Margaret Busby

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Margaret Busby OBE (also titled Nana Akua Ackon) is a Ghanaian-born publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster based in the UK. She was Britain’s youngest and first black woman book publisher[1] when in the 1960s she co-founded with Clive Allison (1944–2012)[2] the London-based publishing house Allison and Busby (A & B).

Education and early years[edit]

Margaret Busby was born 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[3] and attended school with C. L. R. James.[4] Through her maternal line, she is a cousin of newscaster Moira Stuart.[5][6][7]

After leaving school at 15, Margaret Busby read English at Bedford College, London University,[8] where she became editor of her college literary magazine as well as publishing her own poetry. She was married to British jazz musician and educator Lionel Grigson (1942–1994).[2]


She co-founded the publishing house Allison and Busby (A & B) in 1967, and was Editorial Director for the next 20 years,[9] publishing many significant authors including Sam Greenlee (author of The Spook Who Sat by the Door, the first novel published by A & B),[10][11] C. L. R. James, 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),[9] before pursuing a freelance career as an editor and writer.

Writing, editing and broadcasting[edit]

As a journalist, she has written for such leading publications as The Guardian (writing reviews and obituaries of artists and activists including Jessica Huntley, Buzz Johnson, Jayne Cortez, Jan Carew, Rosa Guy, Barry Reckord, Frank Crichlow, and Geraldine Connor),[12] The Observer, The Independent, The Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and elsewhere.[13]

She compiled the pioneering work Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent,[14][15] and has contributed to other books (including Carnival: A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival, 2014, co-authored with Ishmahil Blagrove),[16] specialist journals and the general press.

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,[17] as well as Break For Women on the BBC African Service, 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).[4]

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,[18][19] winning a Commission for Racial Equality "Race in the Media Award" (RIMA) in 1999.[20][21]

Her writing for the stage includes Sankofa (1999),[22] Yaa Asantewaa – Warrior Queen (UK/Ghana, 2001–02),[23][24][25][26] directed by Geraldine Connor,[27] and An African Cargo (Greenwich Theatre, 2007).[28][29][30][31]

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),[32] which engaged in campaigns for increased Black representation in British publishing.[33][34] She is the patron of Independent Black Publishers (IBP).[9]

She has been a judge for many literary competitions, among them the Caine Prize for African Writing,[35] the Orange Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize,[36] the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature,[37] the Commonwealth Book Prize (for which she was chair of the judges in 2012).[9] and Africa39.[38] She has served on the boards or in advisory positions for other cultural organisations, including The Africa Centre, London, English PEN, the African & Caribbean Music Circuit, the Hackney Empire theatre, the Organization of Women Writers of Africa,[39] and Wasafiri magazine.[40] She is currently Prize Ambassador of the SI Leeds Literary Prize[41] and a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.[42]



  1. ^ "Margaret Busby", African Writing Online, October/November 2007.
  2. ^ a b Margaret Busby, "Clive Allison obituary", The Guardian, 3 August 2012.
  3. ^ Cameron Duodu, "Edward Wilmot Blyden, grandfather of African liberation", Pambazuka News, Issue 538, 6 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Shereen Ali, "Sharing our Voices", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 29 April 2015.
  5. ^ The Literator, "Cover Stories: Sue Freestone; Margaret Busby; Zadie Smith", The Independent, 16 June 2006.
  6. ^ Thomson Fontaine, "George James Christian: Pioneer in Africa",, Volume No. 1, Issue No. 32, 27 November 2002.
  7. ^ Gary Crosby, "RIP Ken Gordon (1927-2013)", 9 November 2013.
  8. ^ Alison Donnell, "Busby, Margaret", Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture, Routledge, 2002.
  9. ^ a b c d "Margaret Busby – Prize Ambassador", SI Leeds Literary Prize.
  10. ^ Margaret Busby, "Sam Greenlee obituary", The Guardian, 2 June 2014.
  11. ^ Allison & Busby page at George Padmore Institute website.
  12. ^ Margaret Busby profile at The Guardian.
  13. ^ Margaret Busby at Journalisted.
  14. ^ Philip Tew, Emily Horton, Leigh Wilson (eds), The 1980s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction, A&C Black, 2014, p. 108.
  15. ^ "Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby", Kinna Reads, 24 September 2010.
  16. ^ "Fantastic new photobook celebrates the history of Notting Hill Carnival", It's Nice That, 22 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Margaret Busby", British Universities Film & Video Council.
  18. ^ "Minty Alley" (Afternoon Play), BBC Radio 4.
  19. ^ Nigel Deacon, "BBC Radio Plays, radio 4, 1998". Diversity Website.
  20. ^ Black British Perspectives: Performance and Literature & Publishing
  21. ^ Barry Hodge, "Radio Drama & Readings, radio 4, 1999".
  22. ^ Mary Brennan, "Rhythms of everyday life", Herald Scotland, 10 February 2000.
  23. ^ "Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble - Yaa Asantewaa-Warrior Queen", UK Theatre Web, Archive Listings.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Pajohn Dadson, "Ghana: Yaa Asantewaa Has Landed", AfricaNews 18 May 2001.
  26. ^ Cameron Duodu, "Yaa Asantewaa - warrior queen. (The Arts)", New African, 1 June 2001. The Free Library.
  27. ^ Margaret Busby, "Geraldine Connor obituary", The Guardian, 31 October 2011.
  28. ^ Felix Cross, "Belle: An Unexpected Journey", Nitro, 13 June 2014.
  29. ^ "African Cargo, An", Black Plays Archive, The National Theatre.
  30. ^ Felix Cross MBE.
  31. ^ Colette Lebrasse, "Say It Loud" (An African Cargo @ Greenwich Theatre), reviewed 1 September 2007.
  32. ^ "Promoting diversity in publishing", Editorial Training, 2 June 2010.
  33. ^ "Greater Access to Publishing" records held at London Metropolitan Archives.
  34. ^ "How do we stop UK publishing being so posh and white?", The Guardian, 11 December 2015.
  35. ^ "About Us — People", The Caine Prize.
  36. ^ Boyd Tonkin, "The long-list for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize", The Independent, 2 April 2009.
  37. ^ Ivette Romero, "The Bocas Lit Fest: The Trinidad and Tobago Literary Festival", Repeating Islands, 7 February 2011.
  38. ^ Margaret Busby, "Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014", The Guardian, 10 April 2014.
  39. ^ "OWWA's First 20 Years" (PDF). Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. 
  40. ^ "Trustees", Wasafiri.
  41. ^ "Margaret Busby – Prize Ambassador", SI Leeds Literary Prize.
  42. ^ "Patrons", Etisalat Prize for Literature.
  43. ^ a b Black Power: Photographs by Donald MacLellan, National Portrait Gallery.
  44. ^ "Diversity – Margaret Busby", EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy).
  45. ^ "Doctor of the University 1973–2011", Honorary Degree Awards 1973–2011.
  46. ^ "31st December, 2005, New Year Honours", Government News.
  47. ^ Honorary Fellows, Queen Mary, University of London.
  48. ^ "Margaret Busby, OBE" (Biography), NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  49. ^ "Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters", NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  50. ^ "UK African Heritage High Achievers Recognition Award Presentation Ceremony", House of Amau, 30 September 2015.
  51. ^ "House of AMAU (AMBA) Africa & Diaspora Writers", UK Black Writers Forum.
  52. ^ "Another Honour for Margaret Busby OBE", George Padmore Institute, 20 October 2015.

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