Upon the launch of her latest book, Kwame Nkrumah and the Dawn of the Cold War, Marika Sherwood spoke yesterday on the topics of colonialism, communism and the importance of researching black history and activism at an event hosted by the AIU Centre. The talk was followed by an engaging Q&A and insightful discussion with members of the audience who shared Marika’s passion for research and black history.
Marika Sherwood speaking at Central Library 30/4/19
The 14th November is the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister since the country became independent from imperialist Britain in 1947. In India, this day is celebrated as ‘Bal Diwas’ or Children’s Day, in remembrance of Nehru’s belief that children should be lovingly nurtured as they are the ‘future of the nation and citizens of tomorrow’.
A close follower of Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru believed in the fight for independence from Britain but also the prevention of religious division. He joined the Indian National Congress and was eventually elected as its president. Nehru worked alongside Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India elected by Britain, and became Prime Minister on 15th August 1947. He is widely considered to be the architect of the modern India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic.
To commemorate what would be his 129th birthday, I decided to take a look at Nehru’s inspirational speech ‘A Tryst with Destiny’, a physical copy of which can be found on our Politics shelf here at the AIU Centre.
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.
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.
Whilst reading Shadows on the Tundra, a new release by Peirene Press of the testimony of a Siberian gulag survivor, I was reminded of a slim, privately published volume that I first read some years ago while working on book abstracts at the AIU Centre.
Shadows on the Tundra, the story of the Lithuanian Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s horrifying experiences, is an incredibly important piece of international survival literature, belonging in the hallowed company of Anne Frank’s diaries, the works of Primo Levi and of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Cheetham to Cordova: A Manchester Man of the Thirties on the other hand provides the opportunity of a glimpse into the Lithuanian migrant experience here in the UK, as told autobiographically by Maurice Levine.
Another great post based on our archives from the Archives+ Digital Journalist Volunteers – Louise Da-Cocodia and the Windrush Generation’s vital contribution to the NHS.
The summer of 2018 sees the 70th anniversary of two key moments in British history – the first wave of post-war mass immigration with the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) on 5 July 1948. There would appear to be no obvious connection between the two, and yet, in its days of infancy, the NHS heavily relied on many of those who stepped off of the boat in Tilbury, their children and also the thousands who arrived in the years to come – all dubbed the ‘Windrush generation’.
When the Windrush docked in Tilbury, she brought with her approximately 492 people – most of whom were men, but also women and children – from the Caribbean, mainly from the islands of Jamaica and Trinidad. Invited by the British government to help ‘rebuild’ Britain after the destruction of war, the…
The Archives+ Digital Journalists have been delving into our oral history collections to learn about experiences of the Windrush Generation here in Manchester. Here’s an insight into the life of one of the many ordinary/extraordinary members of this generation; Euton Christian.
You can learn more about Mr Christian in the Roots Oral History Project collection and the Exploring our Roots Collection.
This year marks seventy years since the Empire Windrush set sail from the West Indies and docked in the UK on June 22nd 1948.
Originally sent to bring servicemen who were on leave from the British armed forces back to the UK, because of the size of the ship, hundreds of others were offered the chance to join them on board to fill up space, for a £28 fee. These men were attracted to the idea of life in Britain for a variety of reasons; including the high unemployment rate in Caribbean countries, and Britain being presented throughout the education system as the loving mother-country filled with opportunities.
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre in Manchester Central Library has an extensive collection of material relating to those who came over on the Windrush from the West Indies and settled in Manchester, including several oral history projects. It was…
A guest post today from Dr Noreen Mirza* with a personal reflection on this weekend’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Watching the royal wedding with my mother, sister and niece this weekend, my attention was firmly fixed on Doria Ragland, the mother of the bride. The wedding itself taught me two things: We have come so far, yet we have a lot to learn. Ms Ragland taught me so much more.
Not in her wildest dreams would her own mother – the grandmother of the bride – a black woman in a racially segregated society, forced to sit on a racially segregated bus, imagine that one day her daughter would be linking arms with the future King of England at the wedding ceremony of their children. The grace and decorum Ms Ragland possessed was truly inspiring and humbling. Raw emotions of love, pride and happiness were etched on her face. These are human emotions which are real, universal and transcend culture, religion, ethnicity and class.
Image by Sue (www.flickr.com/people/29204155@N08/) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Book: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo. First published in Great Britain by Particular Books, an imprint of Penguin Books: 2017
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women is a book that brings together stories of women’s lives spanning human history and traversing the globe.
It’s where someone like Astrid Lindgren, Swedish writer born in 1907 and author of Pippi Longstocking (a much-loved children’s story about an archetypal rebel girl) can occupy the pages that follow Ashley Fiolek, the 27 year old American Motocross racer who does not let the fact that she was born hearing-impaired hold her back.
