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Author: Lucy Bland

This book recounts the little-known history of the mixed-race children born to black American servicemen and white British women during the Second World War. Of the three million American soldiers stationed in Britain from 1942 to 1945, about 8 per cent (240,000) were African-American; the latter’s relationships with British women resulted in the birth of an estimated 2,000 babies. The African-American press named these children ‘brown babies’; the British called them ‘half-castes’. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry their white girlfriends. Up to half of the mothers of these babies, faced with the stigma of illegitimacy and a mixed-race child, gave their children up for adoption. The outcome for these children tended to be long-term residency in children’s homes, sometimes followed by fostering and occasionally adoption, but adoption societies frequently would not take on ‘coloured’ children, who were thought to be ‘too hard to place’. There has been minimal study of these children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. Accessibly written and illustrated with numerous photographs, this book presents the stories of over forty of these children. While some of the accounts of early childhood are heart-breaking, there are also many uplifting narratives of finding American fathers and gaining a sense of self and of heritage.

Experiences of children’shomes
Lucy Bland

94  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 3 • ‘Brown babies’ relinquished: experiences of children’s homes In the 1940s, if a mother was unable to keep her child and if neither the child’s father nor anyone in the family was willing to take on its care, the only option appeared to be adoption. Many mothers were pressurised to ‘get rid of’ their babies (akin to the language of abortion), but some managed to resist, as in the case of Monica’s mother. Others felt they had no choice or may have actively wished to relinquish their child. Of the forty-five ‘brown babies’ whose

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

44  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 2 • Keeping the ‘brown babies’ When Monica’s mother gave birth to her in November 1944 she was a 26-year-old single woman still living at home with her father, looking after her six brothers and sisters. They lived in St Helen’s, near Liverpool. Her mother had died when she was ten and as the oldest daughter she had had to leave school early to help look after the other children. Monica recalls her mother’s account of the situation facing her when she revealed her pregnancy: She was pressured horrendously to give me up … to have

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

224  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 6 • After the war and beyond In 1948 the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, Essex, bringing 802 people from the Caribbean. Until recently the figure had been given as 492, but records at the National Archives show a much higher figure.1 Many had served in Britain during the war and were now returning. By 1958 over 125,000 West Indians had arrived since the war.2 Throughout the 1950s into the early 1970s many more travelled to Britain from the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent; the racial make-up of Britain changed

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Abstract only
Lucy Bland

9781526133267_Print.indd 1 02/04/2019 12:31 2  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ 0.1 Joyce Joyce and Carole B are two examples of children born during the war to black GIs and white British women. I first heard about such children when in October 2011 I watched the second episode of the three-part BBC series Mixed Britannia – a history of mixed-race people in Britain in the twentieth century.3 It opens with the presenter, George Alagiah, going off to meet his brother-in-law, Tony Martin, a mixed-race GI baby. Later in the programme another war baby, Brian Lawrenson, also talks

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

Adoption, fostering and attempts to send the babies to the US  143 • 4 • Adoption, fostering and attempts to send the babies to the US The last chapter indicated that the adoption of British ‘brown babies’ was relatively unusual. Adoption societies assumed that no one would want such children, so presumably did not make much effort to find adopters. Further, a kind of ‘same race’ policy was effectively in operation, with white people’s attempts to adopt a mixed-race child deemed inappropriate and ‘sentimental’. In addition, everyone involved in the adoption

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Abstract only
Searching for mothers and fathers
Lucy Bland

182  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 5 • Secrets and lies: searching for mothers and fathers For nearly every British ‘brown baby’, the identity of their American father was a total mystery. This led many of them, once they were older, on a search for their father and for their unknown American relatives. Those who were placed in children’s homes knew little or nothing about either parent, and the first parent they usually searched for was their mother. Before the rise of the internet in the 1990s and increasing access to many different kinds of records, this search

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

12  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 1 • British women meet black GIs On 26 August 1945 the front page of the Sunday Pictorial, a popular British paper, carried the following headline: ‘All This Happened in England Yesterday’. The heading implied a very un-English happening. The article opens: The scene was Bristol, most English of all English cities. The time was 2 am. The actors were a mob of screaming girls aged between 17 and 25. Their hysteria was caused by news that four companies of American negro soldiers in the city were leaving for home. The girls besieged

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Sabine Lee

baby’ into the family was much more CBOW during and after the Second World War 75 difficult, as the provenance of the child was clearly visible, and therefore the mothers’ husbands were often reluctant to adopt them. As a result, married mothers frequently felt they had no choice but to give up their illegitimate mixed-race children in order to safeguard their existing family. The situation of young single mothers of the so-called ‘brown babies’ was seldom easier. Single parenting in wartime and early post-war Britain meant financial hardship and social ostracisation

in Children born of war in the twentieth century
Cultural revolution and feminist voices, 1929–50
Rochelle Rowe

identification one could claim.62 Marson also turned her attention to uncovering taboos of racial and sexual politics from the vantage point of brown and black women in Jamaica. In ‘Brown Baby Blues’, a mother despairs of her loneliness and j 28 J the early ‘miss jamaica’ competition poverty after abandonment by a white seaman, but is glad, in Bailey’s words, to have ‘raised the colour’ of her child. My sweet brown baby Don’t you cry. My sweet brown baby Don’t you cry. Your mamma does love you And your colour is high.63 From this broad questioning standpoint, Marson

in Imagining Caribbean womanhood