Black Histories in Senate House Library’s Collections

Argula Rublack

History Librarian

Senate House Library offers researchers unique resources to study Black histories across the UK, Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa. One of the collection’s strengths is its ability to illustrate the importance of the connections between diaspora and home country in 20th-century activist movements.

Caribbean Communities

The library’s archives evidence the multipronged interchanges formed across the Atlantic between Caribbean communities in the UK and abroad. These are seen in the papers of Trinidadian writer, historian and political activist C.L.R. James, who spent his life moving between Britain and Trinidad, and Jamaican lawyer and activist William ‘Billy’ Arthur Watkin Strachan, who first fought as a Royal Air Force pilot in World War Two and then campaigned for Jamaican independence from Britain. Both collections are fragments of personal histories that spurned on anti-colonial independence movements and the transition into a post-colonial world. 

A copy of one of the first British newspapers aimed at the Caribbean community in the UK, Caribbean News (Vol. 1 No. 4, February 1953) from the Billy Strachan papers (ICS148/35/1)

Archives on South Africa

The importance of transnational community networks can also be observed in the Library’s archives on South Africa. These materials show the international efforts involved in the struggles to oppose Apartheid in South Africa. Among these records, we hold one of our most recent acquisitions: the Paul and Adelaide Joseph archive. Paul and Adelaide Joseph were South African-born anti-Apartheid activists who were forced to flee to London in the 1960s. Their archive features letters and correspondence relating to Nelson Mandela, with whom the Joseph family was close friends, giving an intimate and personal perspective on this history.

Birthday card and letter to Adelaide Joseph written by Nelson Mandela while in prison, 1 March 1975 (MS1290)

Find out more about the Library’s Black History collections!

take a look at our Black History subject guide

Follow this link

You can also learn more about recent acquisitions and projects across our collections in the Black History Month 2022 blog on the Senate House Library website.  

1 Comment

  1. Kudos for preserving and shedding light on Black Histories. Your collections are terrific. I did not know that you had C. L. R. James’s papers. Lovely read.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: