Revisiting Gladys and the Native American Long Long Trail of Tears…

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Do you remember Gladys Tantaquidgeon? It’s certainly a name to conjure with…

This time I’m taking you on a journey back to when I shared my reflections on this amazing woman’s unique experience over a lifetime spanning the whole of the twentieth century (the blog post is reproduced below). As a Native American ‘Medicine Woman’ from the Mohegan Tribe she preserved the wisdom of her people, celebrating an approach to life which had all but vanished due to long centuries of persecution. As a university-educated academic and anthropologist, she specialised in collecting the lore of other tribes and interpreting it for a sceptical ‘scientific’ audience.

When I wrote about Gladys back in 2016, I tried to capture in words the dignity she and her people had shown in extreme adversity. Now I’d like to share with you a video I came across recently celebrating her 100th birthday in 1999, so we can all get to know this gentle but strong woman, who straddled two worlds it may have seemed impossible to reconcile.

 

Gladys died in November 2005 aged 106, having lived to see the rights of the Mohegan people to their ancestral lands recognised at last in US Federal law.

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Stateless in Manchester – the strange case of the “D.P. Student”

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Have you ever whiled away an hour or two in the University of Manchester archive? You should try it sometime. You never know what you’ll find.

I was in there one day rooting around trying to uncover the origins of international students who’d come to study in our city over the decades. Imagine my surprise when I saw the following statistic in the 1954 Report of the Council to the Court of Governors: “Stateless …. 1”. What could that mean? Sixty people from India or twelve from France is understandable, but “Stateless …. 1”?

You’ve probably guessed already I was on another voyage of discovery, one which I’d like to share with you…

Don’t think the mass migration of desperate refugees we’ve witnessed in recent years is anything new to Europe. It isn’t. The “Stateless Student” I’d stumbled across turned out to be only one individual amongst the millions of unfortunate souls left displaced and destitute on mainland Europe at the end of World War II. The cataclysm of the war-torn early 1940s had wrecked economies and devastated huge swathes of the landmass, leaving governments and people with insurmountable difficulties.

Refugees in Germany moving westwards in 1945

Refugees in Germany moving westwards in 1945 (Image courtesy the German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons – Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-021-09 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de)

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From Jamaica to England revisited – Blanche Blackwell and the joys of reading obituaries

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The Roving Reader Files

 

You may remember I invited us all on a journey From Jamaica to England a 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.

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Historians count…

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The Roving Reader Files

 

I’ve previously raised a cheer for those individuals who do all the donkey work so the likes of you and me can put our feet up reading books by people about other people – writers of biographies and secondary sources. Well, the other day I was struck by a monumental question: what on earth motivates them?

Rummaging around in the Centre, I unearthed Historians and Race. Autobiography and the Writing of History (published 1996). Would this help me find the answer?

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‘White Fawn’ and the lost history of James Young Deer

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The Roving Reader Files

 

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…

Take a look at this:

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‘Humpty Dumpty’, Ahmed Kathrada, and the death of a conscience…

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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.

Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada in 2016. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Southern Voices at the symposium: A Silk Road of Knowledge?

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Did you know that once the historic centre of Salford boasted one end of the longest railway platform in the world? Were you aware that we could all have been sauntering along an elevated walkway stretching from the University of Manchester right down Oxford Road to the heart of the city? Or even that our universities are part of what might be called a ‘Silk Road of Knowledge’?

No, neither was I… Not until a few weeks ago, when I spent a day at the University of Manchester, riveted to every word uttered by several enthusiastic academics chewing over Mapping the Historical Geographies of Higher Education in Greater Manchester. Yes, I do sometimes break out from among the Centre’s bookshelves, and on this occasion I was listening to talk after talk, as well as enjoying numerous question and answer sessions. You’ve guessed it, I was attending a symposium!

Symposium flyer. Click for a larger view

Symposium flyer. Click for a larger view

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Pictorial Pan-Africanism and Apartheid

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Many of us may not be aware of some basic facts and trends in history. Who can know it all? Certainly not me. But all is not lost. From time to time I come across fascinating books in the Centre that really help me out.

Take ‘Pan-Africanism’ and ‘apartheid’. These words are bounced around everywhere like tennis balls at Wimbledon. But do most of us really understand the concepts and worldviews they represent? Poring over a couple of illustrated beginners’ guides, I began to get a clearer idea. And do you know what? The illustrations made it a whole lot easier.

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Hulme and the Nightmare Scenario

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We all have our dreams. But what if they turn into nightmares?

