Noughts and Crosses: Which real-life murder case inspired Noughts and Crosses?

Young adult novel Noughts and Crosses has finally been turned into a television series on BBC One after the first book was published in 2001. There are a total of five books in the Noughts and Crosses series and the upcoming novel Endgame will be the last one. So what did convince author Malorie Blackman to write Noughts and Crosses in the first place?

Noughts and Crosses is set in an alternate world where Africa colonised Europe rather than the other way around.

Both the books and the series are set in modern times and shows what impact this has had on society, with there now being the black ruling class known as Crosses and the white underclass who are referred to as Noughts.

But danger is afoot when childhood friends Cross Sephy Hadley (played by Masali Baduza) and Nought Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan) fall for one another and must somehow deal with the consequences of their romance.

The story revolves around Sephy and Callum but also pays close attention to the mistreatment of the Noughts and the growing anger in the poor community.

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Which real-life murder case inspired author Malorie Blackman to write Noughts and Crosses?

Speaking after a screening of the first episode of Noughts and Crosses, author Malorie Blackman spoke of what pushed her to write the book.

One thing which did encourage her to write the book series was the tragic real life murder of a black teenage boy.

She said: “It was a combination of factors, it was like the Stephen Lawrence case in particular.

“I was watching a docu-drama and I was just so appalled at the way the family have been treated.”

Stephen Lawrence was an 18-year-old black man who was stabbed to death in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus with a friend in Eltham, south east London, on April 22, 1993.

During a six-week trial, held in 2011 to 2012, microscopic evidence was found on the clothes belonging to the accused Gary Dobson and David Norris, who were 17 and 16 at the time.

Both were found guilty of murdering Stephen Lawrence on January 3, 2012.

The following day, Dobson was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years and two months, while Norris was sentenced to 14 years and three months in prison.

During the sentencing, the judge stated that the sentences reflected the fact that Dobson and Norris were juveniles at the time of the murder, which meant the starting point for the minimum term was 12 years.

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After her son’s death, Doreen Lawrence promoted reforms of the police service, founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and was awarded an OBE for her work in 2003.

Following his death, she said: “I would like Stephen to be remembered as a young man who had a future.

“He was well loved, and had he been given the chance to survive maybe he would have been the one to bridge the gap between black and white because he didn’t distinguish between black or white.

“He saw people as people.”

In 2018, then prime minister Theresa May announced the creation of “Stephen Lawrence Day” – an annual national commemoration of his death on April 22 every year.

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As well as the death of Stephen Lawrence, Blackman was also inspired to write the book series by her own personal experiences with racism.

She said: “There were things in my own childhood that I kind of thought I had addressed.

“But I realised when I sat down to write the book I hadn’t put them to one side, I just buried them really deeply.

“A lot of the things that kind of goes through the book are based on true incidents that happened to me.

 “Like the first time I travelled first class on a train and the ticket inspector accused me of stealing the ticket.

“Or having a conversation with my history teacher and saying: ‘How come you don’t talk about black scientists and achievers and inventors?’

“And my teacher said: ‘Because there aren’t any.’

“And I’m sure that’s not true, but we’ve never been taught any and so on.”

Noughts and Crosses season 1 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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