Society of Authors – ‘Books about dead black people don’t sell!

Wednesday 5th October

The Importance Of Telling Black History And Heritage Untold Stories


SoA Member and K Blundell prize recipient Pamela Roberts, creative producer, historian, and author of Black Oxford, the Untold Stories of Oxford University’s Black Scholars, Signal 2013, will discuss her latest book, the biography of James Arthur Harley, 1873 – 1943. The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual. Signal Books 2022.

This online event features a visual presentation about Pamela’s discovery of James Arthur Harley’s archive and her five-year journey to bring his story to life. She will also discuss her work as the founder and director of Black Oxford Untold Stories – celebrating Oxford University’s black scholars from the 20th century to the present day, and why she is passionate about the importance of telling black history and heritage untold stories.

  • Welcome, introductions Sophia A Jackson, SoA Head of Events
  • Presentation from Pamela Roberts
  • Q&A with audience
  • Closing comments from Sophia A Jackson

The session will also explore several themes covered in the book.

  • Does colourism still exist, and is it relevant in a diverse society?
  • The invisibility of black women – Black women’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement c1900.
  • The outsider within – blacks at elite educational institutions.
  • How has society changed from Harley’s time to now – racism, housing, cost of living, politics,

The event will appeal to audiences interested in biography, Antigua, Social, Church of England African American, and Black British history.

Send us your questions

If you would like to send questions for Pamela Roberts in advance, email with ‘Black Edwardian’ in the subject header. We will prioritise questions sent in advance and answer as many as we can from the audience on the day.

About the book

Scholar, reverend, politician, and perhaps aristocrat… James Arthur Stanley Harley was certainly a polymath. Born in All Saints village in the Caribbean Island of Antigua, he went on to attend Harvard, Yale and Oxford universities, was ordained a priest in Canterbury Cathedral and was elected to Leicestershire County Council. He was a pioneer Oxford anthropologist, a country curate and a firebrand councillor. This remarkable career was all the more extraordinary because he was black in an age – the early twentieth century – that was institutionally racist.

Roberts’ meticulously researched book tells Harley’s hitherto unknown story from humble Antiguan childhood, through elite education in Jim Crow America to the turbulent England of World War I and the General Strike. Based on Harley’s letters, sermons, writings, contemporary accounts, and later oral testimony, this is an account of an individual’s trajectory through seven decades of dramatic social change.

Pamela Roberts – Creative Producer, Historian, Author

Pamela Roberts FRSA, FRHistS is a Creative Producer, Historian, Author and Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow at the British Library. She is also the founder of Black Oxford: Untold Stories™ – celebrating Oxford University’s historical and contemporary Black scholars from the turn of the 20th century to the present day through the delivery of lecture programmes and creative projects. Pamela has written for BBC History magazine and series of biographical entries for Oxford University Press National Dictionary of Biographies, BBC History magazine

Websites: | Twitter @blackoxford

Before the event

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