Brown Babies in Britain

Posted in Articles, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, Videos on 2009-11-04 04:11Z by Steven

Brown Babies in Britain

Radcliffe Quarterly
Winter 2007
Dean’s Lecture Series

Julia Hanna

When white British women met black servicemen during World War II, mixed-race children sometimes resulted from their relationships. In her November 2 [2007] Dean’s Lecture, Hazel V. Carby addressed issues of race and class by drawing on scholarship and personal experience as one of the “brown babies” who caused social consternation and marked, according to Carby, the beginnings of Britain as a racialized state. Her lecture was titled “Brown Babies: The Birth of Britain as a Racialized State, 1943–1948.”

Yet her research into memos sent between various branches of the British government shows an acute awareness of West Indian servicemen as well as black American troops stationed in Britain. Concern was expressed that a “social problem” might arise if nonwhites mixed with the local white population during the war or stayed in Britain after the war, and a program of covert racial segregation was put in place to monitor and manage black troops. When relationships and pregnancies resulted between white women and black men despite such interventions, the women were often counseled to give up their children and avoid marriage. Although her own parents ignored this advice, Carby has continued to search for the depersonalized meaning of her “half-caste” presence in the public sphere by studying memory, history, and citizenship, all of which she hopes to address in a forthcoming work, “Child of Empire: Racializing Subjects in Post WWII Britain.”

The Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies, a professor of American studies, and director of the Initiative on Race, Gender, and Globalization at Yale University, Carby is the author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America (Verso, 1999).

To watch Carby’s lecture, click here.

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