Official Website of Author and Historian
I am an award-winning Creative Producer, Historian, and author of Black Oxford: The Untold Stories of Oxford University's Black Scholars (Signal Books, 2013). My work as Founder and Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories has raised the profile of many black scholars from the turn of the twentieth century. Black Oxford: Untold Stories™ - celebrates Oxford University's historical and contemporary Black scholars from the turn of the 20th century to the present day through the delivery of lecture programmes and creative projects.
I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow at the British Library.
To learn more about me and my journey in researching and writing The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual - check out my blog, Following in the footsteps of Harley.
Harley’s life and the author’s style make this book enjoyable and easy to read. By far, the most notable stylistic device is Roberts’s tendency to segue from Harley’s story to the story or history or geography of whatever place Harley is at that point. The result is that Harley’s story is enriched with the potted histories of a whole host of peoples, organisations and places, such as the Black community in Washington DC, Howard University, the forerunner to the NAACP, educational systems in the Caribbean and the USA, the East London community of Bethnal Green and various Oxford University colleges.
As one would imagine, in a book whose main character has Black and White parents, a major theme running through the book is that of identity. Harley and his friends, who are seeking to move upwards in society, are seen making their way through a minefield of race-related issues. This includes the overt racism in the USA and the more nuanced type in the United Kingdom. We also encounter the challenges facing people upon migration, and from the myriad of financial problems Harley faced, the financial dimension of that challenge. Harley’s relentless pursuit of more and more education and degrees can lead one to wonder (as did the author) what the motivation behind all this is, which alludes to the ever-present expectation on Black people to constantly prove themselves.
This is a book with great strength, key among which is the contribution it makes to our understanding of the past by exhuming this story. The book highlights many issues that various societies still live with today, thereby holding up a mirror to us all. For example, the experiences of racism Harley and his friends went through must lead us to ask how much things have changed in that regard today.
The way the story winds through various contexts, and with descriptions of the context and the issues going on within it to me, makes this book more than a story about a man.
One must commend the author’s work in tracking down and uncovering this story for the public. It does make one wonder how many other similar stories are waiting to be uncovered. The author pointed out how papers and other items left behind by Harley himself boosted her research, and this should prompt each one of us, no matter how insignificant we may think we or our actions today are, to leave pieces of our lives behind for posterity. That this book raises these questions and issues for us today is probably its greatest strength.
Rev Canon Dr Chigor Chike
Chaplain to King Charles III
‘Well written, well researched, and a vital story to be told. First-class.
Dr Mary Shannon, University of Roehampton, London.
‘[Harley’s] was an extraordinary career that challenged stereotypes and tells untold stories. It is also a piece of fascinating historical detective work by Pamela Roberts, making it an addictive and thoroughly good read.’— Pippa Catterall, Professor of History and Policy, University of Westminster.
‘A fascinating and wondrously suggestive account that stimulates many critical questions about Black lives in the Edwardian Church. Roberts’ has a clear vision of the twists and turns of Harley’s life. An original and thought-provoking book.’—
Dr Ralph Norman Canterbury Christs Church University
‘Settling in Britain and after years of being stymied by the racism of the Anglican Church, Harley finally left and became deeply involved in politics in Leicestershire at the municipal and county levels. His growing radicalization (and popularity), especially after the 1926 General Strike, is one of the most intriguing aspects of his story.’— Professor Winston James.
Roberts constructs a complex, illuminating architecture, never adulatory in its focus. Exploring the intersections of Harley’s mixed-race Caribbeanness with his intellectual prowess, Roberts pinpoints the acute pressures facing Black excellence in Jim Crow America and institutionally racist Oxford. Some 80 years after James Arthur Harley’s passing, this book is the chronicle of not only one extraordinary life but a movement of unassailable Black scholarship.
Shivanee N Ramlochan, Caribbean Beat Magazine, May/June 2023
Historia Magazine - Magazine of the Historial Writers' Association
THE ADVENTURES OF A BLACK EDWARDIAN INTELLECTUAL
BBC History Magazine November 2022
A FIREY PRIEST AND POLYMATH
THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE
OF JAMES HARLEY
BOOKS ABOUT DEAD BLACK PEOPLE DON'T SELL
ADVENTURES IN HISTORY LAND
THE INSPIRING STORY OF JAMES ARTHUR HARLEY
A great evening at the Biltmore Hotel, Mayfair, for the London book launch. Thank you to Antigua and Barbuda High Commission, High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill and her fantastic team. George Ukachukwu for his portrayal of James Arthur Harley. Dr Clare Haynes for hosting the in-conversation, and Konya Kanneh-Mason for her beautiful recital.