Dispatches from the Diaspora



“Gary Younge is a journalist who throughout his career has shown a commitment to exploring, explaining and challenging his audience - his work … takes us to uncomfortable places but with clarity, humanity and empathy.” —from the judges who awarded Younge the 2023 Orwell Prize for Journalism.

“In the last thirty years, no one has chronicled the most important events in Black life across the globe than Gary Younge. These interviews and reports are living history and we owe Younge an incredible debt for capturing these moments. A brilliant writer and incisive interviewer, Younge’s journalism is extraordinary, urgent and utterly captivating and I never want to stop reading.”
—Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“Gary Younge has borne witness to some of the most critical events in the black diaspora in recent times with an honest and humane eye. He tells our story with clarity and elegance. This is a pleasurable and powerful read.” —John Legend

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About the Book

gary younge speaks about Black lives matter and violence
Watch Gary Younge speak about Black Lives Matter and the question of violence on Double Down News. This video is age-restricted and only available on YouTube. Watch now.

Dispatches from the Diaspora brings together the vibrant journalism of one of the leading Black voices spanning the Atlantic, providing a must-read for anyone interested in the way we understand contemporary issues of race and identity.

Between following Nelson Mandela during his first election campaign in South Africa and reflecting on a journey to Barbados to bury his mother, Gary Younge here interviews major figures including Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Desmond Tutu, and the Grime artist Stormzy. He reports from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, joins revelers on Chicago’s South Side for the evening of Barack Obama’s first presidential victory, files from Ferguson as the Black Lives Matter movement starts to make waves around the world, and visits Zimbabwe during the country’s descent into crisis.

Covering three decades of unparalleled reporting throughout the Black diaspora, this catalog of electrifying yet nuanced dispatches puts readers at the heart of the action, guiding them through world-shaking events, introducing them at first-hand to key players, and solidifying Younge’s standing as one of the most important political journalists of his generation.

352 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-385-3 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-386-0

About the Author

gary younge author photo

Gary Younge is an award-winning author, broadcaster and professor of sociology at the University of Manchester in Britain. Formerly a columnist and an editor-at-large at the Guardian, he is an editorial board member of the Nation magazine and a Type Media fellow. He is the author of five books, including Another Day in the Death of America, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Prize. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, GQ, Granta, and beyond.

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction

This book draws on my journalism from or about the African diaspora, including the Caribbean, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Europe, as well as Britain and the US. This is a path that, from the very outset, I was warned not to take. To become too identified with issues of race and racism(Black people, basically) would, some said, find me pigeon-holed. This advice, which came from older white journalists (pretty much the only older journalists available when I started out), was rarely malicious. They thought they were looking out for me. A fear of being ‘pigeon-holed’ is one of the most common crippling anxieties of any minority in any profession. Being seen only as the thing that makes you different through the lens of those with the power to make that difference matter really is limiting.

Then there were other, older, white editors who wanted me to write only about race. One of the first columns I wrote for the Guardian, about the NATO bombing of Bosnia, was spiked because the comment editor at the time thought I should stick to subjects closer to home. ‘We have people who can write about Bosnia,’ he said. ‘Can you add an ethnic sensibility to this?’

The problem with both of these requests is that they didn’t take into account the fact that I might want to write about the things I was interested in and knew about. Race in particular, and Black people in general, were a couple of the subjects I wanted to focus on.They weren’t dealt with particularly well or at all comprehensively at the time, so there was lots to write about and improve on. In almost three decades of reporting, no Black person has ever approached me and asked me to write about them less, even if they weren’t always in agreement with what I wrote.

But Black people and race were never the only things I was interested in. (Looking back, they are covered in fewer than half of my articles.) My advice to young Black journalists has always been to write about the things they are interested in and passionate about because that’s what they’ll write about best. If it’s race, great. If it’s fashion, finance or travel, that’s great, too. They’ll still be Black. In his 1926 essay ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’,Langston Hughes writes about a young Black poet who insisted he wanted to be known as a poet, ‘not a Negro poet’. ‘And I was sorry the young man said that,’ reflected Hughes, ‘for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.’ Or as the artist Chris Ofili told me, when I asked him during an interview how he responded to the threat of pigeon-holing: ‘Well, pigeons can fly.’

I have no problem being regarded as a Black writer. It’s an adjective, not an epithet. It’s not the only adjective available, and I have no interest in being confined by it. But I’m not in flight from it either. In the words of the late Toni Morrison, when asked if she found it limiting to be described as a Black woman writer: ‘I’m already discredited. I’m already politicized, before I get out of the gate. I can accept the labels because being a Black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination, it expands it.’

The Black diaspora has indeed provided an incredibly rich source to write from and about. I got drunk with Maya Angelou in her limousine on the way back from a performance. (‘Do you want ice and stuff [with your whisky]?’ her assistant asked her. ‘I want some ice, but mostly I want stuff,’ came Angelou’s reply.) I had Archbishop Desmond Tutu nearly fall asleep on me, speech slowing and eyelids drooping, punished by a schedule that would wear out a much younger man. I have had the privilege of chatting to Stormzy in his living room, Angela Davis in her office and of counting Andrea Levy as a close friend.

It has at times been heartening, such as spending election night with African Americans in a bar in Chicago’s South Side as Obama emerged victorious, or watching the St Louis suburb of Ferguson rise up in protest against police brutality. At other times it could be incredibly distressing, such as when witnessing the effects of civil war in Haiti and Sierra Leone, or entering New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Some of the pieces in this collection offer not reportage but analysis – attempting to momentarily shift the reader’s gaze – so that we might understand the world differently, imagining, for example, how Boris Johnson would fare if he were a Black woman, or what a good White history month might look like. I write both in defense of Uncle Tom, the much-maligned nineteenth-century fictional character, and for the right to riot against state oppression and structural inequality.

The pieces are not all of equal quality. Some bear testimony to the moment. The article about the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin was written at an angry, late hour, filed quickly in the hope that it would help shape whatever discussions came afterwards; the account of the night of Obama’s victory was written in the early hours of the morning, after no sleep, and as the results were still coming in. But it took me three years to find Claudette Colvin, who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1955 – nine months before Rosa Parks – but who had not been championed until relatively recently, and I spent a year shuttling to and from New Orleans after Katrina.


I am by nature an optimist. But I am not delusional. Over more than two decades spent reporting from the front line of the Black diaspora, I have seen how much change is possible and the potential of humanity to rise to those changes, but I have also witnessed the power systems have to thwart those aspirations, both openly and covertly. But the progress we seek will not come about through benevolence and enlightenment but by will and resistance. It will come, as Mandela arrived and as thousands poured on to the streets to protest more recently, because we demand it.

As I wrote in my final column for the Guardian, ‘With racism, cynicism and intolerance on the rise, wages stagnant and faith that progressive change is possible declining even as resistance grows, things look bleak. The propensity to despair is strong, but should not be indulged. Sing yourself up. Imagine a world in which you might thrive, for which there is no evidence. And then fight for it.

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