Margaret Busby

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Margaret Busby OBE, Hon. FRSL (born 1944, also titled Nana Akua Ackon) is a Ghanaian-born publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster, resident in the UK. She was Britain’s youngest and first black woman book publisher[1][2] when in the 1960s she co-founded with Clive Allison (1944–2011)[3] the London-based publishing house Allison and Busby (A & B).

Education and early years[edit]

Margaret Busby was born in 1944,[4][5] in Accra, Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), to Dr George Busby and Mrs Sarah Busby (née Christian), who both had family links to the Caribbean, particularly to Trinidad, Barbados and Dominica. Dr Busby was a lifelong friend of Kwame Nkrumah's mentor George Padmore[6] and attended school with C. L. R. James.[7] Through her maternal line, she is a cousin of BBC newscaster Moira Stuart,[8][9][10] and her grandfather was George James Christian, a delegate at the First Pan-African Conference that was held in London in 1900.[11][12]

After leaving school at 15, Margaret Busby read English at Bedford College, London University,[13] where she became editor of her college literary magazine as well as publishing her own poetry, and graduated with a BA Honours degree at the age of 20.[14] She was married to British jazz musician and educator Lionel Grigson (1942–1994).[3]


While still at university she met her future business partner Clive Allison at a party, and they decided to start a publishing company.[3] After graduating, Busby briefly worked at the Cresset Press – part of the Barrie Group – while setting up Allison and Busby (A & B), whose first books were published in 1967.[15] She was A & B's Editorial Director for the next 20 years,[16] publishing many significant authors including Sam Greenlee (author of The Spook Who Sat by the Door, the first novel published by A & B, in 1969),[17][18] C. L. R. James,[19] Buchi Emecheta, Chester Himes, George Lamming, Roy Heath, Ishmael Reed, John Edgar Wideman, Nuruddin Farah, Rosa Guy, Val Wilmer, Colin MacInnes, H. Rap Brown, Julius Lester, Geoffrey Grigson, Adrian Mitchell, Jill Murphy, Miyamoto Musashi, Christine Qunta, Michael Horovitz, Carlos Moore, Michèle Roberts, Molefe Pheto, Arthur Maimane, Hunter S. Thompson, Alexis Lykiard, Jack Trevor Story, Michael Moorcock, Ralph de Boissière, and Andrew Salkey.

Busby was subsequently Editorial Director of Earthscan (publishing titles by Han Suyin, Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi, René Dumont, Carolina Maria de Jesus and others),[16] before pursuing a freelance career as an editor, writer, and critic.

Writing, editing and broadcasting[edit]

As a journalist, she has written for The Guardian (mainly book reviews[20][21][22][23] or obituaries of artists and activists including Jessica Huntley, Buzz Johnson, Jayne Cortez, Jan Carew, Rosa Guy, Gwendolyn Brooks, June Jordan, Toni Cade Bambara, Florynce Kennedy, Barry Reckord, Frank Crichlow, Connie Mark, Glenn Thompson, August Wilson, Pearl Connor-Mogotsi and Geraldine Connor),[24] The Observer,[25] The Independent,[26] The Sunday Times,[27] the New Statesman,[28] and elsewhere, for both the general press and specialist journals.[29][30]

She compiled Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent (London: Cape, 1992),[31][32] and has contributed to books including Colours of a New Day: Writing for South Africa (eds Sarah LeFanu and Stephen Hayward, 1990), Mothers: Reflections by Daughters (ed. Joanna Goldsworthy, 1995),[33] IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (eds Kadija Sesay and Courttia Newland, 2000),[34] 99 words (ed. Liz Gray, 2011),[35] and in 2014 Carnival: A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival, co-authored with Ishmahil Blagrove.[36] Among other books for which she has written introductions or forewords are the Penguin Modern Classics edition of A Question of Power by Bessie Head, Emerging Perspectives on Buchi Emecheta (ed. Marie Umeh, 1996), and Beyond Words: South African Poetics (with Keorapetse Kgositsile, Don Mattera, Lebo Mashile and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, 2009).[37] With Darcus Howe, Busby co-edited C.L.R. James's 80th Birthday Lectures (Race Today Publications, 1984),[38] and she is co-editor with Beverley Mason FRSA of No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990, a 2018 publication arising out of the 2015–16 exhibition No Colour Bar held at the Guildhall Art Gallery.[39]

