October is Black History Month here in the UK and it is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible people whose lives have shaped the world we live in today. From scientists and artists, to politicians and pioneers, Black History Month offers us the chance to say thank you to the trailblazers and history makers.
However, this month is also a reminder of the many who have been side-lined and ignored, and it is a chance to uncover histories that are too long forgotten. In celebration of these people we would like to shine a spotlight on a few names you may not know and their incredible stories that you are unlikely to forget.
In Race to the Frozen North award-winning author Catherine Johnson brings to life the unbelievable story of Matthew Henson, the first man to reach the North Pole. Matthew’s story takes him on an incredible journey from a life of abuse and destitution to one of true adventure. When Matthew joins the expeditions of Robert Peary he quickly rises through the ranks to become Peary’s right-hand man. However, when they return home triumphant, Matthew’s accomplishments and bravery are purposefully ignored due to the colour of his skin, turning his adventure into a continuing battle to regain his rightful place in history.
Expertly told and reimagined by Catherine, Matthew’s story is a deeply moving tale of overcoming the odds that is sure to inspire all young readers.
“Life on the ice was different. People respected me there”
Respect by Michaela Morgan tells the fascinating story of Walter Tull, a ground-breaking British hero of the 20th century who became the first black premier league football player and the first black officer of the British Army. Though Walter was sadly killed in action in 1918, his short life is an inspirational story of resilience that continues to influence and inspire many today. Combining facts with engaging narrative, Respect brings Tully to life to celebrate him as both hero and pioneer.
“He, the grandson of a slave, a poor orphan, who had to make his own way in the world, became the first black man to lead white men into battle”
In 1848 in the Deep South of America, Rosa is a slave who is pale-skinned enough to ‘pass for white’. Yet freedom seems like an impossible dream until she meets Benjamin. Together they hatch a desperate plan that will put them in perilous danger. With Rosa posing as a white gentleman and Benjamin acting as her slave, there is hope that they can travel north unnoticed and escape.
Although it is a fictional reimagining of the Crafts’ dangerous journey, Passing for White is rooted in the reality of an unbelievable story of survival and a remarkable achievement that should not be forgotten.
“Baltimore was the last big slave port between us and freedom … By morning we’d belong to no one but ourselves”
These people and their stories are not only for one month of the year. They are an important reminder, lesson and inspiration – a huge part of history that should be taught and celebrated all year round. If you’re a librarian, bookseller, or teacher who would like to celebrate these stories further, get in touch, we’d love to help you tell your young readers the incredible stories of these unsung heroes.