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James Berry came to Britain on the SS Orbita in 1948. These notes were written in preparation for his poetry collection, Windrush Songs (2007).
As a child Berry was angered by his father’s lack of interest in his children’s education, but he came to see this as a symptom of colonial society which kept people in ignorance of their past. Though Berry grew up in the shadow of a former slave plantation, he learnt nothing about Caribbean history at school. Berry’s awakening came when he travelled to the US and witnessed the ‘terrible humiliations’ of black people in the south.
Other notes feature headings such as ‘My Response to England’, ‘Arrival in England’ and ‘The Battles We’ve Won against Slavery and Racism are not Victories Only for Black People’. Some pages feature text snippets that have been cut out from elsewhere and stuck into this collection – a method Berry often used, particularly in his preparatory work.