Where to Learn about Black British History in the UK
One of the best way to learn new things is through experiences. Although it’s great to get key information and some facts from books, articles and online research, sometimes you gain even more from experiencing history in museums, galleries, archives, libraries and exhibitions. When it comes to learning about black British history, there are some great places across the UK to visit and explore to get a deeper understanding.
Below, I’ve put together a list of places you can visit to learn more about black British history. Some of these places may not be open at the moment, but you can also explore some of their collections on their websites so be sure sure to click through and see what you can discover! I’ve tried my best to include a varied list of places across the UK, but if there’s anywhere that I’ve missed be sure to contact me to let me know and I can add it on.
BLACK CULTURAL ARCHIVES
The Black Cultural Archives was founded to create a space where members of the black community in the UK could come and find representations of themselves in history and culture, painting a more well-rounded image of the Black presence in Britain. Based in Windrush Square in the heart of Brixton, South London, the Black Cultural Archives collect, preserve and celebrate the culture and history of people of African and Caribbean descent in the UK. Throughout the year, they curate exhibitions , run events and host educational programmes. When I was studying, I took part in a programme with FAD Charity exploring thirteen black icons from the British jazz age. Along with other FAD students and volunteers, we used the BCA to do some of our archive research.
MUSEUMAND - THE NATIONAL CARIBBEAN HERITAGE MUSEUM
The National Caribbean and Heritage Museum is a social history and community museum that celebrates the contribution of Caribbean people to the UK. Described as a museum ‘without walls’ they connect people from across the UK with the arts and exhibition events. Although based in Nottingham, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum travels across the UK to host exhibitions and events, celebrating the untold stories and culture of Caribbean people in the UK.
THE AFRICA CENTRE
The Africa Centre was founded in 1964 as a ‘cultural hub’ for people of African descent in London. The centre is based in Southwark, South London and presents a series of events including panel discussions and film screenings. In addition to events, The Africa Centre is also a hub for innovation and enterprise, offering young creative businesses and entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their work, hot-desking and workspaces for start-ups and collaboration. The Africa Centre offers so much for the community, find out more on their website.
BLACK HISTORY WALKS
Set up in 2007, Black History Walks offers a variety of walks, tours, talks, educational courses, resources and film events all with the aim of educating people about Britain’s Black history. All the Black History Walks presentations are given by experts in their fields. Black History Walks works with well-known educational organisations in London, including the Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Docklands and the British Film Institute. There are 12 different walking tours of London that last 2 hours each, they also offer bus and river tours throughout the year and can organise private tours for groups. Find out which walks are coming up next on their website.
NATIONAL JAZZ ARCHIVE
The National Jazz Archive is based in Loughton, Essex and is home to a comprehensive collection of written, printed and visual material that tells the story of jazz music in the UK. Visitors are welcome to explore their collections in Loughton and at Birmingham City University. The National Jazz Archive also provide an online collection that you can explore on their website. I’ve included the National Jazz Archive as it was another place used for research in the FAD Charity ‘Black Icons’ project. Read more about the project on the FAD Charity website.
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and gives access to a vast research collection. Their collection includes over 170 million items and they add around three million new items to the collection each year! As well as books, they offer newspapers, sound recordings, patents, prints, drawings, maps and manuscripts. The British Library also curate exhibitions using pieces from their collections for the public. The British Library has two locations, one in St Pancras, London and the other in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. The Library offers a variety of resources for the study of Black history and culture and in Britain. Including collections that reflect the histories of race, empire and post-colonialism. They also present a variety of events at different points in the year about Black history. You can see some of their collection on this topic through the online collection on their website.
MUSEUM OF LONDON
The Museum of London has a long history dating back to 1826. With locations in the City of London, Docklands and Hackney, the museum tells the story of London from it’s first settlers to the present day. Throughout Black History Month the Museum of London are hosting various events and opening new displays including Dub London: Bassline of a City exploring dub music and the cultural and social impact it has had on the identity of Londoners. They also have online resources covering different topics including the Windrush. The permanent gallery London, Sugar & Slavery in the Museum of London Docklands explores how the transatlantic slave trade shaped London. Overall, there’s lots to learn about London’s Black History in the Museum of London.
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales. Based in Kew, Richmond, The National Archives house over 1000 years of iconic national documents, including the Empire Windrush passenger list from 1948. They offer online resources that help support the research of black British history using The National Archive’s collections. You can browse through the black British history resources on their website. There is also an online exhibition called ‘Black Presence’ that explores forgotten Asian and black history in Britain from 1500 to 1850.
INTERNATIONAL SLAVERY MUSEUM (NATIONAL MUSEUMS LIVERPOOL)
The International Slavery Museum is located in Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. The museum opened in 2007 and aims to increase the understanding of transatlantic, chattel and other forms of enslavement. Exploring also the impact and legacy. Described as a campaigning museum, the International Slavery Museum engages with contemporary human rights issues, actively campaigning against racism, hate crimes, ignorance and challenging intolerance. If you can’t make it to the museum you can take a virtual tour on the website. The museum also provides a variety of Black Lives Matter resources for visitors to engage with.