People

Margaret Busby – biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

IntroGhanaian author and writer
Is Author 
Writer 
Journalist 
From Ghana 
Type Journalism 
Literature 
Genderfemale

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 when in the 1960s she co-founded with Clive Allison (1944–2012) the London-based publishing house Allison and Busby (A & B).

Education and early years

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 and attended school with C. L. R. James. Through her maternal line, she is a cousin of newscaster Moira Stuart.

After leaving school at 15, Margaret Busby read English at Bedford College, London University, 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).

Publishing

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

Writing, editing and broadcasting

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), The Observer, The Independent, The Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and elsewhere.

She compiled the pioneering work Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent, and has contributed to other books (including Colours of a New Day: Writing for South Africa in 1990, and in 2014 Carnival: A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival, co-authored with Ishmahil Blagrove), 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, 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).

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, winning a Commission for Racial Equality “Race in the Media Award” (RIMA) in 1999.

Her writing for the stage includes Sankofa (1999), Yaa Asantewaa – Warrior Queen (UK/Ghana, 2001–02), directed by Geraldine Connor, and An African Cargo (Greenwich Theatre, 2007) directed by Felix Cross. She has also been a song lyricist.

Literary activism

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), which engaged in campaigns for increased Black representation in British publishing. She is the patron of Independent Black Publishers (IBP).

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

Awards

  • 1970: Society of Young Publishers Award
  • 1993: Pandora Award from Women in Publishing
  • 1998: Honorary Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) International Region
  • 1999: Race in the Media Award for radio play Minty Alley
  • 1999: Ghanaian traditional honour as Nana Akua Ackon, Cape Coast
  • 2004: Open University Honorary Doctorate for Services to the Arts and Sciences
  • 2006: Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for services to Literature and to Publishing
  • 2011: Honorary Fellowship, Queen Mary, University of London
  • 2015: Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters
  • 2015: UK African Heritage High Achievers Recognition Award from the House of Amau
  • 2015: Honorary Membership of PAWA (Pan African Writers Association) Award, Ghana.
  • ^ Black Power: Photographs by Donald MacLellan, National Portrait Gallery.
  • AKA International Region at Sima Theta Omega Chapter.
  • “Diversity – Margaret Busby”, EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy).
  • “Doctor of the University 1973–2011”, Honorary Degree Awards 1973–2011
  • “31st December, 2005, New Year Honours”, Government News.
  • Honorary Fellows, Queen Mary, University of London.
  • “Margaret Busby, OBE” (Biography), NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  • “Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters”, NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  • “UK African Heritage High Achievers Recognition Award Presentation Ceremony”, House of Amau, 30 September 2015.
  • “House of AMAU (AMBA) Africa & Diaspora Writers”, UK Black Writers Forum.
  • “Another Honour for Margaret Busby OBE”, George Padmore Institute, 20 October 2015.
  • Evelyn Osagie, “Echoes of Achebe’s works at writers’ show”, The Nation (Nigeria), 25 November 2015.