Stephen Bourne is a writer, film and social historian specialising in black heritage and gay culture. As noted by the BBC among others,"Stephen has discovered many stories that have remained untold for years." Bonnie Greer, the acclaimed playwright and critic, says: "Stephen brings great natural scholarship and passion to a largely hidden story. His is highly accessible, accurate and surprising. You always walk away from his work knowing something that you didn’t know, that you didn’t even expect."
Stephen graduated from the London College of Printing with a bachelor’s degree in film and television in 1988, and in 2006 received a Master of Philosophy degree at De Montfort University on the subject of the representation of gay men in British television drama 1936-1979.
After graduating in 1988, he was a research officer at the British Film Institute on a project that documented the history of black people in British television. The result was a two-part television documentary called Black and White in Colour (BBC 1992), directed by Isaac Julien, that is considered ground-breaking. In 1991 Stephen was a founder member of the Black and Asian Studies Association. In the 1990s he undertook pioneering work with Southwark Council and the Metropolitan Police that resulted in the founding of one of the first locally-based LGBT forums to address homophobic crime. In 2003 Stephen received the Metropolitan Police Volunteer Award. It was presented to him by Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens at City Hall, London. The citation said: "Stephen has discharged this responsibility with enthusiasm and conscientiousness in a number of high profile cases, most notably the tragic murder of Peckham schoolboy Damilola Taylor. In each he has provided good advice on strategy and tactics whilst informing the public of difficulties encountered within investigations and efforts made by police to achieve successful outcomes."
In 1991, Stephen co-authored Aunt Esther’s Story with Esther Bruce (his adopted aunt), which was published by Hammersmith and Fulham’s Ethnic Communities Oral History Project. Nancy Daniels in The Voice (8 October 1991) described the book as "Poignantly and simply told, the story of Aunt Esther is a factual account of a black working-class woman born in turn of the century London. The book is a captivating documentation of a life rich in experiences, enhanced by good black and white photographs." For Aunt Esther’s Story, Stephen and Esther were shortlisted for the 1992 Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing.
In 1998 Stephen researched and scripted the BBC Radio 2 series Their Long Voyage Home, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, for the BBC’s Windrush season. For his acclaimed book Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (2001), Stephen received the Southwark Civic Award. In 2004 Stephen began contributing biographies about black Britons to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press) and by 2016 Stephen’s total had reached forty.
In 2008 Stephen researched Keep Smiling Through: Black Londoners on the Home Front 1939-1945, an exhibition for the Cuming Museum in the London Borough of Southwark and that same year he worked as a historical consultant on the Imperial War Museum’s War to Windrush exhibition.
In 2014 Stephen’s book Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War was published by The History Press to coincide with the centenary of Britain’s entry into World War I. Reviewing it in The Independent (11 September 2014), Bernadine Evaristo said: "Until historians and cultural map-makers stop ignoring the historical presence of people of colour, books such as this provide a powerful, revelatory counterbalance to the whitewashing of British history." For Black Poppies Stephen received the 2015 Southwark Arts Forum Literature Award at Southwark’s Unicorn Theatre.