Black Lives and History Developments at 20 July

Contents: Guardian Black History Timeline Charts, Black Cultural Archives Events & News, Some Other Events, Black Classical Musicians, Coleridge-Taylor of Freetown, The Gaps in Networking & WHBBH?, Asian British History, The Distortions of Historians, William Cuffay, The Transnational Context of Black British History,  The Grunwick Strike August 1968, US and Black British History, Debate, and Essays, books, resources, etc

The direct action to erect the statue of Jan Reid on the Colston plinth in Bristol, and then it being taken down, has ensured that the issue of memorialisation is back fore front in the national dialogue.

One of the latest suggestions for new statues is one for Claudia Jones.

Guardian Black History Timeline Charts

The Guardian’s Black History timeline charts last week are providing thousands of people with basic information and it is to be hoped that they will be used in every school.

It is good to see that among those who were consulted on its preparation were  Marika Sherwood, Hakim Adi and Miranda Kaufmann.

The charts can be purchased via:

The Guardian team that put the charts together discuss the project at:

Black Cultural Archives Events & News


Thursday 23 July. 7-8pm. OWAAD: Defining Black in Britain

Conversation with Stella Dadzie on s how blackness and gender have been defined in Britain and the legacy of the Organization of Women of Asian and African Descent.

Real MccOy

Thursday 30 July. 7-8pm. Live Oral History of Black Power Movement

Idris Elba donates 100% of his royalties from his new single to BCA

Re-opening BCA – An update

Some Other Events

Many groups are holding events looking at aspects of Black History.

  • The annual John Burns walk organised by the Battersea & Wandsworth TUC has John Archer as its theme. I will be providing the brief as this year I cannot lead it due to medical lockdown.
  • In the North East there is to be a zoom discussion on racism. Hakim Adi is one of the panellists, and I will be speaking briefly on the North East’s historic involvements in the slavery business.
  • There is also to another Zoom talk on those connections which I may be the speaker on, in place of John Charlton, the author of Hidden Chains.
  • Medway Trades Council is doing a Zoom talk discussion on William Cuffay (see below).

Black Classical Musicians

It is timely that The Guardian (16 July) has reported that nearly  4,000 people have signed the petition for the Associated Board of the Royal College of Music to include black composers like Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in its examinations.

Grace Healy, the petition organiser, tells me that since she launched the ABRSM petition she has ‘been in contact with some other music educators who are passionate about ensuring diversity on music exam syllabi’, and that they ‘are in the process of putting a working group together to tackle these issues. It is still in the very early stages at the moment, but it’s very important to us that we have as many voices at the table as possible, from a wide range of backgrounds.’

If you are interested in getting involved in something like this, email me to pass on to her.

Coleridge-Taylor of Freetown

Tayo Aluko has posted readings of the emerging script for his show Coleridge-Taylor of Freetown on YouTube.


George Coleridge-Taylor went to Durham University. His  memoir is available from various booksellers on line and Amazon offers a Kindle version.

The Gaps in Networking & WHBBH

The networking on black history remains fragmented and siloish.  An important network is What’s Happening in British Black History. It is planning a zoom workshop on 14 October – see below. So every so often new silos crop up like The Editions Black History magazine.

Asian British History

While it is right to keep highlighting the issues relating to Black British history we must not forget Asian British History. August 1976 saw the start of the Grunwick strike, which is being promoted within the trade union movement advertising material produced about it – see below.

The Distortions of Historians

In relation to the current debate about the false presentation of British history, it is worth remembering what the great African-American activist and historian W. E. B. Du Bois wrote back in December 1961:

‘As one studies history one is increasingly struck by the determination of historians and scientists to lie about the past in order as they seem to think, to make a better future.’  He went on to discuss how this was done in relation to the Civil War  as a war to abolish slavery; ‘that slaves had no part in it; that they were hardly, certainly at that time, worth the freedom that was given them as a gift and that this great and terrible catastrophe was carried on for the good of mankind; and that not  only those who helped to abolish slavery, but those who fought to preserve it are worthy of the Hall of Fame.’

He then argues about the transformatory role of the slaves and the Negro soldiers in the Civil War. He concludes his discussion with: ‘With the present determination to forget the history of the American negro, to distort the story of abolition, and to pretend that slavery in America was a sign of race superiority instead of proof of moral degeneracy, so long as that is the public opinion here is little that I can say to stem the tide.’ (The Negro and The American Civil War. Science & Society. Vol. XXV. No. 4. December 1961. pp. 347-52)

Friday 24 July. 7.30-9pm. William Cuffay


‘The life of  William Cuffay is a fascinating and inspiring story that deserves to be far better known than it is, particularly here in Medway where he was born.

