Brown babies
Continuing the conversation...

Brown Babies


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.

Brown Babies by Lucy Bland

This exhibition is sponsored by ARU (Anglia Ruskin University)

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Brown babies

Black GIs in Britain

During the war 240,000 Black GIs passed through Britain.

How the parents met

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.

Mixed-race children kept by their mothers

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.

Mixed-race children largely cared for by their grandmothers

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.

Mixed-race children given up to children’s homes

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 and Fostering

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.

Finding Mothers and Fathers

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.

‘Brown babies’ born in the 1950s

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.

Continuing the conversation...


Read reflections by The Mixed Museum and Lucy Bland on the exhibition and the history behind it

Acknowledgements and Further Reading

Acknowledgements and additional resources on 'Brown Babies' and Black GIs in Britain

Digital Postcards

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