Where an archaeologist, Maria Reiche, born 1903, who left Germany to study the ancient Nazca lines of Peru, rolls up alongside Maria Montessori, physician and educator, who at the turn of the 20th century developed a new…
For International Women’s Day this year we’re sharing the story of Fatima Nehar Begum, the mother of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, who in the 30 years since Ahmed’s tragic death has led a number of extraordinary and positive developments, including building the Ahmed Iqbal Memorial School in Bangladesh.
We explored and documented her story, among others, in our HLF supported Legacy of Ahmed project 2015-17. The resulting archive contains an extensive collection of oral history interviews with those who remember Ahmed, those who experienced the aftermath of his death and those involved in the many projects and initiatives that make up his legacy.
Did you know Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the ‘godmother of rock’n’roll’ performed at Chorlton railway station in 1964? She was one of a number of legendary blues musicians who played as part of the ‘Gospel and Blues Train’ – a one-off performance contrived by Granada Television, which included turning the station (which was roughly on the site of what is now Chorlton Metrolink stop) into a scene from the wild west, with crates, chickens, wanted posters, and a large sign temporarily renaming the station ‘Chorltonville’.
It’s a piece of history that was at risk of being forgotten, until the footage recently appeared on YouTube, including this film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s performance (in the rain, just in case she was in doubt she was in the North of England…).
You can now read about this story in a beautiful new book we have produced and published in partnership with Chorlton High School.
You may remember I invited us all on a journey From Jamaica to Englanda little while ago. We were accompanied by a whole range of individuals, learning about their experiences of migration as preserved in primary and secondary sources you can find right here in the Centre.
Educated and uneducated, men and women, Black and ‘middle-class brown’ – each had something significant to tell us about the hardships involved in giving up their homeland to travel across the seas to what you’d think might be a better future…
Well, I was reminded of our journey back in August as I leafed through some obituaries over breakfast. Now, what’s so good about obituaries? Not a lot, you’d think, given that their purpose is to tell all and sundry that yet another person has died. Whilst that might not be the best news we’ll ever hear, I have to say I’ve always found obituaries fascinating. As a kind of secondary source, sometimes they open up a window into a different world, a different era – just enough to spur us on to find out a little bit more.
And that’s what happened to me whilst I was eating my cornflakes, and I’d like to share that experience with you…
When we travelled from Jamaica to England, there was one community from which we heard nothing directly, although despite it’s small size, it has influenced the lives of everyone who’s ever called Jamaica home. Which community was that? The white community. This fact struck me like a bolt from the blue as I realised I’d begun to read the obituary of a white Jamaican who died aged 104 – Blanche Blackwell.
Julie met Frank Pleszak at Polish Heritage Day back in May, and was fascinated to hear about the hidden histories he has uncovered, whilst researching his father’s experiences as a Polish refugee in the Second World War. Here he talks about his family, his research and his ongoing relationship with his father’s land.
I was born in Manchester and have lived and worked here all my life. I’m proud to be a Mancunian. I love it when people ask me where I’m from and I can say Manchester.
But my surname clearly isn’t local. My mum was from Salford but my dad, who died in 1994, was Polish. He never spoke much about his early life, I know he’d fought in Italy at the famous battle of Monte Cassino but it wasn’t until after his death that I began to think about why he was here in Manchester, why he’d been in Italy, and why he hadn’t gone back home to Poland after the war. I had no idea of the monumental series of events, together with World War Two, that had created me a Mancunian.
At the house my dad lived in until his arrest in 1939
Have you caught the dramatisation of Assata Shakur’s autobiography on Radio 4 this week? In a coincidence of timing the book has also made it to the top of Jo Manby’s review pile!
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur. First published in the UK by Zed Books Ltd, London (1988). This edition Lawrence Hill Books (an imprint of Chicago Review Press, Incorporated): Chicago, Illinois, 2014
Assata Shakur is the FBI’s most wanted woman. Since 1979 has lived in Cuba as a fugitive after being granted asylum there following her escape from prison. She is also a founding member of the Black Liberation Army and godmother of Tupac Shakur. This autobiography tells the story of the circumstances that brought her to her present day situation.
Maria Toorpakai is Pakistan’s number one female squash player, and is a professional player now living in Canada. This autobiography follows her journey.
In her prologue, Maria says ‘I needed to be outside, under the open sky and running free.’ However, born and brought up in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), specifically Waziristan, in Pakistan, this kind of behaviour was forbidden by tribal law. Even more punitive and suffocating were the edicts of the Taliban, which began to invade people’s lives in this conflicted area and beyond during Maria’s childhood and teens.
People disappear from history all the time. No written records, no treasured belongings handed down as heirlooms, no-one still around to remember… There are lots of reasons. But one of the most successful film-makers of his era? That’s unusual…
Jo Manby has taken a break from reviewing books to find out about self-portrait artist Samuel Fosso.
