Histories of Colour is an adult learning platform and educational project dedicated to teaching the public about the histories of race relations. The project is not aimed at historians, but intends to provide as wide an audience as possible with free access to information about non-white histories and racial inequality - in other words, the kinds of narratives you didn’t learn in school.

Bringing together the marginalised histories of people of colour from several different regions across the world, this project intends to challenge dominant white-centric narratives about history and cultural legacies that still pervade in Western thought. By raising awareness about the histories of racial oppression, this project hopes to encourage sensitivity and compassion towards the struggles faced by people of colour today. A list of suggested ways you can take action against racism is available on our homepage.

Statement from the author

‘As a mixed-race woman growing up in the South of England, I never had the opportunity to learn anything about my own heritage at school. It wasn’t until the second year of my history degree that I enrolled on a course called “Asian and African history” that I learnt about the history of South Asia. This sparked me to uncover my own grandparents’ experience of suffering during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which opened up my eyes to how little I knew about non-white history up until that point. I wasn’t even aware of the history of Bangladesh’s creation before this and, in many ways, my motive for creating this project stems from a desire to rectify my own past ignorance.

Taking this “Asian and African history” course at university was also the first time I was truly made aware of the atrocities of European colonialism and the first opportunity I ever had to learn about the cultures and histories of other parts of the world. The English education system had engrained in me the idea that white, Western history was the only kind of history that mattered. The truth is that I didn’t even want to take this course in the first place, I wanted to take “American history” but it was oversubscribed.

I feel like the biased school curriculum not only denied me knowledge of the Global South it also, more worryingly, taught me a Western-centric ideology that was difficult to unlearn. Even when I first started studying non-white history, it was always through the lens of European and North American history. It was as if Africa only mattered when the white men arrived. The narratives of black men and women were always in the context of slavery. Non-western nations (labelled as the “Third World”) were always viewed as subordinate to Western Europe and the USA. The people who looked like me were always exoticised; the only brown bodies I saw were erotic fantasies of women of the harem or naked “savages”. And, let’s not forget, my teachers were all white. It has taken years of education and self-introspection to realise the true extent of how problematic, biased, and abusive the history taught in schools truly is.

Learning is a continual process and I by no means claim to know everything about the topics covered as part of this project and my intention is not to compete with the latest historical scholarship on these issues. I do, however, want to share my passion for telling the histories of people of colour with as wide an audience as possible. I’ve taken the time to carefully research all the topics covered and condense the complex (and sometimes convoluted) arguments of historians into short pieces that are easier to digest. My target audience is not historians, it is the general public. The point is that it should not take studying a history degree to learn about non-white histories. I want to show people that there’s more to history than the tales of white men. There’s also more to non-white history than narratives of suffering and subjugation.

Although I’ve faced my share of animosity and setbacks at university as a non-white woman who went to a state school, I’m fully aware that I’ve only had this opportunity for higher education because of my privileged position in society, having been born into a middle-class family and being light-skinned in my complexion. Holding student status has granted me access to a wealth of reading materials that are widely inaccessible because of the academic pay wall, hence why the information on this website is free and always will be.

Although I encourage you to donate to existing charities who focus on tackling racial injustice in the present day, I am grateful to accept contributions from anybody who wishes to donate directly to this project. To be transparent, the first £100 will go towards covering the website running costs for the first year. Any additional donations will go towards reimbursing the contributors for their work and supporting me in the future expansion of this project (i.e. covering software subscription costs, advertisement costs, future website running costs, publishing expenses etc.).

In the future, I hope to expand from this multimedia adult learning platform into creating resources and books for schoolchildren to help tackle the issue at its root.’

About the

Carissa is a History PhD student and teaching assistant at the Univeristy of Hawai’i at Manoa. Her research seeks to recover the experiences of belonging and exclusion felt by people of mixed African and South Asian heritage in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda 1940-1970, who are known locally as “chotara”.

From September 2020 to June 2021, Carissa undertook
an equalities, diversity and inclusion internship at the National Library of Scotland, where she engaged in policy work and reviewed the institution’s descriptive practices relating to protected characteristics. She founded the Cultural Heritage Terminology Network and initiated a collaborative terminology glossary project that offers guidance for cultural heritage professionals on how to address harmful and discriminatory language.

Carissa completed her MPhil in World History at the University of Cambridge in July 2020 after graduating with a First Class MA with Honours in English Literature & History from the University of Edinburgh. In 2019, her prize-winning student essay ‘The Ant as Metaphor: Orientalism, Imperialism and Myrmecology’ was published in the Archives of Natural History .

