Black History Collection

Reference code: 01-04-04

Date: 1934 - 1999

Level: Sub-sub-fonds

Arrangement: These records have been catalogued to the following structure:
01-04-04-01: General subjects
01-04-04-02: Formats

Extent: 33 boxes

Admin history: The Black History Collection is a section of what used to be the Institute of Race Relations' library. The first, and for many years the only, race relations library in Europe, the IRR library held a comprehensive collection of research materials on race relations around the world. It was used for research, to create articles and books and for general reference by the Institute.

In 2005, the main collection of books, journals and pamphlets and other materials was given to the University of Warwick, where it was opened to the public a year later as the Sivanandan Collection. The IRR, however, retained a large collection of documents by and about black community and anti-racist groups in Britain from the 1950s to the 1990s. In 2007, the Institute successfully applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to preserve and catalogue these documents, which it decided to call the Black History Collection.

The Black History Collection is a unique agglomeration of flyers, leaflets, posters, newspaper cuttings, press releases, letters and more from the self help organisations, defence campaigns, workers' associations, political collectives, community projects and protest groups in Britain from the last half of the century. It covers events from the 1958 Notting Hill riots to the 1999 Stephen Lawrence inquiry and illuminates a variety of struggles: against racist immigration laws; discriminatory and sometimes deadly policing; local authority reluctance to provide black people with decent housing; a school system that classified black people as educationally subnormal; employers who only offered black workers dangerous and badly-paid jobs with antisocial hours; Enoch Powell's apocalyptic speeches, fascist violence and more.

Because of the small, unfunded and often transient nature of the groups that produced the material amassed in the Black History Collection, it is unlikely that a similar collection of documents exists elsewhere. It is also partly the arrangement of materials, collected from a wide variety of sources to aid research on specific incidents - such as the bussing of black schoolchildren in the London Borough of Ealing to schools with fewer non-white pupils, or the campaign to free the Virk Brothers from an unjust prison sentence for an act of self-defence - that makes the collection a uniquely useful resource.

Scope: The collection contains newsletters, press releases, flyers, leaflets, circular letters, reports, extracts from Hansard, newspaper cuttings, articles, conference programmes, posters and other ephemera produced by and about black communities in Britain after the Second World War.

Highlights among these include the Black Power movement, which began in London in 1967 and was most active in the early 1970s. There is a comprehensive collection of newspaper cuttings on the 1958 Nottingham and Notting Hill riots and strong cuttings collections on a variety of uprisings, especially those in Broadwater Farm and Brixton in London in the 1980s. Some of the earliest documents include an original programme from the funeral of murdered West Indian carpenter Kelso Cochrane in 1959 (01/04/04/01/04/02/05). The largest collection of documents pertains to the policing of black communities and the handling of racial violence. Other strengths include the section on immigration, which contains documents from many anti-deportation campaigns.

The collection is largely file-based. Working files are common, with information gathered from a variety of sources, leading to some duplication between files. Many of these items have been receipt stamped by the Institute.

Language: English, Punjabi, Urdu, Spanish.

Appraisal and destruction: Within files, duplicates have been removed.

Conservation: Where necessary, original newspaper cuttings have been substituted with copies on acid-free paper.

Publication note: None

Related units: The sections, Library Pamphlets (01/04/03/01) and Library Periodicals (01/04/03/02) derive from the same source as the Black History Collection, and should be treated as part of it.

Huntleys Collection, London Metropolitan Archive, London.

George Padmore Institute, London.

Sivanandan Collection, University of Warwick.

When catalogued: September 2007-September 2008

Accruals: None

Access: These records are available for consultation by prior arrangement, although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods.

Finding Aid: All levels of data available on this system.

Cataloguer note: Catalogued by Rosie Wild of the Institute of Race Relations, as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project.

Rules and conventions: In the catalogued sections, descriptions created under guidance of London Metropolitan Archives, following ISAD(G).

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