She has regularly worked for radio and television since the late 1960s, when she presented the magazine programme London Line for the Central Office of Information,[40] as well as Break For Women on the BBC African Service,[15] and later Talking Africa on Spectrum Radio, in addition to appearing on a range of programmes including Kaleidoscope, Front Row, Open Book, Woman's Hour, and Democracy Now! (USA).[7]

Her abridgements and dramatizations for BBC Radio include works by C. L. R. James, Jean Rhys, Wole Soyinka, Timothy Mo, Sam Selvon, Walter Mosley, Henry Louis Gates, Lawrence Scott and Simi Bedford. Her play based on C. L. R. James's novel Minty Alley was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1998,[41][42] winning a Commission for Racial Equality "Race in the Media Award" (RIMA) in 1999.[43][44]

Her writing for the stage includes Sankofa (1999),[45] Yaa Asantewaa – Warrior Queen (UK/Ghana, 2001–02),[46][47][48][49] directed by Geraldine Connor,[50] and An African Cargo (Greenwich Theatre, 2007) directed by Felix Cross.[51][52][53][54][55] She has also been a song lyricist.[56][57]

She scripted a major tribute entitled Maya Angelou: A Celebration, which took place on 5 October 2014 at the Royal Festival Hall during the Southbank Centre's London Literature Festival; directed by Paulette Randall, and chaired by Jon Snow and Moira Stuart, the celebration featured contributions from artists including Adjoa Andoh, Angel Coulby, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicola Hughes, Ella Odedina, NITROvox, Roderick Williams and Ayanna Witter-Johnson.[58][59][60][61]

Literary activism[edit]

She has worked continuously for diversity within the publishing industry and in the 1980s was a founding member of the organization Greater Access to Publishing (GAP),[62][2][15] which engaged in campaigns for increased Black representation in British publishing.[63][64] She is the patron of Independent Black Publishers (IBP).[16][65]

She has been a participant in various literary festivals and conferences internationally, and has interviewed and been "in conversation" with such writers as Toni Morrison,[66] Wole Soyinka.[67] Ngugi wa Thiong’o,[68] and Nawal El Saadawi.[69]

She has been a judge for many literary competitions, among them the Caine Prize for African Writing,[70] the Orange Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize,[71] the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature,[72] the Commonwealth Book Prize (for which she was chair of the judges in 2012).[16] and Africa39.[73] She has served on the boards or in advisory positions for other cultural organisations, including the Drum Arts Centre,[74] The Africa Centre, London, English PEN, the Royal Literary Fund, the African & Caribbean Music Circuit, the Hackney Empire theatre, the Organization of Women Writers of Africa,[75] and Wasafiri magazine.[76] She is currently a trustee of jazz education organization Tomorrow's Warriors,[77] Prize Ambassador of the SI Leeds Literary Prize[78] and a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.[79]

In 2018, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, The Voice newspaper listed Margaret Busby – alongside Kathleen Wrasama, Olive Morris, Connie Mark, Fanny Eaton, Diane Abbott, Lilian Bader, and Mary Seacole – among eight Black women who have contributed to the development of Britain.[80]



