The Shoulders We Stand On: How Black and Brown people fought for change in the United Kingdom

Preeti Dhillon

The UK is grappling with big questions about belonging, equality, and the legacies of Empire and Colonialism. We’ve been here before. Embracing a broader history that encompasses all British people, The Shoulders We Stand On is fundamental to a better understanding of the past and gives many more people who fought for our future a voice in the present.

Have you heard of the Indian Workers’ Association? The Grunwick Strike? The Brixton Black Women’s Group? The Battle of Brick Lane? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. The Shoulders We Stand On tells the stories of ten remarkable movements, campaigns and organisations led by Black and Brown people across Britain from the sixties to the eighties that fought against racism and capitalism and impacted the way we live now.

Researcher and historian Preeti Dhillon wants us to reclaim the history that has been kept from us, and use these vital movements and inspirational moments to better understand the UK we live in today and how change happens.

There is a long and deep history of activism by Black and Brown people spanning the UK. Their stories can inspire all of us to make a difference, just as they did. The Shoulders We Stand On is a book of hope. Hope that together we can make a difference, that together we are powerful, and that we don’t have to tackle society’s challenges alone.

We’re not alone, we’ve been here before and this is the book we all need now.

Filled with inspiring narratives, Preeti Dhillon uncovers crucial moments from our history. If you loved the books Natives and Brit(ish), the TV series Small Axe or the film Pride, don’t miss The Shoulders We Stand On.

Media Reviews

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. It is a powerful reminder of Britain’s pervasive race problems, but more importantly, of the indefatigable courage of this country’s Black and Asian communities. Preeti Dhillon’s storytelling is equal parts witty, heart-breaking and inspiring; she’s damn right for arguing that this history matters and should never, ever, be forgotten. – Dr Priya Atwal, author of Royals and Rebels

The details provided in each of the case studies leave the reader with a renewed sense of gratitude for all those communities who endured and rose to fight for Black and Brown people’s rights in post-war Britain. Their fight for equal rights established the groundwork for a more equal future that I benefitted from, and it is a struggle that many continue to face today. – Rav Singh, Founder of A little History of the Sikhs

This book is such a vital contribution to our culture, of unearthing hidden voices and histories. I am so grateful this book exists in the world . . . Dhillon’s book affirms, values and interrogates our shared histories in the UK, sadly until now much overlooked . . . This is beautiful storytelling, Dhillon shines a light into our recent histories – this book is alert with ideas as well as facts. – Mona Arshi, author of Somebody Loves You

The book is basically a compendium of gold nuggets for anyone interested in the fight for racial equality in Britain. – Tony Warner, founder and author of Black History Walks

This book is an eye opener of many histories that have been overlooked and a much needed book to understand the struggles our communities have fought for. I loved every page and will be ensuring that it on my reading lists for communities and educational groups I work with. – Kiran Sahota, Believe in Me CIC

An unapologetic, original voice which keeps you turning the page, Dhillon uncovers underexplored corners of the UK’s past to understand the present and make a rallying cry for a better tomorrow. – Lucy Fulford, author of The Exiled

A timely reminder that we had our very own Civil rights struggle right here, in Britain – a prolonged and sometimes bloody campaign that paved the way for many of the gains young people nowadays may take for granted, and part of a long history of anti-racist activism that continues to this day. – Stella Dadzie