The children born to Black American GIs and white British women during Second World War

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-10-10 21:46Z by Steven

The children born to Black American GIs and white British women during Second World War

The Bristol Post
Bristol, England, United Kingdom
2021-10-08

Hannah Simpson

Interracial couples dancing in England during WWII (Image: www.mixedmuseum.org.uk/brown-babies ‘Courtesy of Gregory S. Cooke Collection’)

The children, who came to be known by the British press as the nation’s “Brown Babies”, grew up in post-war Britain

During World War II, around one million American troops arrived in England to prepare for the invasion of Europe and to assist Great Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany.

Of these GIs, 130,000 were African American who landed in cities such as Bristol between 1942 and 1945.

For many Brits, this was their first time meeting a person of colour, but in Bristol, the public were incredibly welcoming to their American visitors, with some pubs such as The Colston Arms refusing to adhere to US segregation practices.

America’s stringent Jim Crow laws were not limited to the United States alone, as the army was officially segregated until 1948…

…Professor of social and cultural history at Anglia Ruskin University, Lucy Bland said: “From all accounts a lot of local people much preferred the Black GIs…

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Making Mixed Race Matter

Posted in Family/Parenting, Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Social Science, Teaching Resources, United Kingdom on 2021-09-19 01:19Z by Steven

Making Mixed Race Matter

People In Harmony
2021-08-31

People in Harmony, PIH, is hosting the first event of the Mixed Race Research Network via Zoom with a workshop and studies.
With an increasing interest and the need for Research of Mixed Race Experiences PIH is establishing a network of researchers to share information and findings.

The first event is online at 1:00pm – 4:00pm (12:00-15:00Z, 13:00-16:00 BST, 08:00-11:00 EDT) Saturday 16th October 2021 with –

  • An exploration of Black and Minority Ethnic Inter Racial Couples experiences of Race and Ethnicity constructs: their lived experiences as a Multi Ethnic Family by Mala McFarlane.
  • The mixed race war babies of black GIs and British women by Dr Lucy Bland, Professor of Cultural History at Anglia Ruskin University.
  • Opportunities to share, hear and discuss your experiences and data, of studying our field of work…

For more information, click here.

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Yet government’s ambivalence towards the “brown babies” remained. The children were not white and therefore not truly “British”, since Britishness assumed whiteness.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-05-25 02:37Z by Steven

Yet government’s ambivalence towards the “brown babies” remained. The children were not white and therefore not truly “British”, since Britishness assumed whiteness. In addition, a mixed-race GI baby stood out as a visual marker of the black soldier having indeed, as the comedian Tommy Trinder was well-known for quipping, been “over-paid, over-fed, over-sexed and over-here”.

Lucy Bland, Thousands of mixed-race British babies were born in World War II – and adoption by their black American fathers was blocked, The Conversation, May 16, 2019. https://theconversation.com/thousands-of-mixed-race-british-babies-were-born-in-world-war-ii-and-adoption-by-their-black-american-fathers-was-blocked-116790.

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Interracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War II

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 19:32Z by Steven

Interracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War IIInterracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War II

Journal of the History of Sexuality
Volume 26, Number 3, September 2017
pages 424-453

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Sergeant Lomax, an African American soldier, arrived back in Ohio at the end of the Second World War; he had been stationed in England for much of his time away. He had a confession to make to his wife, Betty. In February 1949 she recounted their exchange to the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black American newspaper: “He said: ‘I’ve been gone a long time . . . about three years . . . that’s a long time for a fellow to be away from his wife. In the meantime I met a girl. She was nice, she was friendly, and Betty, I was very lonesome, so . . . what I’m trying to say is that there’s to be a child. Betty, you don’t have to answer right away, but would you agree to take this child?’”1 The boy had been born in December 1945 and was given the same name as his father: Leon Lomax. He was put into a children’s home in Britain by his single mother. With great difficulty, Leon senior eventually managed to have his son flown out to the United States, arriving in January 1949. The Pittsburgh Courier called his arrival “the story of the year! . . . The first ‘Brown Baby’ adopted by an American couple to reach America.”2 “Brown babies” was the name that the African American press of the time gave to mixed-race children born to black American soldiers and British and European women (the vast majority of whom were white) during or soon after the Second World War.3 One African American paper, the Chicago Defender, sometimes also referred to them as “tan-yank babies.”4 To the Pittsburgh Courier “the entire ‘Brown Baby’ question is one of the most controversial subjects in this country today. It is a question that involves two great nations—the United States of America and Great Britain.”5 The nature of this “controversial subject”—the “‘Brown Baby’ question”—is the focus of this article.

