Oxford Companion to Black British History launched By John Mair in London
Stabroek News
March 29, 2007

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Two hundred years almost to the day after the Bill to abolish slavery passed the House of Commons, the Upper Chamber - the House of Lords - was the glittering venue for the launch of The Oxford Companion to Black British History. One of the three editors, and the moving force behind it, Professor David Dabydeen, Guyana's Ambassador to UNESCO and Cultural Attache to the London High Commission, orchestrated the champagne and tea launch besides the Thames on the balcony of the Houses of Parliament last Thursday afternoon.

The Oxford Companion,with over four hundred entries ranging from Michael X to the SS Windrush, from Brixton to Black music and art is simply the most comprehensive guide ever published on Black Britons and their ancestry. The authors span a wide range of scholarship.

The arrival of Black Britons at the top table was shown by the presence at the launch of Baroness Patricia Scotland, of Monserratian origin, a senior UK government minister and David Lammy, the Guyanese origin UK Minister of Culture who is tipped to demit office with Prime Minister Blair later this year. Professors and writers were joined by the former British High Commissioner to Guyana Edward Glover, now Chairman of the Iwokrama Board of Trustees.

The host for the event was Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey who also acted as an advisory editor on the book. She said the Companion "gave Black history a certain kind of legitimacy" and was particularly potent in the year of the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire."

Professor Dabydeen in his brief remarks echoed Baroness Young and said "Black history is now respectable" through the publication of this volume. On a lighter note, he remarked that his seven-month-old son Moses (named in honour of a prominent Guyanese politician) had been brought along to the House of Lords to measure up the seat for himself later in life.

Champagne and salmon sandwiches seemed far removed from the horror of slave ships.

The Oxford Companion to Black British History is published by Oxford University Press and should be available in Guyana in the not too distant future.