In May 1969, the body of David Oluwale was found in the River Aire near Leeds. Oluwale had been homeless, an immigrant from Nigeria and a former patient in a mental hospital. The police didn’t care. Until eighteen months later when a lengthy campaign of harassment by two high-ranking policeman was uncovered. The Hounding of David Oluwale looks at the chilling crimes against David Oluwale and how the system failed him.
The Hounding of David Oluwale is an incredible true story. Not only does it look into what happened to David Oluwale but it looks at the broader context of Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s, the immigration from colonial countries to Britain, British people’s racism, the police’s bigotry and generally life in and around Leeds and how people thought of their city. While the book follows David Oluwale and retraces his steps from Nigeria to Britain, how he found work but eventually ended up in a mental hospital it elaborates on how Oluwale’s experience was part of a broader context of Britain at that time.
Considering I’m a Brit, I don’t really know much about modern British history so The Hounding of David Oluwale was great at showing a side to my country that I hadn’t known about before. Racism and police brutality in America is (unfortunately) something that hits the news nearly every day and it’s easy to think that here in the UK we’re not like that. To some extent we’re not, but there is still institutionalised racism and The Hounding of David Oluwale shows how police attitudes can be just the same here as in America.
The Hounding of David Oluwale is a bit of a tough read as it is so sad and frustrating the experiences that David Oluwale was put through at the hands of the police and medical professionals that are supposed to look out for him and treat him fairly. For instance on one of the forms when he was arrested his nationality was changed from “BRIT” to “WOG”. I got into a bit of a reading slump because of this, I mean, The Hounding of David Oluwale is only 272 pages but it took me almost two weeks to actually get through it.
The book is made up of interviews, reports and media coverage that pieces together David Oluwale’s life and how he ended up dying and in a river. I liked how it was set out and while it does cover a lot it managed to walk the line between dull and interesting well.
The Hounding of David Oluwale is an important story that shouldn’t be forgotten and in today’s climate it’s good to look at history and learn from it or we’ll continue to repeat it. It’s a fascinating read but the tough subject matter led to the side-effect of it being a very slow read for me. 3/5.