On a recent city break in Paris, we came across the privately run Galerie Jean Marc Patras. It was a cold February morning in the Marais – an area known for its arts and culture – just down the way from the Picasso Museum. In the windows of the gallery were two imposing works from Samuel Fosso’s Emperor of Africa series. These showed the artist gazing into an indeterminate, glorious distance, his face made up to represent the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, his figure dressed in Mao Zedong’s uniform-styled outfits.
It may not have felt like it at the time, but on 28th March this year we all lost something special. No, I don’t mean our wallets or our smart phones. What we lost was something even more important – a bit of global conscience. What do I mean? It was the day South African veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle Ahmed Kathrada died, aged 86.
Ahmed Kathrada may not be a name you’re very familiar with. Yet even as a youth this man had stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and other great anti-apartheid leaders right from the beginning of the campaign against the consolidating apartheid state in the 1940s. He was also with Mandela throughout his long incarceration.
Book review: Jimi Hendrix – Soundscapes by Marie-Paule Macdonald (Reaktion Books Ltd: London, 2016)
Review by Jo Manby
Marie-Paule Macdonald’s electrifying study of Jimi Hendrix charts the experiential and musical trajectory through his tragically short life. It also seeks to pin down which elements contributed to his innovative power as the pre-eminent pioneer of electric guitar playing.
Book Review: The Black Panthers Speak, Edited by Philip S. Foner, new Foreword by Barbara Ransby (Haymarket Books: Chicago 2014) (first published by J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia & New York, 1970)
Review by Jo Manby
The Black Panthers Speak is a bibliographic archive of correspondence, news, rules, speeches and poems – the documents that underpinned the fabric of the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) organisation.
The 2014 republishing of The Black Panthers Speak, an essential documentary history of the BPP, is indeed timely. Compiled and edited by Philip S. Foner (1910-1994), this is a new edition with an updated foreword by the writer, historian and political activist Barbara Ransby. When first published in 1970, the volume sought to counter the many misinterpretations that the BPP was subject to.
Like countless individuals before and after (especially women), Daisy Makiwane has all but slipped into the uncharted shadows of history. Although we now know she was a significant player in transmitting the funds for Tennyson to travel to the UK, we have to admit that little survives concerning Daisy herself.
Although BHM has a distinctly cultural flavour, it has always been about education. Back in 1987 Akyaaba Addai-Sebo explained that October had been chosen as the UK’s BHM because in Africa it is traditionally a time of plenty, of reconciliation and of bequeathing wealth and knowledge to the next generation. This coincides nicely with the start of the British school year, when children’s ‘minds are refreshed and revitalised, so they can take in a lot of instruction’. Quite right.
Source: David from Washington, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The education of children was at the heart of the work of Carter G Woodson (1875 – 1950), the so-called ‘Father of Black History’ and founder of Negro History Week, the precursor to today’s US and UK Black History Months. Continue reading →
Hardit Singh Malik was the first Indian and Sikh to become an officer in any of the world’s air forces. David Orman has been researching this fascinating history.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon early in 1918, a delegation from the Indian Government was taken from Manchester’s Midland Hotel, where they had enjoyed luncheon, to the Athletic Ground in Fallowfield, just a short distance away.
There, Manchester Chamber of Commerce presented them with an aeroplane – a Sopwith F1 Camel – to mark ‘Lancashire’s appreciation of the splendid part which India was playing in the war.’
The pilot who would fly the Camel from Manchester was 2nd Lt. Hardit Singh Malik.
Flt Lt Malik in Manchester. Image in the public domain.
So two weeks on from the general election and I know we’re all pretty sick of politics, not to mention politicians, but I couldn’t let this week pass without a quick nod to Mohammed Afzal Khan MEP who was invested as Manchester’s first Asian (and youngest) Lord Mayor 10 years ago.
Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago today, on the 7th April 1915. Her first recording session was in 1933, her last in 1959, the year of her death. The pre-eminent jazz singer of her day, she sold millions of records. But it was her most unlikely hit which she adopted as her signature song.
Billie Holiday with her dog, Mister, in 1947. Photograph by William P Gottlieb
8th of March is International Women’s Day (IWD), but like any good celebration it has started well in advance of the day itself, and will stretch out well beyond, with events celebrating the achievements of women happening throughout March.
We got in on the action this week by hosting a Spotlight session here in Archives+, looking at Black female activists from our collection. It’s got me thinking about the nature of specifically black and female activism – so often subsumed under the banner of either black or female – and prompted me to do a little research into the motivations and approaches of Black women’s organisations.
“Write for 5 minutes without stopping”, she said, and the stopwatch started. Easy-peasy, I thought. I can certainly talk for 5 minutes without stopping. The paper began to fill with my ramblings, but as the minutes ticked on my wrist started to ache and my brain began to freeze. I glanced around the table at the other workshop participants, each lost in his or her own thoughts and writing. They were a diverse group, in age, race and gender, brought together by one woman’s words.
