Windrush Stories: British Library web space launches for Black History Month

James Berry notebook. James Berry Archive (James Berry Notebook, Dep 10691 from Box 2). © James Berry: The Estate of James Berry.

To coincide with Black History Month, the British Library is launching Windrush Stories, a free educational web resource that marks 70 years since the arrival of Empire Windrush.  Featuring newly commissioned writing and digitised archive material, this web space reflects on the deep, complex and enduring relationship between Britain and the Caribbean and showcases a range of voices from the Windrush generation and beyond.

Windrush Stories serves as a rich contribution to the events surrounding the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Empire Windrush in June 1948, which brought hundreds of Caribbean migrants to the UK. The website is dedicated to exploring the experiences and struggles of migrants in the mid-20th century within a larger narrative, examining the ways in which they have shaped British society and culture: www.bl.uk/windrush


From the evolution of Black British literature and music to stories of activism and reflections on the Windrush generation scandal, this resource offers a multiplicity of perspectives for learners of all ages. With newly commissioned writing from the likes of David Lammy, Andrea Levy, Hannah Lowe and Floella Benjamin, there will also be extensive archive material, including photographs, posters and notebooks, some of which featured in the British Library exhibition, Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land.

Star items include:

  • Manuscripts of Andrea Levy’s Small Island, kindly lent by the author, together with a postcard of the Empire Windrush purchased on board by her father
  • Notes and drafts relating to Windrush Songs by Jamaican poet and writer James Berry, whose archive was acquired by the Library in 2012
  • A letter from Vincent Reid in 1968, who at the age of 13 was the youngest person on board the Empire Windrush and went on to become a pioneering teacher of Caribbean and African history

For the first time users can view a new film inspired by the exhibition, featuring members of the Caribbean Social Forum sharing their stories of journeying from the Caribbean to the UK (created as part of a partnership community project between the British Library, Caribbean Social Forum and Chocolate Films). All of the literary material from the web space will also be available on Discovering Literature, the British Library’s online learning resource.

The web space accompanies the British Library’s free exhibition, Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land, which has received more visits from school learners than any other British Library Entrance Hall exhibition in recent years. The exhibition closes on 21st October. For more information, including on how to visit, go to https://www.bl.uk/events/windrush-songs-in-a-strange-land.

Alex Whitfield, Head of Learning Programmes at the British Library said, “This new web space will open up our collections and the impassioned and insightful new writing we have commissioned to a wide audience. It is absolutely right that the Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land exhibition should have a lasting legacy online and we hope this resource sparks debate, discussion and reflection.”

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The British Library
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