Stephen Bourne gave a really fascinating insight into his career as a self-taught historian in last night’s talk. Stephen’s initial book Aunt Esther’s Story which came out thirty years ago was based on his link to the older women in his family whose stories of their experiences on the Home Front in Second World War London fascinated him when he “bunked off” school in the 1970’s. He co-wrote a book with his black aunt Esther. Esther was adopted into his warm working class family when she lost her parents. This book led him into a world of research and writing having left school with few qualifications. With funding available for community History Stephen has been a pioneer in piecing together the jigsaw pieces of British Black History. He wrote for the vast array of independent magazines available in the 1990’s including The Voice, Race Today and The Caribbean Times. Stephen struggled to get his books published without a literary agent and but once they were published, they sold! There was and is a real audience for Black British History and particularly for the voice of Black Britons telling their own stories. His books have included work on the Black Home Front in both wars, Black Servicemen as well as writing about Gay History. Black Poppies which first came out in 2014 was republished in 2019. Stephen’s books are on areas that today would form a PhD thesis but then he was pioneering Black History before such topics were being taught in universities. Stephen was refreshingly honest and open about the barriers facing him including lack of interest at the BBC and told a great story about the enthusiastic reception he got from 13 year old Liverpool school children and bus drivers. His latest project is working on a children’s version of Black Poppies to be used in his local London schools because of the lack of resources. While understanding why teachers taught American Black Civil Rights, he urged the need for more inclusivity of Black British History because this subject is essential for our children. Now recognized by the academic establishment with an Honorary Fellowship Stephen reminded so many of us that we learnt History first by listening to the stories of our families and for some of us by not finding ourselves in the version of History served up for us in our schools and universities.
Stephen’s website https://stephenbourne.co.uk/books/