This book does what it says in the title. It charts the extensive and diverse work of Black people in the television and film industry in Britain from its beginnings up to 2001.
Half way down page one you will find the words:
“One of the first films seen in Britain featured blackface minstrels. The Wandering Negro Minstrels (1896) showed half a dozen of them busking on a London street...”
1896? I understand these were white actors painted to portray Black artists but this represents something significant – the Black presence was recognised in film as far back as 1896.
This book continues to amaze as it unearths hidden gems. It is beautifully set out in a way that makes it easy and so interesting to read from cover to cover but also to dip into for specific information. The illustrations
taken from actual films and programmes make its truth even stronger and palpable. On page 8 there is a still from Jack, Sam and Pete where the Black British actor Earnest Trimmingham is clearly visible and engaging in this British-made Western dated 1919. I have to say that again. 1919.
Winifred Atwell, a classically trained pianist, also known as the Honky Tonk Woman, was the first and last artist to have her own television shows on both ITV(1956) and BBC(1957); Joan Hooley appeared in Emergency Ward - 10 in 1964; Paul Robeson touched the hearts and lives of many Britons throughout his singing and acting career from the 1930’s to the 1950’s ... This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
There are also interviews; Carman Munroe gives a fascinating and truthful interview before which we are given a thorough breakdown of her impressive career so far; the author Stephen Bourne gives some insight into his world of history, writing and inspiration; and Corinne Skinner-Carter shares some of her experience of the industry.
Throughout the text the author gives a political and historical context to the artists’ work and helps to bring into focus how important the lives of these artists are to our experience of Britain today.
This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in theatre, television, film, British society, British history. I call for this book to grace the shelves of every educational institution in this country – we will all benefit from its wisdom and knowledge.
We are seriously indebted to the author Stephen Bourne for his dedication, hard work, talent, intelligence and steadfast persistence. He has just finished his 10th book on Black history and/or historic figures based on the testimonies of those who were there. Find out more about this wonderful historian at his website:
Waterstone’s of Camden take “print on demand” orders over the phone at £19.99:
020 7284 4948
Black in the British Frame is also available at play.com and on Amazon.