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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’
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.

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

married.) A number of the forty-five black GI fathers were also married, but the exact number is unknown.2 As explained in the ­previous chapter, 9781526133267_Print.indd 45 02/04/2019 12:31 46  Britain’s ‘brown babies’ even where both parties were free to marry, marriage between white British women and black GIs was generally forbidden. In Reynolds’s News in 1947, Ormus Davenport suggested that when a black GI mentioned pregnancy, ‘the man was usually transferred to some other county or to a distant part of Britain … When a girl tried to follow up her claim against

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

enormously. They had come primarily in response to Britain’s labour shortage, although they were never embraced by the British government.3 While most Britons had been welcoming to the black GIs and West Indians who had come earlier to aid the war effort, many now saw these new arrivals as a threat to their jobs, housing and the ‘British way of life’. As Wendy Webster points out, they were now no longer uniformed ‘allies’ but ‘immigrants’.4 Allan Wilmot, a Jamaican who had served in the RAF, had ‘doors slammed in my face’.5 Martin Noble, another Jamaican former airman

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Greater Britain in the Second World War and beyond
Wendy Webster

Britain, criticism of white American attitudes to black GIs also boosted an image of tolerance and true democracy against the racism attributed to white Americans. According to BBC listener research, ‘The attitude of white American troops to their coloured compatriots was mentioned only to be condemned and used as evidence against the reality of American democracy’. 43 In an incident reported from

in The break-up of Greater Britain
Open Access (free)
Antonia Lucia Dawes

paranoias about racial intimacy. These racist and patriarchal paranoias had a historical precedent in the memory of biracial war children born to black GIs during the Allied occupation of the city that had been awakened by the arrival of black African street vendors. Chapter 5 explores everyday life in Neapolitan street markets by examining them as sites of precarious money-making for internally stratified and subaltern groups of people in Napoli. Multilingual market cries – greetings, humour and bartering, predominantly in English, in Italian and in Neapolitan

in Race talk
Allison Abra

Jamaican journalist who was now serving as a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, and who described being assaulted by a British Army officer after he had danced with a woman at a dance in Lancashire.93 On another occasion, two British sisters, upon observing that a group of black GIs were largely being ignored at a dance in Somerset, invited them to the floor during a ‘ladies choice’ number. The father of the two women was later approached by another man at the event, who demanded to know ‘what his daughters were doing dancing with coloured troops’.94 A third incident

in Dancing in the English style
Experiences of children’shomes
Lucy Bland

organisation was against segregation, and other conference delegates tended to agree.15 When Dr Moody of the LCP wrote to Bevan, the Minister of Health, in December 1945 he emphasised this anti-segregationist stance: children born to ‘coloured’ Americans who were given up by their mothers ‘should be sent to a large number of homes all over the country, along with white children’.16 9781526133267_Print.indd 96 02/04/2019 12:31 ‘Brown babies’ relinquished  97 There were, however, several homes that prioritised the housing of the mixed-race children of black GIs, not

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’
Lucy Bland

about ‘the appalling discrimination made in many parts of the US against coloured people’. He also explained the legal position on adoption: under British law (the 1939 Adoption Act) children were only allowed to be sent abroad to live with British subjects or relatives. African-American couples who came forward to adopt were thus excluded from consideration, and since they were only deemed ‘putative’ fathers (DNA testing for paternity did not come into being until the 1960s), the black GIs were not considered to be relatives. Sending the children to the US would thus

in Britain’s ‘brown babies’