21 - Black African Caribbean Community Archives | London Metropolitan Archives


21 - Black African Caribbean Community Archives


For over two decades, London Metropolitan Archives has been working with researchers, educators, students and depositors on rediscovering the stories of Londoners who came from Black African Caribbean backgrounds. These stories are an essential part of national and international history, without which our understanding of the development of London and its people is incomplete.

A Black presence in London can be traced to the Tudor period and before. During this period Black people were commonly referred to in records as 'moors' or 'blackamoors'. The 17th and 18th centuries saw an increase in Black settlers in London alongside the rise of the slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas and Caribbean islands. It has been estimated from burial registers that by 1750, 1-3% of London's population were Black. (Bartels, Emily C. (2006). "Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I". Studies in English Literature.)

Many prominent figures within London society were actively involved in the transatlantic slave trade and/or financially benefitted from the labour of enslaved people. Enslaved Black people were brought to London by plantation owners, merchants, traders, sea captains and ex-colonial officials. Their 'status' in Britain was never satisfactorily established but many worked as servants in the homes of the middle classes and gentry, where to have a Black servant was often seen as a symbol of status. There are many examples of acts of resistance in the records. Leading Black activists of the 18th century such as Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cuguano, Ignatius Sancho, and later Mary Prince demanded that Black people be freed from slavery. In 1807 the British slave trade was abolished and slavery was made illegal in the British empire by an act of 1833.

Black people continued to arrive in London from all corners of the globe as soldiers, sailors, traders, students, and workers. The First and Second World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) led to a growth in the number of Black people in London with the arrival of seaman, wartime workers and servicemen who were fighting for Britain. Immediately after the Second World War many Black people from the 'British West Indies' migrated to UK under government schemes to provide much needed labour. This migration is often referred to as the 'Windrush', referring to the ship the 'Empire Windrush' which carried the first of these groups of Caribbean migrants to the United Kingdom at Tilbury Docks, Essex in 1948. By the mid-1960s Britain had the largest overseas population of African Caribbeans.

These new communities often experienced racism and institutions, campaign groups and other organisations were formed, both from within and outside Black communities, to tackle these issues. During 1980s, the Greater London Council (GLC) and Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) adopted a more anti-racist focus to policy development. One element of this work was to provide funding and support for Black community organisations. The provision of education and social activities for Black children and young people grew with the formation of Black youth clubs such as The Moonshot Club, Lewisham and supplementary education centres founded by leaders and parents in the community. For further information for Sources on the History of Education in London Metropolitan Archives see Leaflet 27.

Collections at LMA

The Black presence in London is documented in a very wide range of collections. The list below begins by identifying the major collections from Black community organisations, businesses or individuals and then moves on to look more generally at the many classes of records valuable for the study of Black history. The following list is not exhaustive, and we are continuously rediscovering Black Londoners throughout the many and varied holdings at LMA.

Note on language and content

Please note that some records adopt racist language and contain racist and harmful content. This language will appear on our catalogue if it occurs in the original file title or in the name of an organisation. The inclusion of the terms is not an endorsement of such language or an uncritical tolerance of the perpetuation of such language.

The Huntley Archives at LMA

The Huntley archives was the very first deposit from the Black Caribbean Community at LMA in 2005. In celebration of this The Huntley Meeting Room at LMA is named after Eric and Jessica Huntley and a bust of Jessica Huntley by George Fowokan Kelly is displayed there within a recreation of the Bogle L'Ouverture Book Shop. The Friends of the Huntley Archives at LMA (FHALMA, formerly The Huntley Archives Advisory Group) have organised annual Huntley archive conferences in February of each year since 2005. Inspiration for these events is sought directly from themes documented by the Huntley Archives.

The Huntley archives consist of two collections: records of Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications Limited (also known as Bogle-L'Ouverture Press), radical Black publishers and booksellers (LMA/4462); and documents from Eric and Jessica Huntley 1940s- 2010s, including personal papers and records of campaigning, educational and environmental initiatives, and other business ventures (LMA/4463).


Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications Limited was established in 1969 by Eric and Jessica Huntley and based in West Ealing where the couple lived. The name derives from two individuals who fought against colonialism and slavery: Toussaint L'Ouverture of Haiti (1743-1803) and Paul Bogle of Jamaica (1822-1865), both sons of enslaved people who rose to prominence and were a source of inspiration and resistance. The company's first published book was 'The Groundings with My Brothers'. It arose from the struggles of the Huntley's friend Dr Walter Rodney (1942-1980) in Jamaica. To stop the voice of Black history from being silenced they decided to publish Rodney's speeches in order to make them available to as wide an audience as possible. The second publication, 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa' gave a view of the European encounter with Africa from a Black perspective. These books were a political act to educate and inform the wider population. Their bookshop was renamed Walter Rodney Bookshop to commemorate the murder of Rodney in 1980 and became a focal point in the community as a meeting place and venue for events. From 1970s a wide variety of authors have been published together with posters and greeting cards.

Records include business records and papers of associated publishing organisations founded by Eric and Jessica Huntley as well as correspondence files and submitted manuscripts relating to published and unpublished authors, poets and artists (LMA/4462/C-D). For details on 'Researching Walter Rodney in the Huntley archives' see Leaflet no.26.

Material includes records of key initiatives including Bookshop Joint Action, a group established to campaign against attacks on the company and other Black publishers by racists (LMA/4462/J), and the International Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (LMA/4462/M) organised during 1980s through the alliance of Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, New Beacon Books and Race Today Publications.