This event celebrates the life of William Cuffay the Black Chartist Leader on the 150th anniversary of his death. The son of a freed slave, Cuffay was born, and for a while worked, in Chatham before later moving to London where he became one of the key leaders of the Chartist Movement that fought for the right of working class people to vote and be represented in Parliament. Subsequently Cuffay was arrested and transported to Tasmania where he again started agitating for workers’ rights.’

The speakers are Keith Flett, Convenor of the London Socialist Historians Group, Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary of UNISON and Anna Rothery, Lord Mayor of Liverpool. There will also be a short video from Australia about Cuffay’s activities in Tasmania. To participate  register at:

Martin Hoyle’s book about Cuffay remains very accessible. See my review at:

See also:

Wednesday 14 October.  The Transnational Context of Black British History


The organisers of the What’s Happening in Black British History? workshops are seeking proposals for papers for a Zoom workshop. The last meeting No. XII at the University of Bangor had to be postponed because of COVID.

‘The recent Black Lives Matter protests have given added urgency to the longstanding focus of this workshop series. They have also pointed to the international connections between campaigns against racism and oppression in the UK and elsewhere in the world. We would like to make particular use of the capacity of internet platforms to link scholars from around the world to explore Black British History in a comparative context.

Our workshop on 14 October will therefore focus on the transnational context of Black British History. We are keen to receive proposals from researchers who have examined this history in relation to developments elsewhere in the world, for example black liberation movements in Africa, the Caribbean, the US and Europe. We would be particularly interested to hear from scholars outside the UK who have studied aspects of Black British History either as their main focus or as part of a comparative study. We are also keen to hear from those in the education or cultural sectors who have produced teaching materials, exhibitions and documentaries exploring these comparative perspectives. In addition, we are interested in exploring the links between Black British and Imperial/Colonial History, and the different ways in which European colonial powers have dealt with the legacies of Empire.

As in our previous workshops, we are seeking proposals for presentations lasting for around 15-20 minutes. Please submit a title and a brief description of your presentation (no more than 300 words) as an attached Word document also stating your name, contact details, and, if you have them, Institution and Twitter handle to Philip Murphy at by Monday 7 September 2020.  In addition, we would be happy to consider proposals for a complete panel relating to the theme of the workshop above. The panel should have a coherent unifying focus, and the proposal should include the abstracts of three related presentations and the names and affiliations of the presenters.’

The Grunwick Strike August 1968

Asian stiker

US and British Black History

Understandably concerns are expressed that Black History in schools often focusses on the struggle in the United States. It would be retrogressive if the interaction between the two countries in relation to black rights was not part of the story taught in Britain.  After all it was the English who developed the slavery system there, it was Black Loyalists who went on to found Sierra Leone from London and then Nova Scotia, it was African Americans who escaped from slavery like Frederick Douglass who campaigned in Britain, it was the Fisk Jubilee Singers who introduced spirituals to Britain. The contribution made by African Americans in the Victorian Period has been told in an accessible way by Jeffrey Green in his book Black Americans in Victorian Britain (Pen & Sword 2018), which will shortly be available from me at a reduced price of plus postage. It was Newcastle University that awarded Martin Luther King an honorary degree in 1968.

Of crucial importance, and I believe little known about and understood, is what the British labour movement historian Royden Harrison suggested in December 1961 in discussing the conflicts in the labour movement and the working class about whether to support the North or the South in the American Civil War.

‘It would, indeed, be difficult to over-estimate the importance of the Civil War for the subsequent history of the British labour movement. Scarcely any of the political developments of the eighteen sixties are intelligible without reference to it’, including the extension of the vote in the Reform Act of 1867 (Science & Society. Vol. XXV. No. 4. December 1961. pp. 318-9).

Paul Robeson

One the towering figures of transatlantic activism in the 20thC was Paul Robeson. In the last four years there have been several new books about him. A review of Gerald Horne’s biography (Pluto Press 2016) can be read at

My pamphlet about Robeson in the UK Politics and Culture is still available: all sales income is being donated to Tayo Aluko for his work.



Teaching history in schools

Reparations – Afua Hirsch

Essays, books, resources, etc

Slavery in the Middle Ages

The Caribbean

John Archer on Film 1920

Jeffrey Green tells me that the film of John Barbour-James’s wedding in Acton in 1920 can be seen at.

Chief Oluwa of Lagos and his assistant Herbert Macaulay (fine moustache) and John Archer are among the guests.

On-Line Exhibition About Olive Morris






About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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