Black Country Roots

Told in their own words, Black Country Roots is the story of the African-Caribbean community in Sandwell and the Black Country, through oral history interviews and photography. 

Luncheon club at the African-Caribbean Centre, West Bromwich, 1988, (from ‘Bickle’ exhibition). Photo credit: Maxine Walker / Nigel Madhoo Courtesy of www.jubileeartsarchive.com
Music for a church service, Wolverhampton, 1976. Photo credit: Nick Hedges
Wolverhampton Show, Inspirational Ladies Group, 2012. Gloria Hamilton (left) and Lucida Dull (right).  Photo credit: Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

At the beginning of the year, Sandwell councillor, Jackie Taylor, invited Multistory to produce ‘Black Country Roots’, a book about the African-Caribbean communities in Sandwell and the Black Country.

Many people from the Caribbean came to England to help with re-building after the second world war. To support the NHS and to work in industry and transport. Though they were much needed they also experienced terrible racism.

The book tells stories and personal, real life accounts in people’s own words accompanied by a series of historic and contemporary images that come from a range of sources including local archives and the personal collections of participants. Other photographs come from acclaimed photographers Martin Parr, John Bulmer, Paul Hill, Peter Donnelly, Nick Hedges and Vanley Burke.

Documentary designer Graham Peet selected the photographs, edited and designed the book; and Emma Purshouse (a local writer and performance poet) and Kurly McGeachie (a Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist) conducted the interviews.

Book launch & events
The book was launched to celebrate Black History Month and is now available to buy from our shop .

It is also being sold at local venues including Sandwell Libraries and the Black Country Living Museum.

 

My grandad used to tell me things about when he first came to England from Jamaica.

He still struggled with things like racism to the point where he married my nan, who is a white woman, and she’s English, British, and he had people writing on the walls of his house – things like ‘go back home’.

Lauren Campbell

 

When I landed, all I could see was this white stuff and I thought, ‘What’s that down there?’. Then come my dad and he said, ‘It’s snow’ and I’m thinking, ‘This is cold, man, this is cold, I don’t know if I can stay here; it is cold!’. When I look at the houses and see smoke coming out a chimney it looks like the house was caught on fire.

It was just change, because I’m leaving a hot country and coming to somewhere cold and it looked different, and I’m thinking, ‘Will I be all right, I may have to end up going back’. 

Annette Simms

Listen to excerpts from interviews below:

Mrs Nelson

Lauren