The British “brown babies” were the result of relationships formed between British women and African American troops stationed in Britain from 1942 in preparation for an invasion of France. From the beginning there was concern in official circles about the consequences of the presence of black GIs. Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, for example, was anxious that “the procreation of half-caste children” would create “a difficult social problem.”6 He and others in the War Cabinet would have preferred that no black GIs be sent at all. However, black troops did indeed arrive, following the Pentagon’s policy that the percentage of black American troops in every theater of war should reflect their percentage in the United States as a whole, namely, 10 percent of the population.7 By the end of the war, of the nearly three million US soldiers who had passed through Britain, up to three hundred thousand were African American.8

Unlike the British government, British civilians largely reacted positively to the presence of black GIs. A report from the Home Intelligence Unit (an organization set up in 1940 to monitor morale) noted the numerous references to “the extremely pleasing manners of the coloured troops.”9 Many may have agreed with the response of a West Country farmer when asked about the GIs: “I love the Americans, but I don’t like these white ones they’ve brought with them.”10 Historian Graham Smith suggests that one of the reasons the black GIs were seen as better mannered was that while the white GIs constantly complained about Britain’s lack of modern conveniences—no refrigerators, no central heating, few cars—most of the black GIs were not used to such luxuries at home and thus did not have reason to find fault.11 However, British attitudes were frequently condescending and informed by negative stereotypes. For example, the June 1943 Home Intelligence report “British Public Feeling about America,” which drew together some of the remarks people had made over the past year and a half, noted (without…

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The ‘Brown Babies’ who were left behind

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 16:37Z by Steven

The ‘Brown Babies’ who were left behind

BBC News
2019-05-17

Charlie Jones

children in a children's home
Many of the babies were put in children’s homes, such as Holnicote House in Somerset
Leslie York

When Babs Gibson-Ward was born in 1944, her mother’s navy officer husband did not question whether he was her father.

“He honestly believed I was his child, I think because my complexion at that time was very fair. It took six months for it to change,” she said.

She was one of 2,000 mixed race babies born to white British women and black American GIs during World War Two.

The children were dubbed “Brown Babies” by the media and many had troubled childhoods.

When Mrs Gibson-Ward’s skin darkened, her mother’s lie was revealed – her real father was a black US Airforce engineer…

…”Many British people had never seen a black person before. They were charming and less arrogant than the white officers.

“They met women at dance halls or pubs, on evenings which were designated ‘blacks only’,” Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History at Anglia Ruskin University, said.

But relationships were forbidden and their children were often kept secret. Most had never shared their stories until Prof Bland found 45 of them for her book, titled Britain’s Brown Babies

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Britain’s ‘brown babies’: The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-18 19:39Z by Steven

Britain’s ‘brown babies’: The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War

Manchester University Press
May 2019
288 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5261-3326-7
eBook ISBN: 978-1-5261-3327-4

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Britain’s ‘brown babies’

  • Provides a fascinating but little-known story of the 2,000 illegitimate children born to black GIs and British women in World War II – one consequence of the war missing from the history books
  • Gives personalised accounts from mixed-race people born in a (then) very white Britain before the 1948 arrival of the Windrush, charting the racism, stigma and acute sense of difference
  • Illuminates the difficulties facing mixed-race, illegitimate children in what was then, in the 1940s and early ’50s, a very white Britain
  • Makes an important contribution to the history of British mixed-race people
  • 50 black and white illustrations

This book recounts a little-known history of the estimated 2,000 babies born to black GIs and white British women in the second world war. 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 girl-friends. Nearly half of the children were given up to children’s homes but few were adopted, thought ‘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. The book will present the stories of over fifty of these children, their stories contextualised in terms of government policy and attitudes of the time. Accessibly written, with stories both heart-breaking and uplifting, the book is illustrated throughout with photographs.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. British women meet black GIs
  • 2. Keeping the ‘brown babies’
  • 3. ‘Brown babies’ relinquished: experiences of children’s homes
  • 4. Adoption, fostering and attempts to send the babies to the US
  • 5. Secrets and lies: searching for mothers and fathers
  • 6. After the war and beyond
  • Appendix: the case study ‘brown babies’
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Racism, Stigma and Self-Discovery: the ‘Brown Babies’ of World War II

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-05-23 17:33Z by Steven

Racism, Stigma and Self-Discovery: the ‘Brown Babies’ of World War II

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
Room B34
London WC1E 7HX
United Kingdom
Wednesday, 2017-06-07, 18:00–21:00 BST (Local Time)

Of the 3 million US serviceman who passed through Britain during World War 11, up to 10% were African-American. Many of these black GIs had relationships with local women, resulting in the birth of an estimated 2,000 mixed-race babies. These children were subjected both to the stigma of illegitimacy (for the US army forbade marriage between black GIs and white British women) and racism in what was then a very white country.

Whether kept by mother or grandmothers, or sent to children’s homes, the ‘brown babies’, as the African-American press termed them, generally grew up knowing next to nothing about their fathers, thereby experiencing an acute sense of lack. Now in their early 70s, many have subsequently searched for their fathers and their American relatives. Drawing on oral history (interviews with 38 ‘brown babies’) the talk will explore their journey from frequently difficult…

For more information, click here.