Take the Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley firm of chartered architects and town planners. In the 1960s they dreamt of solving the problems of twentieth-century living by providing quality design and housing to a level reached in the eighteenth century for Bloomsbury and Bath. By using similar shapes and proportions, large scale building groups and open spaces, plus skilful landscaping and extensive tree planting, they hoped to make their dream reality. Where? Don’t laugh when I tell you. Hulme in Manchester.

Yes, Hulme was to be the setting for pioneering brave new town planning. The slums were to be cleared and in their place would arise beauty. There was just one problem. The designers’ dream became the Hulme residents’ nightmare scenario. Leafing through the Centre’s Hulme Study Collection, I came across Wilson and Womersley’s hopeful musings on the cover of Manchester City Council’s Survey Report  Hulme. A Position Statement September, 1987.

Photograph of an archive box containing Hulme reportsClose up of Hulme report, with a statement architecturally comparing Hulme with Georgian London and Bath Continue reading

Gladys and the Native American Long Long Trail of Tears

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Have you thought about your worldview recently? Do you believe deep down everyone everywhere should think like you? We’ve all done it. We know it causes arguments with our mums, best friends and partners. But what if we’re talking ‘worldview’ on a culture-to-culture global scale? What then?

Look at these images. Do they have anything in common?

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: grendelkhan via Wikimedia Commons

Source: grendelkhan via Wikimedia Commons

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Meeting Daisy Makiwane…

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Previously we pored over correspondence revealing how Tennyson Makiwane got to the UK in 1959. Bringing an authentic Black South African voice to early UK anti-apartheid proceedings, he was crucial to the success of the Boycott Movement of 1959 to 1960. Tennyson Makiwane was a public figure, appearing before crowds and rallying support for his cause. But what about his sister Daisy?

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.

But hold on there! Take a look at this flyer…
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The Devil Man Springs to Life

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Come with me on a journey of discovery into the bowels of the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library on Deansgate! Armed with our AIU Centre roadmap of race relations insights, let’s astonish ourselves amongst the wealth of treasures just lying there waiting to be discovered!

Feast your eyes on the image below. You, I and some intrepid Heritage Imaging adventurers are the first people to clap eyes on the contents of this amazing lantern slide for possibly eighty years or more… And you saw it here first  –  thanks to another of those incredibly kind archivists.

Lantern slide photograph of a group of African men, one of whom is dressed in a ceremonial outfit made from leopard skin and feathers

Copyright of the University of Manchester

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Tennyson Makiwane comes to London – but how?

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The Roving Reader Files

The Roving Reader has been out and about exploring other archives in Manchester. This week she’s been to the People’s History Museum and discovered tantalising new evidence of how one of the most significant participants in the early UK anti-apartheid movement came to Britain.

This post was going to be about the discovery of a touching migrant story. African woman lives in 1950s London and begs clergyman for money to bring brother to UK. Clergyman phones contact to get funds and cheque is sent off. Thank you note penned, good act done, brother home and happy. Not all migrant stories end so well, but it symbolises tales of separation repeated thousands of times in a world of war and economic deprivation…

True, this story features a clergyman, a sister, a brother and a benefactor. But when I say that these are Canon John Collins, Miss D Makiwane, Tennyson Makiwane and the Secretary of a UK Labour Party-linked fellowship, some of you out there might start jumping around shouting “Whoopee! Now we know who paid for Tennyson’s travel ticket!

Photograph of three letters

Correspondence from the British Asian Overseas Fellowship collection at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre. Courtesy of People’s History Museum, Manchester

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Day in, Day Out: Reminiscence work in Monsall

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The Roving Reader Files

 

I went to a Dementia Friends information session the other day. Have you been to one yet?

I learned that there really is more to dementia than losing your memory. People living with dementia can live well – provided others know a little about the condition and treat them with empathetic respect. The earliest memories are the ones that remain the longest. As I sat listening, I was struck by the thought that elderly people living with dementia might actually be storehouses of information about their distant pasts…

Old photograph of young girls outside a shop, Moston Lane

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Massacre of the Missionaries

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Where do our ideas about foreigners come from? Why do we view them the way we do?

I’ve often wondered about this and concluded it’s partly due to ‘cultural inheritance’. What do I mean? Well, the other day I nearly fell over when visiting the Special Collections archive at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Nothing to do with the staff. Just that there on display were two images that almost throttled me with the force of what they communicated about inherited attitudes to foreigners. Due to the kindness of the archivist, you can see them too.