Last week we had a session at the Archives+ handling table with material about the singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.
It’s a bit of stretch to call this a handling session – most of what we had out were books that you can ‘handle’ in our library at any time. Having said that, the main attraction was something from our archive; a signed copy of Here I Stand, Robeson’s autobiography, donated by Linda Clair. This definitely generated some interest – there’s something magical about seeing the marks made by a famous hand.
In preparing for our Paul Robeson hands-on session next Wednesday (details on our website and Facebook) I keep coming across the name Wilf Charles. He was one of a small group who established the New International Society in Moss Side in 1946, an organisation that promoted anti-racism locally but also supported international causes, including many championed by Robeson. As a result of this relationship Robeson came to sing at the Society in 1949, but more about that another time…
Wilf Charles is mentioned, in passing, in literature about Len Johnson (Manchester’s black boxing hero), about the International Brigade and the Spanish Civil War, the Communist Party and the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester.
Occasionally I come across a single issue of some journal or periodical on the shelf that appears to have no real relevance to race relations. This happened today when I spotted the October 1975 issue of The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (Washington DC, USA) in a pile of items waiting to be catalogued.
I’m a big fan of throwing things out – not the best attribute for someone who works in an archive you might think, but it doesn’t make sense to keep things that don’t contribute to our mission or that duplicate the holdings of other collections.
It was a lovely looking journal though, The Life and Age of Woman, highlighting the stories of ordinary and extraordinary women that can be found in the Library of Congress. So before I dropped it in the recycling bin I had a flick through.
Sometimes there’s nothing nicer than picking up an outsize tome packed with illustrations, and relaxing with it over a coffee. Some are very light reads, others more substantial.
Strolling among the shelves of the Centre, I came across one of the more substantial kind – The Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (published 1996). Having seen the 2013 film based on his memoirs, I spent a happy couple of hours absorbed in fascinating pictures, trying to assess how accurate the cinema experience had been. Who was Nelson Mandela? If I wanted to get to know him, I’d surely meet him in these pages.
This week, as it’s the Manchester Histories Festival and we’re here in our new home at Central Library, we’ve been taking advantage of the handling table in the Ground Floor Archives+ exhibition area.
On Tuesday afternoon Ruth and I pulled together a selection of items from the Steve Cohen archive, which is a large collection of anti-deportation campaign memorabilia from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, donated by the Manchester activist and community lawyer Steve Cohen. There are more than 70 campaigns represented in the collection but we decided to focus on the case of Viraj Mendis.
Here’s a lovely festive photo from our Ann Adeyemi archive collection. It was taken in Lewis’s in Manchester in the late 1950s. It feels like Lewis’s has been gone a long time, but it only closed in 2001, before Primark opened in the building. Wikipedia tells me that Lewis’s in Liverpool was the first department store to open a Christmas grotto, back in 1879, and many Manchester and Liverpool residents remember their annual December trip to see Father Christmas there.
There’s something not thoroughly convincing about the Father Christmas in this photo – he’s a bit slim and looks like he might have borrowed that outfit from someone a size or two bigger than him. Ann has a bit of a knowing look, I think perhaps she wasn’t convinced either.
Ann Adeyemi is living proof that Black people lived in Manchester well before the 1950s. Her grandmother was White Irish and came to Manchester at the start of the 20th Century, her grandfather was Black Liberian. Ann’s mixed race mother Mary was born in Salford in 1920 and grew up in Manchester. She married James, a Black merchant seaman from West Africa. Ann was born in Cheetham Hill in 1951 and grew up in Middleton. Ann herself has had a fascinating life, involved in education, anti-racism work and theatre. Here at the Centre we have an extensive collection of photos and memorabilia that Ann has donated, as well as oral history interviews that document her wonderful life.
Seasons greetings from us all at AIU Race Relations Resource Centre – see you in 2014!
We can smile when you are free. Happy Birthday Mr Mandela – Aklisur
It won’t surprise you to hear we have a lot of material about Nelson Mandela in the library. The influence of this one man has been so far reaching it’s difficult to comprehend, and in these weeks after his death the whole world is reflecting on his impact. Of course, his influence is felt no less strongly at the local level – here in Manchester and in our schools.
So here we are. It’s Black History Month. It’s 50 years since the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. It’s 50 years (give or take a few) since many African countries gained independence. So why, I hear you ask, talk about a dead white guy?
Well, Basil Davidson is no ordinary dead white guy (if any dead white guy is ordinary). Writer, activist, spy, guerrilla fighter, academic, great explorer, media star – you name it, he did it. Without him would there have been any Black History Month as we know it today? Now there’s a question.