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Interracial relationships and the ‘brown baby’ problem: black GIs, white women and their mixed race offspring in World War II Britain

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2015-11-12 04:28Z by Steven

Interracial relationships and the ‘brown baby’ problem: black GIs, white women and their mixed race offspring in World War II Britain

University of Cambridge
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Seminar Room 1
Tuesday, 2015-11-17, 17:00-18:30Z

Lucy Bland, Reader in History
Anglia Ruskin University

For more information, click here.

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British Eugenics and ‘Race Crossing’: a Study of an Interwar Investigation

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2011-10-07 02:40Z by Steven

British Eugenics and ‘Race Crossing’: a Study of an Interwar Investigation

New Formations
Number 60 (2007)
pages 66-78

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom

In 1937 a polemic entitled Half-Caste was published, heralding ‘the richness of hybrid potentiality’. Written by a self-defined Eurasian called Cedric Dover its opening pages indicated the extent of prejudice facing those of mixed race:

The ‘half-caste’ appears in a prodigal literature. It presents him … mostly as an undersized, scheming and entirely degenerate bastard. His father is a blackguard, his mother a whore … But more than all this, he is a potential menace to Western Civilisation, to everything that is White and Sacred…

This ‘prodigal literature’ included novels and ‘a vast mass of pseudo-science’ developed by ‘eugenists, anthropologists, sociologists and politicians’.  In the book’s Preface, written by British scientist Lancelot Hogben, it was eugenics that was singled out for condemnation: ‘An influential current of superstition (called National Socialism in Hitler’s Germany and Eugenics in England) claims the authority of science for sentiments which are the negation of civilised society’. Yet despite the negative tone of the Preface, and the reference to ‘pseudo-science’, Dover was clearly not uninfluenced by eugenics.  He cited a number of British eugenists in his ‘Acknowledgements’, and he dedicated his book to Ursula Lubbock (Mrs Grant Duff) an active member of Britain’s Eugenics Society. He also admitted: ‘I subscribe without qualification to the prevention of undeniably dysgenic matings … but not to the conceit that colour and economic success are indices of desirability’. His invocation of a different index of ‘desirability’ other than economic success was reminiscent of other socialists who espoused eugenics on their own terms.  Eugenics was sufficiently protean to be harnessed to different ideological beliefs, ranging from the ultra conservative to the social-reformist and socialist. What was new and unique about Dover’s particular take on eugenics was the centrality of the ‘half-caste’, who ‘must be regarded … as a portent of a new humanity—a portent to be encouraged by the stimulation of eugenical mixture …’

In contrast to his own positive eugenical reading, Dover recognised that most other exponents of eugenics in interwar Britain took a very different view of the ‘half-caste’, namely, as ‘potential menace to Western Civilisation’. Why did these eugenists (and indeed many of the British establishment) hold such a view? What did they think were the implications of the presence of the ‘half-caste’? What or who was unsettled by the presence of mixed race people? One way of exploring these concerns is through an analysis of a project set up by the British Eugenics Society to investigate what they called ‘race crossing’. An examination of this project not only throws light on the prevailing discourses on race differences and their measurement, whiteness, and Englishness, but it also enables us to test historian Barbara Bush’s claim that eugenics was ‘a strong element of inter-war racism’, and to get a clearer sense of the role played by British eugenics in the discussion and regulation of race…

Read the entire article here.

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White Women and Men of Colour: Miscegenation Fears in Britain after the Great War

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, Women on 2011-10-07 02:29Z by Steven

White Women and Men of Colour: Miscegenation Fears in Britain after the Great War

Gender & History
Volume 17, Issue 1 (April 2005)
pages 29–61
DOI: 10.1111/j.0953-5233.2005.00371.x

Lucy Bland, Professor of Women’s Studies and Sociology
London Metropolitan University

This article examines miscegenation fears in Britain in the period after World War I, noting three dominant discourses: that miscegenation leads inevitably to violence between white and black men (focusing on the 1919 race riots), that these relationships involve sexual immorality (analysing the 1920 ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’, a case involving a white woman, a Chinese man and drugs and a trial of a white woman for killing her Egyptian husband) and that miscegenation has ‘disastrous’ procreative consequences. It is suggested that miscegenation stood as one British boundary marker, separating the nationally acceptable and the nationally threatening. The parties concerned–the ‘primitive’ man of colour, the white woman of a ‘low type’ and the ‘misfit’ offspring–were each pathologised in terms of their deviant sexuality. Yet interracial relationships did not decrease, quite the contrary. The move in Britain towards a more racially mixed community began in the years after the Great War, when certain white women made choices against the norms of respectable femininity.

Read or purchase the article here.

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