Reference Entry

‘Brown babies’.

David Killingray

in Oxford Companion to Black British History

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780192804396
‘Brown babies’.

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Children born out of wedlock to white mothers and black fathers, mostly American GIs during and immediately after the Second World War . From 1942 onwards a total of 130,000 black GIs, part of a racially segregated US Army, were stationed in various parts of Britain, the largest presence of black men in the country's history. The US forces introduced their ‘Jim Crow’ policies into Britain, and for diplomatic reasons the British government permitted this. The British authorities also often ignored these practices when the Americans extended them off their military bases. Black GIs socializing with white women resulted in increased racial tension. Between 1943 and 1947 some 700–1,000 ‘brown babies’ were born to white British women, most of whom were unmarried, although some had husbands serving in the forces. Marriage to a black man and settlement in the United States was not an option. Many mothers reluctantly surrendered their children to voluntary care homes; colour prejudice made it difficult to find adoptive or foster homes.The ‘problem’ of illegitimate mixed‐race children exercised both the British and the American authorities, although action was largely in the hands of black individuals and organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. The future of ‘brown babies’ was briefly discussed at the Pan‐African Congress in 1945 . How to raise funds, care for unwanted children, and arrange adoptions became a contentious issue between black‐led groups. In Liverpool, Pastor Daniels Ekarte had well‐intentioned but illusory schemes for care homes; also in Liverpool the Negro Welfare Centre attempted to raise money from the United States. Meanwhile the elite‐led League of Coloured Peoples pursued plans that seemed more practical but ultimately delivered less than was promised. Children's homes sponsored by both organizations soon closed for lack of proper care. A few children were adopted by families in Britain, but most were probably brought up in care homes run by local authorities and voluntary agencies.

Reference Entry.  382 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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