Black History Collection

Over the 50 years of its existence, the Institute of Race Relations has gathered together a unique collection of posters, leaflets, flyers, newspaper cuttings, campaign materials and more than 160 journals from black community and grassroots groups in the anti-racist struggle.

Catalogued and conserved with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Black History Collection spans the 1950s to the 1980s and covers topics such as black workers’ struggles for representation at work and in their unions, anti-deportation campaigns, policing and racial violence, the Black Power movement, the education, health and social welfare of black children, the 1958 Notting Hill riots, anti-fascism and uprisings.

Search the Black History Collection catalogue.

The way that the Black History Collection has been catalogued has been shaped by the hope it will one day become part  of a larger Institute of Race Relations archive. The rest of the Institute of Race Relations’ archive has not yet been catalogued, although a general overview (fonds level description) has been provided.

The catalogue to the Black History Collection is available online. Items from the collection can be viewed at the IRR by prior appointment. See below for further information.

Visiting the IRR’s Black History Collection

You can consult the Black History Collection at the Institute of Race Relations free of charge. But, because the IRR has no fulltime staff working on the Collection, it is only open on a Tuesday from 10.30-12.30 and 2-4.30pm and an appointment has to be arranged well in advance.

Ordering documents from the Collection

The Black History Collection is a closed collection which means that before you arrange a visit, you need to have consulted the online catalogue and made a note of the files you wish to consult. (There is no point in visiting the IRR in the hope of browsing around as you would a library, it is not possible.)

Users are reminded that the Collection’s limited opening hours will restrict the amount of material which can be feasibly accessed in one sitting. Please bear this in mind when initially ordering material. When you visit the archive, please be aware that you will be expected to complete work on one box (or its partial contents) at a time, before being given access to the next box (or its partial contents).

When you know which files you are interested in viewing, please email us at: bhc@irr.org.uk supplying the following information:

  • Your name, address, phone number and email address
  • The purpose of your research
  • The educational/professional/political establishment to which you are affiliated
  • The name and contact details of someone who could act as a referee
  • A list of the materials you wish to consult and, if you wish to view them in a particular order, listed in that order. When you arrive, we will have the first item on your list ready for you to consult.

Visiting the reading room

A member of staff will then get back to you to arrange a visit and send you a guide to using the Collection. If you are not able to keep an appointment, please inform us as soon as you can.

Photocopying and photography

A limited amount of photocopying, up to ten sheets, can be carried out by our staff for you in relation to any one visit. We do not permit photography of Black History Collection material.

Arrangements for mobility-impaired researchers

Readers with mobility impairments are advised that the Institute of Race Relations is not currently wheelchair accessible. However, please contact staff to discuss your requirements. Arrangements can be made for remote access to documents, subject to copyright and conservation constraints, using reprographic and research services.

Free teaching resource based on the Black History Collection

Aimed at teachers and students of Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4, this free resource consists of five modules: Community and Identity, Community Safety, Media and Racism, Racial Discrimination and Youth and Protest. All five activity packs can be used with an interactive whiteboard and explore the contemporary concerns addressed in the Citizenship curriculum through a historical lens.

Download page for the Black History Collection teaching resource.