The Reception of the Rev. J. Williams, at Tanna, in the South Seas, the Day before he was Massacred

The Reception of the Rev. J. Williams, at Tanna, in the South Seas, the Day before he was Massacred. Courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

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From the Horse’s Mouth

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Cartoon image of a horse reading a book saying 'Gee Pop, looks like the people really had it together in those days'Ever felt drawn to a particular shelf? Rummaging around in the Centre, I often get pulled to sections by a force beyond myself, and to be honest, now I just go with it. You never know what you might come across…

The other day I pulled out a massive tome, and what should I find lurking next to it but a comic book. Surprised? So was I.

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Finding Barrington. Part 3: The educator gets educated

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Last time we discovered Barrington Young had become the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. We also found that he’d begun a United Nations in his own home by marrying an Austrian in the 1950s. This time, we’ll see Barrington fully engaged in transmitting knowledge of his own, as well as wider Black history, to youngsters of all ethnicities.

Image of an older Barrington YoungBarrington retired in 1994. Counting his years on the railways as the best time of his life, he joined the Railway Club to continue that good experience into the future. But by 1998 we find him in a different role. It was the 50th anniversary of the arrival from the Caribbean of the good ship Empire Windrush in 1948 and Barrington was enrolling on an exciting innovative new course – Mapping Our Lives: The Windrush Project.

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Finding Barrington. Part 2: Moss Side roots

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Ever found that once you set off in search of someone, signs of them are just about everywhere? That’s how it was for me as I began rummaging around the Centre trying to find Barrington Young. I must have been the only person never to have come across him in my travels…

And that’s the key to Barrington. Travelling. Is he a prime minister, pianist, brain surgeon, astronaut or footballer? No. He’s far more important than that. As well as being one of the most kind and humorous individuals around, Barrington Young was the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. What Barrington doesn’t know about trains and the railways of Britain just isn’t worth knowing.

So, where did I find Barrington Young?

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Finding Barrington. Part 1: Who is Barrington Young?

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The Roving Reader Files

Small, but a kaleidoscope of colour. That’s the only way I could describe it.

What I’d found was a gem of a book packed with lovingly evocative images of Jamaica – Jamaica: Photographs by Ray Chen. Thanks, Mr Chen! What vistas you’ve opened up! Beaches, sea, mountains, people… You name it, it’s there. And the fruit! Call me a smoothie-head, but whenever fruit’s involved, I’m addicted already…

image of Jamaica book - fruit marketimage of Jamaica book - dancersimage of jamaica book - flyleaf

But wait a minute, what’s this? Another intriguing dedication on the flyleaf? You know I’m a sucker for a mystery, so take a look at what I’d found:

Donated by Mr. Barrington Young
September 07

Who’s Barrington Young? And why would he give away such a breathtaking book, a visual feast inviting us to another shore? Not something I’d do…

Barrington Young… Just say it out loud… Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? With a name like that, this man has to be somebody. A prime minister or a jazz pianist, a brain surgeon or an astronaut, or what about a footballer? I resolved to do a bit of digging. Who knew what I’d find?

So follow me on a roller coaster of a ride through the rail network of Britain, interracial marriage, and the value of a rigorous education. In my next couple of posts we’ll swim like fish amongst fascinating oral history treasures unique to the Centre, not published ones this time, but manuscripts, recordings, and their transcriptions.

Are you ready for another journey? The quest to find Barrington will be our guide…


Jamaica: Photographs by Ray Chen was published in 1995. Ray Chen was born into the Chinese community of Jamaica and, although he lives and works in Canada, he counts Jamaica as his home. He is one of Jamaica’s leading photographers, having published a number of collections relating to Jamaica, its scenery and its history.

 

Guests from Overseas

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Thousands of students are flooding back into Manchester. Here at the Resource Centre we’ve been busy preparing for this enthusiastic new cohort of scholars. Thankfully the Roving Reader has had the time to take a more reflective view of proceedings.

Anyone who hasn’t noticed that Manchester recently exploded with students must have just come from Mars. So for any Martians out there – the academic year’s beginning, lectures are starting, and the buses are full to bursting. Take my advice. Add another half hour to your journey so you get to your destination on time…

But hang on a minute! Stand back and take a closer look. Have you ever thought how many in the fresh-faced crowd are from overseas?

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Chinese Whispers?

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Three pounds of rice, four duck eggs, a pair of straw shoes, and a lonely trip over the mountains to 1940s Hong Kong. Long hours of labour in food outlets mushrooming on 1960s London high streets. What do these scenes have in common? The answer’s illiterate Chinese migrant Yue Kai Chung.

image of Yue Kai Chung

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Reading James Jackson: Footnotes

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Last time we discovered who wrote the Centre’s edition of Memoir of James Jackson, and why. This time, I’d like to ask the pressing question:

Is there any point in footnotes?

