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“All children should see themselves represented in the books they read”

And so the day finally arrived – on 3rd August our Director and long-standing Education Co-ordinator Jackie Ould logged off for the last time and headed into retirement.

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Jackie has been involved in our organisation since its inception. She originally met our founder Lou Kushnick when she was one of his American Studies students here at the University of Manchester.

In 1998 Lou was establishing the Resource Centre – an open access library of books about race and race relations, amassed during his academic and activist career. He asked Jackie, who by this point was a Black achievement and EAL (English as additional language) teacher for Manchester City Council, if she could help. She was, in her own words  ‘pretty sceptical really about how it was going to succeed’, but agreed to be involved and immediately started to think about the educational potential of the library:

I wanted to know how all of these academic books were at all relevant to that strand of my other life, if you like – and how we could make them relevant and applicable and useable in schools

She started to look at developing the collection for teaching purposes, but quickly realised the task would be bigger than that:

…we could buy books about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and any number of other African American heroes. But it was extremely hard to find any about Black British heroes, other than the occasional one like Mary Seacole. Very hard indeed to get those. So I wanted to know how does this connect with that other part of my life which is the teaching role? And how do we use this as an opportunity to start generating those materials… First of all buy them in if they exist, but if it doesn’t exist then logically, start making them.

This was the start of our outreach programme, which has always been much more than a just an outreach programme and is based on co-creating educational materials on BAME histories and experiences with the communities those histories and experiences come from.

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You can see (and order) the 30+ publications Jackie has helped produce on over the years on the Education Trust website.

In these early years Jackie laid the foundations for the work we do today; building relationships across schools, communities, the University and the council, and actively developing our collections through these partnerships. All of this was based on her tireless fundraising. Through our Education Trust we have had grants from Comic Relief, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Lloyds TSB Foundation, the Arts Council and repeated grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In more recent years, as Co-Director of the organisation, Jackie managed our move to Manchester Central Library as part of the Archives+ partnership; led our Legacy of Ahmed project, working with numerous community partners to explore and document the legacies of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’s tragic murder; and made our current major project Coming in from the Cold a reality through her vision and a successful HLF grant.

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Jackie and Lou saying a few words at Jackie’s retirement party

In her farewell speech, Jackie reiterated the three things that have driven her career:

  1. That all children should see themselves represented in the books they read
  2. That everybody should learn a diverse history
  3. That we must fight fascism

These principles remain central to our work today.

Jackie has been a driving force in our organisation for 20 years, we will miss her enormously, but she leaves us in a strong position with an exciting few years ahead as we deliver Coming in from the Cold and beyond.

The quotes in this post are taken from Jackie’s oral history interview (part of the Legacy of Ahmed collection), in which she reflects on her personal motivations, her experiences as a young activist and her long career in education. You can listen to this on request here at Central Library.

By aiucentre

An open access library specialising in the study of race, ethnicity and migration. Part of the University of Manchester and based at Manchester Central Library. www.racearchive.manchester.ac.uk.

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