Stephen Bourne

stephen bourne



After graduating in 1988, he was a research officer at the British Film Institute on a ground-breaking project that documented the history of black people in British television. The result was a two-part television documentary called Black and White in Colour (BBC 1992), directed by Isaac Julien, that is considered groundbreaking. In 1991 Bourne was a founder member of the Black and Asian Studies Association. In 1999 he undertook pioneering work with Southwark Council and the Metropolitan Police as a voluntary independent adviser to the police. In 2008 he researched Keep Smiling Through – Black Londoners on the Home Front 1939–1945, an exhibition for the Cuming Museum in the London Borough of Southwark and that same year he worked as a historical consultant on the Imperial War Museum's War to Windrush exhibition.

Bonnie Greer, playwright and critic, says: "Stephen Bourne brings great natural scholarship and passion to a largely hidden story. He is highly accessible, accurate and surprising. You always walk away from his work knowing something that you didn't know, that you didn't even suspect".

In 1991, Bourne co-authored The Sun Shone on Our Side of the Street: Aunt Esther's Story with Esther Bruce (his adopted aunt), which was published by the Ethnic Communities Oral History Project (ECOHP). He has written books about significant Black personalities such as Elisabeth Welch, Ethel Waters, Evelyn Dove and Harold Moody, as well as about different aspects of the historical Black presence in Britain.

In 2014, his book Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the Great War was published by The History Press. Reviewing it in The Independent, Bernardine Evaristo said: "Until historians and cultural map-makers stop ignoring the historical presence of people of colour, books such as this one provide a powerful, revelatory counterbalance to the whitewashing of British history."


In 2002 Bourne received the Metropolitan Police Volunteer Award. It was presented to him by Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens at City Hall, London. In 2013 Bourne was nominated for a Southwark Heritage Blue Plaque for his work as a community historian and Southwark Police independent adviser.He came second with 1,025 votes. In June 2015, at Southwark's Unicorn Theatre, the Southwark Arts Forum presented Stephen with their Literature Award for Black Poppies. In May 2017, he was honoured at the 12th Screen Nation Awards with a special award for his years of work documenting the lives of black Britons. In 2017 he received an Honorary Fellowship from London South Bank University for his contribution to diversity.

Selected publications


  • The Sun Shone on Our Side of the Street: Aunt Esther's Story,  ECOHP, 1991         


  • Brief Encounters: Lesbians and Gays in British Cinema 1930–71, Cassell, 1996         

  • Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television,         Cassell/Continuum, 2001         


  • Elisabeth Welch: Soft Lights and Sweet Music, Scarecrow Press, 2005         


  • Speak of Me As I Am: The Black Presence in Southwark Since 1600, Southwark Council, 2005         


  • Ethel Waters: Stormy Weather, Scarecrow Press, 2007         


  • Butterfly McQueen Remembered, Scarecrow Press, 2008         


  • Dr. Harold Moody, Southwark Council, 2008         


  • Mother Country: Britain's Black Community on the Home Front 1939–45, The History Press,         2010         


  • The Motherland Calls: Britain's Black Servicemen and Women 1939–1945, The History Press, 2012         


  • Esther Bruce: A Black London Seamstress, History and Social Action Publications, 2012


  • Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the Great War, The History Press, 2014         


  • Evelyn Dove: Britain's Black Cabaret Queen, Jacaranda Books, 2016         


  • Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars,         I.B.Tauris, 2017



  • Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War (revised edition), The History Press, forthcoming (August 2019)


  • Playing Gay in the Golden Age of British Television, The History Press, forthcoming (February 2020)