As part of Rosslyn Hill Chapel's 'Celebrating Black Lives' series, we celebrate the Black British writer Malorie Blackman.
Malorie Blackman was born in February 1962 in Clapham to Barbadian parents who were part of the Windrush generation. Even at a young age, Blackman sensed an issue with the lack of diversity that she found in the literature she sought solace in - an issue that she would later challenge in her adult life.
Whilst at school, Blackman was discouraged from her dreams of becoming an English teacher by her career adviser's assertion that "black people don't become teachers". Instead, she followed a degree in Computer Science (that she dropped out of) but eventually became a writer, publishing her first book at 28.
Malorie Blackman's literary career has been a great success, with her Noughts & Crosses series bringing her widespread acclaim with its poignant reversal of racial dynamics. She has explored themes of race, ethical and social issues throughout her work whilst often using science fiction as a means to do so, from the books Hacker and Pig Heart Boy to co-writing a Doctor Who episode on Rosa Parks.
Blackman has received many awards and much recognition for her work, including an OBE in 2008 and a role as the first Black Children's Laureate from 2013-2015.
"I do feel it's very dangerous if you make it seem like history is the province of a certain segment of society. History should belong to and include all of us. The curriculum needs to appeal to as many children as possible or a number of them could become disenchanted with education because they feel it's not relevant."
"Toni Morrison said that if there’s a book you want to read, and you can’t find it, then you must write it yourself. I took that to heart. And if you hope things can be better, that’s when you try and make things better. Hope is the spark."
Each month we mark the significant life of a person of colour as a positive statement and a contribution to redressing historical imbalances in our society. More profiles.
Blackman, Malorie. "Malorie Blackman: 'Hope is the spark'." Interview by Sian Cain. The Guardian, 11 Sep 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/sep/11/malorie-blackman-hope-is-the-spark.
Blackman, Malorie. "Malorie Blackman on growing up Black in a white world." gal-dem, 21 Oct 2022, https://gal-dem.com/malorie-blackman-book-extract/.
Blackman, Malorie. "Racist abuse will not stop me seeking more diversity in children’s literature." The Guardian, 27 Aug 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/27/racist-abuse-diversity-in-childrens-literature.
Rustin, Susanna. "UK's first black children's laureate: new history curriculum could alienate pupils." The Guardian, 4 June 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/04/first-black-childrens-laureate-malorie-blackman.
Illustration by April Clough