Black History Month as well as other cultural events at Bournemouth University because we are a multicultural university with a diverse range of students and staff.

“We hope that by marking such events it shows that we are an inclusive and diverse community.”

If you would like more information about events happening at BU as part of Black History Month, email multiculture@bournemouth.ac.uk.