The Mixed Museum is delighted to present this special exhibition curated by Professor Lucy Bland, based on her book Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’, the stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War, with a few additions. Scroll across the 9 panels and click on each one to learn more.
This exhibition is sponsored by ARU (Anglia Ruskin University)
Swipe left to read on
During the war 240,000 Black GIs passed through Britain.
As part of their segregation programme, the Americans insisted that dances and pubs were both segregated along colour lines. These were the two social spaces where local women tended to meet black GIs.
The babies born to black GIs and white British women were labelled ‘brown babies’ by the African-American press, far preferable to ‘half-caste’, the term used at the time in Britain.
Quite a few of the children were kept not by their mothers but by their grandmothers, some of the mothers being young or unable to keep their child.
Between a third to nearly half of the children were given up to children’s homes. For many mothers or grandmothers, keeping them seemed too difficult, if not impossible.
Adoption of mixed-race children was relatively unusual in this period. Adoption societies assumed no-one would want such children, so did not make much effort to find adopters.
For nearly every British ‘brown baby’, their American father was a total mystery.
The children born to black GIs took on a wide range of occupations.
American bases in Britain continued after the war on a greatly reduced scale, although their number rose somewhat from 1947 with the beginning of the Cold War.
Read reflections by The Mixed Museum and Lucy Bland on the exhibition and the history behind it
Acknowledgements and additional resources on 'Brown Babies' and Black GIs in Britain
Read what people think about the exhibition and the history it presents
In December 1941, with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the USA finally joined the Second World War. Already in place was the US’s Selective Training and Service Act, which required able-bodied men aged twenty-one to thirty-five to serve in the military for at least one year. Early in 1942 American servicemen, known as GIs, […]
View the community archive created in response to the exhibtion