As part of Black History Month 2019, we hosted an event with writer, poet, and director Elmi Ali called ‘The Afrofuturist Toolkit’. During the workshop the participants explored the theories behind Afrofuturism and created some of their own work envisioning the future of society. Ali’s overarching message was that Afrofuturism can take any form and is all around us, demanding a space in the future for Black people defined by themselves. “It looks to the past to define and make sense of the future.” According to Ali, ‘ism’ can be understood to mean “how something could be”.
On the 18th June 2019 we launched ‘Journeys to Manchester’, an exhibition exploring the lives of people displaced by conflict, persecution or natural disaster who have settled in Manchester. The main purpose of the exhibition is to highlight experiences and realities of migrating to a new country, using quotes from oral histories of individuals involved in our projects. It was important to us that we included cherished memories of people’s countries of origin and the discovery of cultural differences once in the UK, rather than only portraying the traumatic experiences that have become synonymous with being a refugee in mainstream media.
The majority of our archival material here at the AIU Centre relates to the UK, more specifically to Manchester, emphasising our focus on race relations within our local communities’ history and heritage. However, I have recently taken on the task of getting to grips with the ‘Lou Kushnick Interviews’, which are all the way across the Atlantic ocean from Manchester in their subject matter. While they may focus on US history rather than Manchester’s, there is one quite major connection between the interviews and our city. Lou Kushnick, the founder of The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource centre, came to Manchester from the US in 1963 to study, and decided to stay. He became a lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester and these interviews formed part of his various research endeavours, conducted both in this city and back in the US. They now form part of our archive, and can be browsed along with Lou’s various papers and documents.
There are 95 interviews in total, each around an hour in length. Some span over multiple recordings, and some are shorter and straight to the point. The interviewees are mostly American politicians, academics, lawyers, union members and activists. If you are interested in US political and social history, or US racial inequality within housing, employment, education and welfare, the Lou Kushnick interviews will fascinate you. As a past student of American Studies myself, they certainly fascinated me.
At the beginning of this year we were (and still are!) very pleased to announce that our collection of publications from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) were made available digitally, meaning numerous pamphlets, reports and policies are now online for you to look at – Click here to view the collection, and click here to read a blog post about the digital process! I have decided that these are especially worth a look this month, as it was 42 years ago in November that the CRE was first created.
One document I came across was the ‘Training Handbook for Social Services Departments’ working in multi-racial areas (see below). The Handbook explains that the CRE was formed under the Act of 1976, with the hope of eliminating racial discrimination within England, Wales and Scotland. This 1976 legislation replaced the previous 1965 Race Relations Act, which failed to address racial discrimination within housing, employment and the legal system. Almost half a century later, racial discrimination still exists in our society – which causes me to ask: Did the 1976 Act succeed in its aims? How is racial discrimination characterised now in comparison to how it was perceived in the 1970s?
A couple of weeks ago I (Hannah) wheeled a precariously-laden trolley of archive boxes over the road to the Friend’s Meeting House, to be the source material for a day-long research workshop for undergraduate History students. Reblogged from History@manchester, here are Dr Kerry Pimblott’s reflections on what was a hugely inspiring day for all of us.
The key to a more just future lies in a real reckoning with our collective pasts.
At least that was the thinking of the eminent scholar-activist, W. E. B. Du Bois. Writing in February 1905 – at the height of what many consider ‘the nadir’, or lowest point, in American race relations – Du Bois stated,
We can only understand the present by continually referring to and studying the past: when any one of our intricate daily phenomena puzzles us; when there arises religious problems, political problems, race problems, we must always remember that while their solution lies here in the present, their cause and their explanation lie in the past.
Du Bois’s call to ‘look-back-to-move-forward’ rings no less true today than it did over a century ago. Last week it was this dictum – in a new nadir typified by the twin tragedies of Grenfell…
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?
Our cataloguer and book reviewer Jo takes a look at our large and ever-popular History section.
In our new position on the Lower Ground Floor, next to City Library, in the newly refurbished Central Library, we have retained the same subject sections for our books but the layout of our collection is much more light, airy and spacious. Following on from Education, I’ve been taking a fresh look at the History section.