Gary Younge (1969- )

Gary Younge and Florence Marfo
Gary Younge and Florence Marfo
Courtesy of Florence Marfo

Writer Gary Younge was born in January 1969 in Hertfordshire, England, to Barbadian parents. He grew up in the town of Stevenage, which had a very small Black population at the time. Gary and his two elder brothers, Pat and Wayne, were brought up by their mother, Reba, after his father, Patrick Younge, deserted the family home when Gary was an infant. Stevenage was Younge’s hometown until his late teens, but he would visit London to socialise with Black youth groups in his mother’s attempts for her children to have a ‘secure footing’ in their racial identity.

Racism in the UK was blatant in the 1970s and 1980s and experienced even more so by Black individuals who did not live in Black communities. Younge describes the racism of his youth as causing him ‘pain, humiliation and psychic [sic] wear and tear’. This was compounded by alienation from his Black peers because he did not conform to the norms of communication within Black communities.

Younge became politically engaged as a teenager. He joined the Trotskyist movement, a decision that he later described as reflective of his teenage naïveté. Extremely studious, he skipped a year of studies, completing his A (Advanced) Levels at 16 when the vast majority of students in England finish at 18. He then spent a year in Sudan teaching Eritrean refugees. Afterward, Younge studied French and Russian at the University of Heriot-Watt in Scotland. His studies included time spent in France and Russia. He described France as a place where he was extremely unhappy, as he was stopped, searched, and beaten by the police frequently during his five months there. Contrastingly, his experience in Russia was positive because Russians assumed that he was African American and therefore associated him with American affluence and popular culture.

In 1993, after being awarded a grant from The Guardian, Young studied journalism at City University in New York. Three years later, he was awarded a Lawrence Stern fellowship to work at the Washington Post. He was appointed The Guardian’s US correspondent in 2003, where he lived in New York and Chicago with his family (wife Tara Mack and their two children) until 2015. Upon returning to the UK, Younge settled in London. He has occupied several university positions, including at Manchester and London South Bank.

In addition to publishing articles for newspapers, Younge is the author of several books reflecting his years in the United States including The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King’s Dream; Stranger in a Strange Land: Travels in the Disunited States and No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the Deep South. He is a winner of the Anthony Lukas Book Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism for Another Day in the Death of America in 2017 and the Orwell Prize for Journalism for his articles: ‘Lest we remember: how Britain buried its history of slavery’ ‘How racism shaped my critical eye’, and the podcast, Facts that Matter.