Liverpool Black Pioneers

Ray Costello
Bluecoat Press, paperback, £6.99

Reviewed by Alison Cornmell

Ray Costello’s book is a collection of mini biographies of black men and women who have each been a pioneer in their own field. Despite having to suffer varying degrees of racism they have still managed to achieve their ambitions, but as this book proves they have reached their goals and are an inspiration.

The introduction to the book explains that the National Curriculum is failing to teach enough local history, and has also been criticised for its handling of multi-ethnic aspects of British history. This book tries to tackle this problem and suggests itself as suitable literature for teachers who wish to address the subject of local black history.

Before I began to read I was excited about what this book would arouse in me, but I was disappointed when I could not build a relationship with it. The biographies were mere snap shots of an inspiring life, and did not elaborate enough. Because of this whistle stop tour I did not feel as moved as I perhaps should have been. What it lacked was a historical background; a context within which the stories could be read and be fully appreciated.

Perhaps with a contextual introduction the stories would be more emotive and strike more of a chord, especially within the school children this book is aimed at educating. If a context was provided a school child would be better equipped to fully appreciate and value the accomplishments of the pioneering figures in the book.

Costello himself admits the book is not comprehensive, and it isn’t mainly because of its lack of context. However it is a worthy contribution, and would definitely benefit the National Curriculum especially if used in conjunction with a contextual background. So perhaps this is how I’d recommend reading this book, in conjunction with the many exhibitions and plays currently on in Liverpool that are working together to remind us of our past and to celebrate the African Diaspora.

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Comment left by ray costello on 8th October, 2007 at 18:19
Thank you for your comments, Alison. This book was meant as a follow-up to my first book, 'Black Liverpool:The early History of Britain's oldest Black Community 1730-1918', which did supply the general context (in fact, it is one of the very few books on the subject ever written of the Liverpool Black Community, and not as a stand alone little book. I suspect that I should have made that clear. As there is so little on our Black Community, my priority was to get at least one more out - there needs to be a lot more focus on this very old community. Nevertheless,thank you very much for your interest, as what is needed is support for this cause, preferably positive.

Comment left by Gloria Hyatt on 19th November, 2007 at 13:43
Although a featured pioneer in this momentous book, I was moved, inspired and validated as a Liverpudian with an African heritage. Indeed I felt proud to be Black. This book for me as an eductor and one of the few Black teachers in the city gives substantial information and insight for the majority of the residents of Liverpool whose knowledge is ranging from nothing to barely miniscule. Dr Ray Costello has to taken the courageous step to put this information in to the mainstream, which amounts to a massive step change in not only the transfer of information but the amount that is accommodated for public viewing. I expect resistance and negativity in relation to any works on the vexed subject of Black accomplishment, give the legacy Liverpool owns as one of the few cities in the country that has actively hidden it! Dr Ray Costello I am many other good people of the City of Liverpool salute you.

Comment left by Gail Miller on 27th August, 2009 at 15:28
"Your books are BRILLIANT and every child/adult should read them so to have a more ACCURATE insight into British and World History!" Dear Ray, We thourally enjoyed Liverpool's Slavery Remembrance Day this year and the children who came with us are still 'buzzing' from the day. We really apprieciate you taking time to give us your interview for Preston FM and hope you enjoy the show and pictures Preston FM have put on there homepage! THANK YOU!!! Gail Miller/Culture Shock on Preston FM/Looking Back Going Forward (Education group)

Comment left by Margaret Adamson on 16th January, 2012 at 3:18
I am trying to contact Dr Ray Costello re he book Black Liverpool. I would like some help to trace an ancestor of my husband's a convict John Turner - a man of colour - of Liverpool sent to New South Wales. I am writing from Western Australia and can supply further information on John Turner from the Australian end but would like to know how to research him in Liverpool. Looking forward to a reply. Thank you for that. Margaret Adamson

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