About the illustrator

Since graduating with a First Class BA with Honours in Illustration from The University of Edinburgh, Annie has worked for NGO Green Sail who promote sustainable nautical practices and policies. She currently works for online craft beer retailer, Flavourly.

Annie’s illustration practice is greatly influenced by her Scottish location, drawing inspiration from the abundance of nature and the idiosyncratic heritage of Edinburgh.

Annie’s personal work explores historical narratives, with special focus on illustrating the undervalued stories of remarkable women throughout history.

Annie is interested in addressing gender and race inequality within the illustration industry and the lack of diversity and representation in children’s literature especially. 

Contact Annie for freelance commissions annieadam.graphics@gmail.com

Statement from the illustrator

‘Being British Caucasian, I am aware of my privilege within the arts and in the opportunity to be involved in this project. These historical narratives need to be told. However, as a white woman I am aware these are not necessarily my stories to tell. With this in mind, I would firstly like to say that I strongly welcome any feedback, input, and involvement from other creatives - particularly people of colour - to bring these stories to life and to elevate multicultural voices.

At school, my only recollection of learning about colonialism was colouring in on a world map what countries “Great” Britain used to “own”. I am ashamed to admit this was not something I reconsidered much again until my later teens. Yet throughout my life, I have benefited from a diverse array of multicultural music, food, art and white privilege that is woven into British culture today because of those countries on the map. No doubt this rings true for many of you who grew up in the British school system. This is simply not good enough. This has never been so glaringly obvious as now, in light of the current civil rights movement and atrocious inequalities exacerbated by COVID.

My personal work explores historical narratives, with a particular focus on illustrating the undervalued stories of remarkable women throughout history. This came about in response to the lack of strong female protagonists within children’s picture books and narrative illustration at large. For instance, in TIME’s list of ‘100 Best Children’s Books of All Time’, only 53 books had female characters who spoke, let alone had a career or any autonomy.

Research shows this lack of representation gets even worse for BAME characters within illustrated books. Analysis by The Guardian of the top 100 bestselling illustrated children’s books of 2018, shows that only five bestsellers feature a BAME character in a central role, with three of those being just one character: Lanky Len, the nasty mixed-race burglar in Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ series. This is reflective of the lack of diversity amongst illustrators themselves with not a single author or illustrator of a bestselling picture book being identified as BAME by The Guardian. Moreover, around two-thirds of the bestselling authors (65%) and illustrators (67%) were male- demonstrating further issues of the intersection of race and gender.

Whilst this may seem trivial, images have the power to both uphold and challenge the homogeneity of cultural norms, whilst often evoking immediate visceral responses. According to the Department of Education around a third of schoolchildren in England are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds, demonstrating that multiculturalism is now the norm in Britain. Therefore this should be represented in the images we consume. If illustrators are not actively portraying this in our work we are (consciously or not) feeding into normalising the nuances of institutionalised racism.

Whilst my previous work has dealt with the intersection of race, nationality, socioeconomic factors, and gender, I want to further explore themes of colonialism and non-white histories in this project. I hope through my involvement in this endeavour I can learn to become a better ally whilst helping others to do the same. I believe Illustration and design are powerful means of making information accessible, digestible, and engaging to all.

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to highlight the work of brilliant BAME artists and designers and interesting resources concerning creativity and diversity:

Artists and desginers

Hire Black Female Creatives

A brilliant directory of Black female creatives from every discipline

Black Women of Print Instagram
A platform to both offer support for and showcase the work of Black female 

BAME Animation UK Instagram 
A page showcasing the work of UK-based BAME animators, run by animation graduate Eloise Wayling whose work seeks greater diversity both on and off the screen in animation

Linnet Panashe Rubaya
A Leeds-based artist who depicts stories experienced globally by people of Black African descent and articulates modern Black narratives

Charlotte Edey
British artist and illustrator working across print, textile, and embroidery

Javie Huxley
British-Chilean illustrator

Monica Ahanonu
Los Angeles-based illustrator who pioneers diversity within her work

Joy Yamusangie
A Black non-binary mixed media artist specialising in illustration

Readings and resources

Where Are the Black Designers
A fantastic platform for networking and support available for Black designers

Diversity in Illustration: As an Creator you are Either Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem’ 
A powerful article by illustrator Harriet Lee Merrion on why all illustrators need to act

‘Highly Concerning Picture Book Bias Worsens as Female Characters Stay Silent’
Children’s picture book research by The Guardian (cited above)

‘Diversity Matters More Than Ever in Illustration’
A Digital Arts article on the importance of diversity in the illustration industry


Carissa Chew, author & owner

Annie Adam, illustrator

© Carissa Chew 2022
Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Carissa Chew, author & owner

Annie Adam, illustrator

© Carissa Chew 2021
Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com