|Dear Mr. Shelley,
As chief executive of Hachette UK, you recently joined many UK business leaders by issuing a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, who led massive demonstrations against police brutality in the US and the UK, and against institutional racism.
In your statement, you said that “... there is a more urgent need than ever for us to stand together and educate ourselves, become better allies and offer financial support where we can.” You also related how reading a particular book about White Supremacy helped you to “learn a lot about the institutional racism of the world we live in, and realise a lot about [your] own biases and false assumptions.”
I am happy that such a book was able to open your eyes as an adult. Indeed there are hundreds more on the subject, and I hope you didn't stop there. I am also sure you will agree that the earlier people can be taught such valuable lessons, the better, and therefore that children’s books on such subjects are just as important, if not more.
I was therefore saddened to learn from Professor Hakim Adi, the author of The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain that you have been particularly resistant to republishing his book since its first publication in 1995. You have republished it twice, but each time with much reluctance, arguing that there was no market for it. This is odd, because Prof. Adi claims that it sold out each time and remains (shockingly) the only children’s book on the subject published in the UK.
Such a position is clearly inexcusable, and could lead to your statement to Black Lives Matter being mistaken as a cynical public relations exercise. I am sure the £20,000 donations you made were very much appreciated by the recipient organisations, but such a gesture doesn’t solve the problem of children having too few books to read that will make them understand White Supremacy and institutional racism.
I strongly urge you to republish Prof. Adi’s book immediately. While you’re at it, you might also want to review the contract you have with him (and any other writers of colour) whereby Hachett UK, as the copyright holder, will receive the financial benefit of any new sales, but not the author.
By doing these things, you really will be making a meaningful contribution to the fight against bigotry, institutional racism and White Supremacy.
Writer & Actor
Member, Black and Asian Studies Association
Update, June 26, 20202020-06-26 15:55:51
Professor Hakim Adi had a Zoom meeting on 26 June 2020 with Hilary Murray Hill, CEO of Hachette Children’s Group. She has been with Hachette only since 2015, so some of the background was unfamiliar to her. This background was discussed, and she acknowledged that Prof. Adi’s complaints had merit. She also acknowledged that it is erroneous to suggest that there isn’t a market for “The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain,” or other books on African History. Another meeting will take place in the week commencing 6 July 2020 at which the possibility of Hachette republishing not just this book, but also his other two books for children previously published by the Group: “African Migrations” and “Nelson Mandela: Father of Freedom,” in book form and digitally, will be discussed. Another update will follow after that meeting.
Tayo Aluko. Member, Black and Asian Studies Association; Actor, Writer