  1. ^ "Margaret Busby", African Writing Online, October/November 2007.
  2. ^ a b Jazzmine Breary, "Let’s not forget", in Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Market Place, Spread the Word, April 2013, p. 30.
  3. ^ a b c Margaret Busby, "Clive Allison obituary", The Guardian, 3 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Margaret Busby-Edited Anthology to Feature 200 Female Writers Including Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Bernadine Evaristo, Imbolo Mbue, Warsan Shire, Zadie Smith". 10 January 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  5. ^ Books and Bookmen. Hansom Books. 1966. p. 123. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  6. ^ Cameron Duodu, "Edward Wilmot Blyden, grandfather of African liberation" Archived 19 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine., Pambazuka News, Issue 538, 6 July 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Shereen Ali, "Sharing our Voices", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 29 April 2015.
  8. ^ The Literator, "Cover Stories: Sue Freestone; Margaret Busby; Zadie Smith", The Independent, 16 June 2006.
  9. ^ Thomson Fontaine, "George James Christian: Pioneer in Africa",, Volume No. 1, Issue No. 32, 27 November 2002.
  10. ^ Gary Crosby, "RIP Ken Gordon (1927–2013)", 9 November 2013.
  11. ^ Lester Lewis, "Pan Africans On The Rise Again",, 23 January 2001.
  12. ^ Marika Sherwood, Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora, Routledge, 2011, p. 336, note 13.
  13. ^ Alison Donnell, "Busby, Margaret", Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture, Routledge, 2002.
  14. ^ "London's most remarkable Publishing Firm", Ebony, March 1971, pp. 43–50.
  15. ^ a b c Margaret Busby, "'Is it still a case of plus ça change?'", The Bookseller, 4 November 2016. "Black Books", New Statesman, April 1984.
  16. ^ a b c d "Margaret Busby – Prize Ambassador", SI Leeds Literary Prize.
  17. ^ Margaret Busby, "Sam Greenlee obituary", The Guardian, 2 June 2014.
  18. ^ Allison & Busby page at George Padmore Institute website.
  19. ^ Emma Bartholomew, "CLR James’ publisher Margaret Busby: ‘My 50 years working with books’", Hackney Gazette, 25 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Do the Harlem shuffle – Margaret Busby explores the tangled life and work of Chester Himes in James Sallis' biography", The Guardian, 21 October 2000.
  21. ^ "'I am headed for higher ground' – Reading the final instalment of Maya Angelou's memoir is painful but moving, says Margaret Busby", The Guardian, 15 June 2002.
  22. ^ "Marvels of the holy hour: Margaret Busby is fascinated by Wole Soyinka's witty, dramatic account of his life, You Must Set Forth at Dawn", The Guardian, 26 May 2007.
  23. ^ Margaret Busby, "Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York City by Jonny Steinberg – review", The Guardian, 12 March 2011.
  24. ^ Margaret Busby profile at The Guardian.
  25. ^ Margaret Busby, "The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron – review", The Observer, 5 February 2012.
  26. ^ Margaret Busby, The Independent.
  27. ^ Margaret Busby, "Books: Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge" (review), The Sunday Times, 25 September 2016.
  28. ^ Margaret Busby, "Homing instinct" (review of Black Gold of the Sun: searching for home in England and Africa by Ekow Eshun), New Statesman, 30 May 2005.
  29. ^ Margaret Busby at Journalisted.
  30. ^ Margaret Busby, "We are the world: Trumpeting our words", Griffith Review, 59: Commonwealth Now, January 2018.
  31. ^ Philip Tew, Emily Horton, Leigh Wilson (eds), The 1980s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction, A&C Black, 2014, p. 108.
  32. ^ "Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby", Kinna Reads, 24 September 2010.
  33. ^ Jessica Mann, "Dishing the Dirt", Literary Review, March 1995, p. 31.
  34. ^ Maya Jaggi, "The forgotten past", The Guardian, 24 June 2000.
  35. ^ "99 words".
  36. ^ "Fantastic new photobook celebrates the history of Notting Hill Carnival", It's Nice That, 22 August 2014.
  37. ^ Irene Gaitirira, "Will Leading Poet and Activist’s Death Inspire Young Authors and Poets?", Lola Kenya Screen, 7 January 2018.
  38. ^ "C.L.R. James's 80th Birthday Lectures" at Google Books.
  39. ^ "No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990 catalogue", Diaspora Artists.
  40. ^ "Margaret Busby", British Universities Film & Video Council.
  41. ^ "Minty Alley" (Afternoon Play), BBC Radio 4.
  42. ^ Nigel Deacon, "BBC Radio Plays, radio 4, 1998". Diversity Website.
  43. ^ Black British Perspectives: Performance and Literature & Publishing
  44. ^ Barry Hodge, "Radio Drama & Readings, radio 4, 1999".
  45. ^ Mary Brennan, "Rhythms of everyday life", Herald Scotland, 10 February 2000.