Notes page

© University of Manchester

Academics among you might have written a few footnotes yourselves, and are now suddenly sporting wry smiles. Everyone else is perfectly entitled to be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Footnote, endnote, twenty pound note? What’s the difference, except the last one buys you a few bars of chocolate and the others don’t?

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Reading James Jackson: Who’s the author?

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The Roving Reader Files

IMG_1054

© University of Manchester

My inner voices were going at it hammer and tongues: “It’s just too confusing! Why does it have to have three names on the cover? Isn’t one enough? James, Susan, Lois…? Who wrote the book?”

Just look at this: Memoir of James Jackson, The attentive and obedient scholar, who died in Boston, October 31, 1833, aged six years and eleven months. By his teacher, Miss Susan Paul. Edited by Lois Brown. That’s the book’s title. Wouldn’t you be confused?

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Black ’47, Bob and Me

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Get yourself a coffee and sit down. Here’s another intriguing tale behind what looks like an innocent volume parked on the Centre’s shelves…

Image of Black 47 coverHave you seen Black ’47. Britain and the Famine Irish by Frank Neal, with its bleak black and white cover and title printed in green? Haunted by the image of a gaunt famine-starved couple with a baby, it doesn’t look a relaxing read. Published in 1998, it appeared during the 150th anniversary commemorations of one of the most catastrophic transformational experiences ever to scar the collective psyche of any community in the world – the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.

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From Jamaica to England – What happened next?

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Our Roving Reader has been investigating what happened to the people whose stories and writings she looked at in her journey from Jamaica to England.

 

Una Marson died in 1965, but she lived for many years in the London Borough of Southwark. In 2005, Southwark Council awarded her a Blue Plaque in recognition of her contribution to literature and broadcasting. If any of you go and see it, let us know. There’s some more information on the Southwark Council website.

Joyce Gladwell is still alive and kicking. Her Brown Face, Big Master was reissued as a Caribbean Classic by MacMillan in 2003. Joyce herself went on to become a successful marriage and family therapist in Canada, whilst her husband became a professor of mathematics. In 2009, a counselling centre was named after her in recognition of her work. One of her sons is the journalist and best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, who discussed his mother’s life in one of his books – Outliers: The Story of Success (published 2008). You might like to read more about Joyce and the counselling centre or  Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on his multi-racial background.

Concerning the Adult Literacy Projects, I don’t have updates about Louise Shore and the individuals who contributed to So This Is England. But you may like to know what happened to Centerprise, the organisation which published Louise’s autobiography Pure Running. A Life Story. It survived as the Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre in Dalston, London, until 2012. Unfortunately, its peppercorn rent of £10 per month was suddenly raised by Hackney Council to an impossible £37,000 per year. After much legal wrangling, it looks like it finally closed, to great disappointment all round. It had been open 41 years, and had helped many isolated immigrants in London. If anyone out there knows of any further developments on this matter, we’d welcome an update. You can read more about it on the Radical History of Hackney blog and the Hackney Citizen website.

 

So, Who is Nelson Mandela?

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Do you like coffee table books? I know I do.

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.

Cover of Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom

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.

Or so I thought…

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Only 12 Years a Slave?

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The Roving Reader Files

 

Have you seen Steve McQueen’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning film 12 Years a Slave? If yes, you’ll know two things: one, it’s based on the true story of abducted free Black American Solomon Northup in the 1840s, and two, it’s not a barrel of laughs.

So to cheer you up, as an addendum to my last post, I’d like to highlight a couple of people featured in The Skull Measurer’s Mistake who made a stand against the kind of abuse Northup was subjected to – Granville Sharp and George Cable.

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The Skull Measurer’s Mistake

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The Roving Reader Files

 

This title caught my eye: The Skull Measurer’s Mistake. Skull measurer? Mistake? What could this mean? We know it’s not great to measure our waists inaccurately, as we burst out of our clothes if they’re too small. But skulls?

Image of book covers

Once I’d picked up Skull Measurer (published 1997) I was hooked. The rest of the title tells you why: and Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism. Concisely and deftly Sven Linqvist navigates the intellectual currents around the ethnic stereotyping that characterised popular imagination on both sides of the Atlantic during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and those who opposed it.

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From Jamaica to England – Part 4: Adult literacy projects as primary sources

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The fourth instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Louise Shore and Her Literary Ambitions

So far, we’ve learnt from intellectuals Una Marson and Joyce Gladwell, as we travel from Jamaica to England. But are you, like me, asking what our poor underprivileged companions have got to say?

