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Black and Asian British history 

Black and Asian people have had a long presence in Britain.  People’s History Museum’s (PHM) archive focuses on labour history and black and Asian people have been an integral part of these movements, campaigns and organisations.  This guide outlines just a few of the collections that document this history – there is much that is not covered here.

Before exploring these sources, it should be noted that the language used in these historical documents has changed over time, is contextual and there will certainly be language rooted in racism reflecting inequalities and oppression.  It is important we examine these sources critically; some of the sources are in the words of black and Asian people themselves, while other documents speak of or for these subjects.  The sources can serve as evidence of inequalities as well as resistance.  There are also ‘silences’, or gaps in PHM’s collections, for example in the collections of individuals’ papers you can see how skewed the material is to histories of men.  



Thomas Bangbala
This collection consists of material on the life of Thomas Bangbala who was born in Nigeria on 21 April 1907, and in 1924 came to Liverpool on the Elder Dempster Ship ‘Apapa’ as a seaman.  Bangbala was the first black member of the Manchester Central Branch of the Electrical Trade Union and was active in the Labour Party, campaigning for black people’s rights.
Ref: BAN

Rajani Palme Dutt
Rajani Palme Dutt was a leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.  His father was from India but Dutt was born in Britain.  Dutt wrote and theorised on India and colonialism and was editor of Workers’ Weekly (the archive has a full run of this publication).  His papers held in the archive run from 1908 to 1971.
Ref: CP/Ind/Dutt

Shapurji Saklatvala
Shapurji Saklatvala was an activist and politician of Indian Parsi heritage.  He was the first person of Indian heritage to become a British Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, and was also one of the few members of the Communist Party of Great Britain to serve as an MP in Britain.
Photographs: CP box 55
Ref: SAK Biography collection

Kay Beauchamp
Kay Beauchamp was a leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.  Her papers cover her involvement in the Movement for Colonial Freedom/Liberation, and her papers on anti-racism and anti-imperialism, as well as her activities in Hackney organisations.

William Cuffay
Info: Cuffay was a Chartist leader in Britain. His father was previously enslaved and originally from St Kitts. Cuffay was arrested for his Chartist activity and transported to Tasmania where he continued his activism this time organizing servants. The archive holds a book of Byron’s poetry gifted to Cuffay and signed by the London Chartists which he took with him to Tasmania.
Ref: CUFF/1

Photograph collections

Communist Party of Great Britain:

  • Box 2 Anti-racialism
  • Box 3 Black workers demonstration on Abyssinia
  • Box 15 Angela Davis
  • Box 15 Demonstration, movement for colonial freedom
  • Box 33 India
  • Box 39 League Against Imperialism
  • Box 45 Viraj Mendis
  • Box 45 Meerut trial
  • Box 53 Paul Robeson
  • Box 55 Shapurji Saklatvala
  • Box 68 West Indies and Caribbean  


Labour Party:

  • Demonstrations: New Cross 1981
  • Demonstrations: Anti-NF, Anti-Fascist 1981
  • Demonstrations: Anti Nazi League
  • Demonstrations: Anti-racism etc
  • Strikes: Grunwick


Labour Party research department

  • Box 33 Race relations and immigration 1950s-1960s
  • Box 34 Race Relations and Immigration 1920s-1960s
  • Box 35 Black and Asian Committee. Black Socialist Society
  • Box 157 LP Race Action Group 1980s
  • Box 156 NAD: Racism and National Front 1970s


Anti-colonial movements

  • International Section of Communist Party – CP/CENT/INT
  • Labour Party International Department – LP/ID
  • Labour Party Advisory Committee on Imperial Questions – LP/WG
  • Dutt Misc papers on imperialism and colonial affairs – CP/Ind/Dutt/17
  • The League Against Imperialism – A transnational organisation formed in 1927
    • Labour Party collections: LP/ID/CI
    • Communist Party of Great Britain collections: CP/Misc/10
  • Pan-African Federation
    • Labour Party collections: LP/ID/CI/59
    • Communist Party of Great Britain collections: CP/CENT/INT/48
  • The British Empire/Commonwealth pamphlet collection – 328.52
  • The British Empire/Africa pamphlets – 328.522
  • The British Empire/India pamphlets – 328.521
  • The British Empire/West Indies – 328.523
  • Ben Bradley papers – CP/IND/BRAD
  • Meerut conspiracy case ‘Meerut Prisoners’ Release Committee pamphlets box 71/72
  • India and British Empire pamphlets box 71 and 72



  • Wide range of pamphlets: 331.6 – Immigration, ‘racialism’, slavery
  • Race relations and activism collection, ref: RR
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain has a collection of material related to race in their London organisation, ref: CP/LON/RACE
  • The Labour Party has a collection of material related to race in the General Secretary collection, ref: LP/GS/RAC
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain has a collection of leaflets and pamphlets on anti-racist organisations and work, ref: CP/CENT/SUBJ/04/15
  • National race relations committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain, ref: CP/Cent/Ctte
  • Eric Heffer collection – copies of Hansard and newspaper cuttings relevant to the Race Relations Bill and Act, ref: LP/ESH/03/2


Anti-apartheid movement

  • Bob Edwards collection on anti-apartheid, ref: BE/3/2
  • Correspondence with Mavis Singleton, ref: LP/GS/Rac/71-73
  • Judith Hart collection on anti-apartheid, refs: LP/Hart/03/1-15 and LP/Hart/02/15


Black American struggle

  • Angela Davis:
    • Angela Davis defence committee, ref: CP/ORG/MISC/8/10
  • Paul Robeson:
    • ref: CP/CENT/PL/02/05
    • passport campaign, ref: CP/CENT/ORG/1/10
  • Claudia Jones:
    • Note on case of Claudia Jones exile from America, ref: CP/CENT/ORG/1/10
    • Jones’s contribution, Special Congress Transcript, ref: CP CENT CONG 10/8
    • Manchanda (partner to Jones) Communist Party of Great Britain disciplinary files and Appeal against suspension, ref: CP/CENT/EC/10/13
  • Scottsboro Boys:
    • Defence pamphlets
    • Labour Party discussions on Scottboro Defence Campaign, ref: LP/JSM/CP/9-13
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