Books About Dead Black People Don’t Sell


This contentious statement is itself put to rest, by the highly popular book, ‘The Adventures of an Edwardian Black Intellectual: The Story of James Arthur Harley’.

Written by OBV graduate, Pamela Roberts, the discovery of the Edwardian Black Intellectual, is a fortuitous one. Whilst holidaying in New Zealand, a throwaway remark made by a tourist guide, led Roberts to discover the archives of James Arthur Harley languishing in a battered suitcase in a family home in Leicestershire.

Born in 1873 in a poor village in Antigua, Harley’s unremarkable background resulted in a remarkable man, who challenged stereotypes and became a leader of his time.

The biography is a fascinating account of an individual's trajectory through seven decades of dramatic social change and reveals a man of religious conviction who won admirers for his work as a vicar and local councillor.

Harley was a staunch advocate of principled politics and rallied against corruption. As a councillor, he self-penned and self-published a newspaper to promote this message and one of his first motions was to propose that the council members resign for their underhand dealings and sly bribery.

He was a complex and uncompromising individual who made enemies and courted controversy and scandal. Most intriguingly, Harley hinted at illicit aristocratic ancestry dating back to Antigua's slave-owning past. His life, uncovered here for the first time, is full of contradictions and surprises but, above all, illustrates the power and resilience of the human spirit.

By Francine Fernandes
Former OBV Deputy Director

Available to buy:

The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual - The story of James Arthur Harley.

Blog - Following in the footsteps of Harley - A wry look at our experiences, including the sublime, funny, unbelievable, and poignant moments in writing the book.