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Leeds Libraries Celebrates Black History Month 2020: Dig Deeper, Look Closer, Think Bigger

Leeds Libraries Celebrates Black History Month 2020: Dig Deeper, Look Closer, Think Bigger
Written by Leeds Libraries  07/10/2020

Throughout October Leeds Libraries are celebrating Black History Month with; Librarian selected reading lists for all the family, a live streamed talk with Historian David Olusoga, Leeds Reads Book Club featuring the wonderful author Lemn Sissay and our Local and Family History department will be devoting their digital channels to local Black History as well as a spotlight on our Special Collections.

Our Librarians at Leeds Libraries have curated a selection of reading lists for Under 5's, Children and Young Adults which celebrate Black people in history, Authors, Illustrators and much loved characters. These books share the inspiring stories of people throughout history, they'll take you on a journey across the beautiful continent of Africa, excite you with tales from the Caribbean and tell the story of bold heroes, courageous kids and wonderful friendships. Sharing these titles with your family will diversify your reading and inspire you to dig deeper, look closer and think bigger! All books are available to order and collect from Leeds Libraries as well as download from Borrowbox. You can find these fantastic reading lists on our school and family newsletter dedicated to Black History Month.

Leeds Libraries are part of the British Library's Living Knowledge Network where we are able to share some of their exciting events and livestreams for free throughout the year. As part of our Black History Month programme you can access the live streamed event 'David Olusoga in Conversation: Black History Matters' on Wednesday 7 October at 7.30pm. The murder of George Floyd in the US reverberated around the world. It gave way to an explosion of protest, and a closer examination among historians of the systemic racism in the way the African diaspora is described. Cultural institutions around the world are examining their own legacy within the history of colonialism and imperialism. David Olusoga will give his personal perspective on how we memorialise, teach and write about racism, and why Black British history matters during this thought provoking event.


This month our Leeds Reads Online Book Club will be discussing My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay. In this book Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. You'll find plenty of copies on Borrowbox in either e-Book or e-Audio format or you can Order and Collect a copy from your local library. The Book Club will take part on Thursday 15 October at 5.30pm via our brand new Facebook Group

Our Local and Family History department at Central Library are exclusively focusing their digital content on Black History in Leeds during October and will be publishing a weekly Friday blog post on The Secret Library: Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog. This will become a permanent directory of resources, links and blog articles to aid research and investigation into local Black history in Leeds and Yorkshire. You can get a first glimpse of the content of these weekly blog posts every Thursday morning in their brilliant Twitter thread, they will also be signposting to other local organisations. In addition, the department has plans to run several African-Caribbean Family History workshops online in the coming months – email localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk  to be added to our local history mailing list to find out more.

Every Tuesday we showcase our #rarebookoftheweek from our Special Collection on Twitter and Instagram. During Black History Month we are going to put a spotlight on some of these rare books that relate to the Atlantic Slave Trade. For example, Pierre Pomet’s Complete History of Drugs (1748) depicts enslaved people working on sugar and tobacco plantations. Feeding sugar cane into a vertical mill was one of the most dangerous jobs an enslaved person could be forced to do. This book clearly shows the relationship between the European market for these products and the enforced slave labour that it was built upon. An important book with a more local connection is The Life of Olaudah Equiano, which was originally published in 1789 and is one of the first books in Europe written by a Black African writer. He was an enslaved man who bought his freedom and then campaigned to abolish the slave trade. Our copy was printed in Leeds in 1814, to continue the support of the anti-slavery movement. We hope these rare books throughout October give you a window into the lived experiences and history of people during this time.

The best way to keep up to date with the latest library news is through our social media channels @leedslibraries or sign up to our newsletter. If you have any questions or want to use the Order and Collect service contact libraryenquiries@leeds.go.uk or 0113 378 5005.

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