Well, the disadvantaged have historically left few records of their own due to illiteracy, so if we’d asked that question even a hundred years ago, we’d probably have been told, “Not a lot. Hard cheese.”

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From Jamaica to England – Part 3: Primary sources and the autobiography of a ‘Middle-Class Brown’

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The Roving Reader Files

The third instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Joyce Gladwell Goes to London

Una Marson, through our secondary source, has given our Jamaica-to-England trip some context. Hurray! Now we can get comfortable, kick off our shoes, and learn a thing or two from the reminiscences of our companions. We’re going to thumb through some primary sources.

Primary sources come in many guises  –  letters, diaries, even old bus tickets, lists and catalogues. Archives are full of such things (often called manuscripts and ephemera), but for our journey, we’re going to look at the published variety; autobiographies  –  what people have written about themselves.

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From Jamaica to England – Part 2: The secret of the secondary source

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The next instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Delia Jarrett-Macauley unearths Una Marson

When you’re planning a journey, what do you do?

Some people just throw a few things in a bag, jump on the first train and go to sleep. Others want to look out the window, take in the scenery and understand what they’re looking at. If this is you, you’re just the candidate to dip into a secondary source.

Secondary sources are wonderful things. Some are huge and fat, others quite slim. Nearly all are written by kind souls who love to inflict on themselves the hassle of assembling and making sense of piles of information, just so people like you and me can become enlightened. Secondary sources give us firm foundations for understanding the context and broad issues of a subject.

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From Jamaica to England – Part 1: An invitation

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In a new series of posts, our Roving Reader travels from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Here we are back after the break, having seen in another new year. Do any of you feel like going away for a holiday after all that exertion? I know I do. Just as well then, that in this series I’m inviting everyone on a voyage of imagination and discovery, from sunny Jamaica to dear old Blighty.

Image of boat sailing into the sunset

Now why would I do that? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Centre is an ideal place to do a bit of research, and our journey will be a great excuse for getting stuck into introducing different types of published resources you’ll find here.

On the way we’ll find that each type has its own strengths, whether it’s a primary or secondary source, and each brings its own special perspective when read in conjunction with others. By taking a look at one or two examples in more detail we’ll start to see history spring to life, and we’ll meet Jamaicans who make their own unique contributions to the story of what it has meant to swap Jamaica for England.

By the end, I hope we’ll have greater insight into the triumphs and disasters of migration, as well as some of what the Centre can offer to shed light on the experience.

So keep your eyes peeled for the next post

 

Black Ivory, Black Settlers and the Phantom Book Rescuer

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Books are like stray animals  –  they’re looking for a good home…

The shelves of the Centre bear evidence that someone out there agrees with me. The other day I came across two books, inscribed by the hand of a kind-hearted individual who, it seems, scoured public library book sales for any waifs or strays needing tender loving care and rehabilitation.

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‘A New System of Slavery’: A tale of three homes

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The Roving Reader Files

I often wonder how books find their way into the Centre. Sometimes it’s simple, but sometimes it’s not so straightforward. I’m always intrigued when individual items bear marks which give a little glimpse of their story. Here’s an example.

A New System of Slavery. The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830-1920, by Hugh Tinker, was published by Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, in 1974. It was the first comprehensive survey of how and why populations from the Indian subcontinent were resettled around the British Empire, providing the indentured labour that produced plantation crops after slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.

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Basil Davidson: The University of Manchester link

Image of a pair of glasses on a bookAs an addendum to my last post, did you know that Basil Davidson once walked the hallowed corridors of Manchester University?

He was appointed a senior Simon Research Fellow for the academic year 1975/76, doing library research for another book on the Centre’s shelves  – his  Africa in Modern History: The Search for a New Society, published in 1978. How intriguing that he may have spent many hours on campus, in the Main Library and perhaps the Dover Street Building  (where the Department of Sociology was then based).

Nice to know Manchester played its part in helping Basil restore to Africans their history and culture, don’t you think?

If anyone bumped into him and has any memories to share, do let us know…

Basil Davidson and African Elephant Book no 5

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The Roving Reader Files

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.

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Who is the Roving Reader?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

She can be found here every week, settled in some quiet corner of the library brandishing a notepad and a quizzical look, or roaming around the shelves, picking up books seemingly at random, letting out sudden exclamations or shaking her head sagely…  we never quite know what she’s up to, but she’s agreed to report back on her findings as our very own reader in residence.

Look out for her guest posts, in which she’ll reveal hidden stories, make unusual connections and share her insights into using the collection for research.