  46. ^ "Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble - Yaa Asantewaa-Warrior Queen", UK Theatre Web, Archive Listings.
  47. ^ Osei Boateng, "Yaa Asantewaa on stage: The Exploits of Yaa Asantewaa, the Warrior Queen of the Asantes...", New African, 1 April 2001. The Free Library.
  48. ^ Pajohn Dadson, "Ghana: Yaa Asantewaa Has Landed", AfricaNews, 18 May 2001.
  49. ^ Cameron Duodu, "Yaa Asantewaa - warrior queen. (The Arts)", New African, 1 June 2001. The Free Library.
  50. ^ Margaret Busby, "Geraldine Connor obituary", The Guardian, 31 October 2011.
  51. ^ "An African Cargo | 2007" at NitroBeat.
  52. ^ Felix Cross, "Belle: An Unexpected Journey" Archived 17 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine., Nitro, 13 June 2014.
  53. ^ "African Cargo, An", Black Plays Archive, The National Theatre.
  54. ^ Felix Cross MBE.
  55. ^ Colette Lebrasse, "Say It Loud" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (An African Cargo @ Greenwich Theatre), reviewed 1 September 2007.
  56. ^ If 2 review by Easy Livin, 9 June 2011.
  57. ^ John Stevenson, "Margaret Busby: Doyenne of Black British Publishing", Black History Month 365, 28 September 2016.
  58. ^ Rachel Holmes, "Black History Month: A – Z", The Metropolist, 3 October 2014.
  59. ^ Lloyd Lewis Hayter, "Maya Angelou – A Celebration, Southbank Centre – review", Afridiziak Theatre News, 7 October 2014.
  60. ^ Margaret Busby, "A healing pen, a letterbox smile: Auntie Maya, angel of the South", The Sunday Times, 28 September 2014.
  61. ^ London Literature Festival 2014 Southbank Centre, August 12, 2014, p. 22.
  62. ^ "Promoting diversity in publishing", Editorial Training, 2 June 2010.
  63. ^ "Greater Access to Publishing" records held at London Metropolitan Archives.
  64. ^ "How do we stop UK publishing being so posh and white?", The Guardian, 11 December 2015.
  65. ^ Tricia Wombell, "Books and Spoken Word Interview: Meet Margaret Busby", Lime.
  66. ^ S. L. Bridglal, "Tea with Toni Morrison", The Observer, 27 December 2015.
  67. ^ "Wole Soyinka at 80", Africa Writes 2014.
  68. ^ "Africa Writes: Two Writers, Two Generations", Africa Writes 2014.
  69. ^ "About Last Weekend: Africa Writes 2016", BookshyBooks, 9 July 2016.
  70. ^ "About Us — People", The Caine Prize.
  71. ^ Boyd Tonkin, "The long-list for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize", The Independent, 2 April 2009.
  72. ^ Ivette Romero, "The Bocas Lit Fest: The Trinidad and Tobago Literary Festival", Repeating Islands, 7 February 2011.
  73. ^ Margaret Busby, "Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014", The Guardian, 10 April 2014.
  74. ^ Gus John, "Obituary: Cy Grant, November 8, 1919 – February 13, 2010", Stabroek News, 28 February 2010.
  75. ^ "OWWA's First 20 Years" (PDF). Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. 
  76. ^ "Trustees" Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Wasafiri.
  77. ^ "Tomorrow’s Warriors Trust", Tomorrow's Warriors website.
  78. ^ "Margaret Busby – Prize Ambassador", SI Leeds Literary Prize.
  79. ^ "Patrons", Etisalat Prize for Literature.
  80. ^ Leah Sinclair, "Suffrage 100: The Black Women Who Changed British History", The Voice, 6 February 2018.
  81. ^ a b Black Power: Photographs by Donald MacLellan, National Portrait Gallery.
  82. ^ AKA International Region at Sigma Theta Omega Chapter.
  83. ^ "Diversity – Margaret Busby", EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy).
  84. ^ "Doctor of the University 1973–2011" Archived 13 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Honorary Degree Awards 1973–2011
  85. ^ "31st December, 2005, New Year Honours", Government News.
  86. ^ Honorary Fellows Archived 27 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Queen Mary, University of London.
  87. ^ "Margaret Busby, OBE" (Biography) Archived 19 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine., NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  88. ^ "Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters" Archived 2 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine., NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  89. ^ "UK African Heritage High Achievers Recognition Award Presentation Ceremony", House of Amau, 30 September 2015.
  90. ^ "House of AMAU (AMBA) Africa & Diaspora Writers", UK Black Writers Forum.
  91. ^ "Another Honour for Margaret Busby OBE", George Padmore Institute, 20 October 2015.
  92. ^ Evelyn Osagie, "Echoes of Achebe’s works at writers’ show", The Nation (Nigeria), 25 November 2015.
  93. ^ Natasha Onwuemezi, "Rankin, McDermid and Levy named new RSL fellows", The Bookseller, 7 June 2017.
  94. ^ "Current RSL Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 

External links[edit]