Legacies: stereotypes, racism and the civil rights movement

Black associations and publications

by Marika Sherwood

Towards the end of the 1800s we begin to find records of associations that black peoples formed to protest against the iniquities they suffered.

Black associations

Henry Sylvester Williams, a Trinidadian, organised the world's first ever pan-African conference in 1906. He formed the African Association, as it was first called, and one of its aims was to 'promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part, in British colonies and other places especially Africa, by circulating accurate information on all subjects affecting their rights and privileges as subjects of the British Empire, by direct appeals to the Imperial and local Governments'.

The African Association campaigned in Lancashire and Cheshire on behalf of the native races of Africa. Henry Sylvester Williams met with the ‘Council of the Federated PSA movement and gained their sympathies’. This PSA 'Pleasant Sunday Afternoon' group, started in around 1890 in Manchester in order that ‘the moral, intellectual, social and material prosperity of the masses may be combined with the religion’. It is possible that Williams lectured in the north west of England (see Marika Sherwood's forthcoming book on Henry Sylvester Williams).

By the early 1900s  there were various local organisations in major cities. Some national organisations also came into being at this time, such as the West African Students Union, formed in 1925, the League of Coloured Peoples formed in 1931, and the various organisations formed by George Padmore and his colleagues from 1935 onwards. There were also some very active local organisations, such as the Cardiff Colonial Seamen's Union created in 1935. In 1916, Shapurji Saklatvala formed the Workers' Welfare League of India in London. He was elected to parliament in 1922, thus becoming the second MP of Indian origins (the first was Dadabhai Naoroji elected in 1892).

After the Second World War and the arrival of new migrants at that time, many new organisations were formed. Some dealt with special issues such as the classification of black children as 'sub-normal' by schools in the 1960s, or the disinterest by the police in locating the murderers of Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s.

Black publications

The first national black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian News, was published by Trinidad born Claudia Jones in 1958, but died with her in 1965. It was followed by some short lived papers such as the West Indian World published in 1971. The first major national weekly newspaper, still in print, was The Voice. It first appeared in 1982. Monthly political journals began with the League of Coloured Peoples' The Keys in 1933.

Race Today began in 1967. Other, relatively short-lived journals were Flamingo (1960), Black Liberator (1970s) and Tropic. Black book publishing began with New Beacon Books in 1967 and Bogle L'Ouverture Books in the same year. Unlicensed (or 'pirate') black radio stations existed from the 1960s. The first radio station to obtain a licence was WNK Radio in 1990, but it died in 1994; Choice FM was licensed the same year and still broadcasts.

Further relevant writings by Marika Sherwood include:

'After Abolition: Britain and the Slave Trade since 1807'I.B. Tauris, 2007
‘Manchester, Liverpool and Slavery’, North West Labour History, 32,16-22 2007-08
'Perfidious Albion: Britain, the USA and slavery in the 1840s and 1860s', Contributions to Black Studies, 13-14 1995-6