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British childhoods have long been politicised to further the societal values of the time. In this talk, Sam will highlight how across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the racist discourses that shaped Britain and the British Empire profoundly influenced British children, from the toys they played with to the books they read. By exploring how and why black people were racialised in British children’s books, the talk will show how the numerous volumes currently in the Museum of Childhood collection shaped the racist discrimination faced by black people living across Britain from the late nineteenth century until today. Furthermore, it will question how the Museum of Childhood should address and respond to this material as a tool for educating people about Britain’s uncomfortable history, to further the anti-racist work of Museum and Galleries Edinburgh in the future.   

Sam Cheney is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, focusing on the history of race and the British Empire. Funded by the Scottish Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities, over the summer 2022 Sam undertook a three-month internship with MGE and the Museum of Childhood entitled ‘Addressing Racism in Collection and Catalogue: The Museum of Childhood Book Collection in Focus’.  

Museums and Galleries Edinburgh work annually with CRER (The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights) to host and deliver lectures for Black History Month. The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights works to eliminate racial discrimination and harassment and to promote racial justice across Scotland. 

Racializing Children: Addressing Anti-Black Racism in the Museum of Childhood Book Collection