The collection also includes personal records of Lionel and Pansy Jeffrey, and records of their involvement in political and social campaigns and as community workers, 1958-1995 (LMA/4462/P) together with records of Andrew Salkey, writer, poet and radio interviewer relating to his relationship with the Huntleys and advice he gave to their business, 1968-1994 (LMA/4462/Q), which were given to Eric and Jessica Huntley.

Huntley Family Archives

Eric and Jessica Huntley came to London from Guyana (formerly British Guiana) between 1956 and 1958, where they had been active politically in the People's Progress Party of Guyana. For over 50 years the Huntleys participated in many significant campaigns for racial and social justice that occurred on the national and international scene. These included the Black Supplementary Schools Movement, Black Parents Group, Black Parents Movement, the Committee Against Repression in Guyana which they founded and the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, an American radio journalist and former Black Panther on death row in Pennsylvania. Their community involvement included Keskidee Trust, Islington.

Records include letters, reports, newsletters, photographs and related records of non-publishing businesses, political campaigns, community and heritage initiatives, education work, concerns with the environment in Caribbean and papers relating to their personal lives including family and friends.

Records relating to living individuals are subject to access restrictions according to data protection legislation.

Access: these records are available without prior appointment. Photographs and the Huntley library and pamphlet collection are uncatalogued and are available by prior appointment only.

African Caribbean collections deposited since 2005

Since the Huntley archives were deposited the following collections have joined LMA's holdings, many through interest generated at the Huntley Conferences.

Note: some recently deposited collections listed below are uncatalogued and require prior appointment. Some access restrictions apply to records relating to living individuals.

Accession ref: B16/088 Allen, Clarence

Correspondence, printed material, photographs and four videos - relating to Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community (BLGBTQ) including sexual health, clubs and events and the arts.

Clarence Allen worked at the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre Project (BLGCP), Tottenham, which became the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre (BLGC), Arch 196, 230 Bellenden Road, Peckham; also a founder of Big Up, the first UK-based sexual health organisations for BMWHSWM (Black Men Who Have Sex With Men); records of each are included, 1991-2008

LMA/4536 - Black Experience Archive Trust (BEAT)

Interview recordings by Students of Park View Academy West Green BEAT and MIGRANT MeDIA, postcard and t-shirt. Includes 'Postcode Wars', a documentary film made by the students shown at Fifth Annual Huntley Conference in February 2010. For recordings of Huntley Conferences by BEAT see LMA/4463/C/06, 2006-2012

Accession ref: B09/099 - Black Ink of Brixton's collection of Notting Hill Carnival Slides


Accession ref: B12/018, B12/151 Breinburg, Petronella Alexandrina (Dr), author, academic and educationalist originally from Suriname.

Plays and literary manuscripts, correspondence, career and personal papers, photographs, cassette tapes and video. Also Petrojass Publications published books. Includes minutes reports, correspondence and printed material for: British/Caribbean Link Project (devised for Manchester City Council Education Service), Caribbean Studies International Network, Caribbean Communities in Europe, Caribbean Centre Goldsmiths University of London. 196- - 2011

LMA/4569 - BTWSC

Brent Black Music History and Naming and Role Models (NARM) recordings and publications. The name of this organisation BTWSC stands for 'Beyond the Will Smith Challenge'. 2007-2010.

Accession ref: B10/184 - Caribbean Parents Group

Minutes, correspondence, reports and accounts, supplementary school and pupil records, community case work, photographs, printed material (papers from Willis Darnley Wilkie), 1975-2010.

Accession ref: B10/185 - Caribbean Parents Group Credit Union Limited

Minutes, correspondence, reports and accounts, printed material (papers from Willis Darnley Wilkie), 1990-2010

Accession ref: B13/144 - Central London Arts Limited, The Drill Hall

Production files and posters on Black theatre and other activities, including Black Theatre Co-operative and Talawa Theatre Company, 1970s-2000s.

LMA/4550 - Clapton Youth Centre

Senior Members Defence Committee and Committee for the Defence of CYC minutes and papers; nightly report sheets; Jean Tate, Tutor Warden (later Head)'s correspondence files concerning policy, disciplinary hearings, papers concerning campaigns and events based at the Centre including Anselm Samuel, Tutor in Charge (later Outreach Worker); the death of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington and Colin Roach Family Support Committee (joint campaign with Hackney Black Peoples Association); New Cross Fire demonstrations; trip to Grenada; related leaflets, posters, photographs and audio cassette tapes.

(Note: CYC was administered by the Inner London Education Authority). 1976-2010.

LMA/4709 Grant, Cyril Ewart Lionel (Cy Grant)

Correspondence, notes, photographs and audio-visual material including:

Royal Air Force (RAF) records; Drum Arts Centre Limited, Concord Festival Trust; acting career including theatre and film posters and programmes, correspondence with agents, producers and fan mail; writing career published and draft manuscripts; personal papers. 1930s-2011.

This collection was catalogued as part of the Cy Grant Trust's project 'Navigating the dreams of an icon - Remembering Cy Grant through his archive' 2016-2017. For further information visit the website

LMA/4522 - Hansib Publications Limited

Asian Times (1983-1997 some issues missing) African Times (1984-1988 complete) Caribbean Times (1981-1997 some issues missing) newspapers and Hansib's published books and leaflets relating mainly to the Asian African and Caribbean community.1981-2007.

LMA/4660 Holder, Lorna Patricia

Jamaican-born Lorna Holder's fashion business archives: graduation portfolio drawings and photographs (1975); Ali Baba Trading Company correspondence and photographs (1976-1978); Davies and Field: drawings, photographs and printed material (1980-1985); Lapaz hair and beauty salon correspondence, photographs and advertising (1985-1990); Lorna Holder Couture drawings, orders notebook and photographs (1989-2007). These records were deposited by Lorna Holder as part of Full Spectrum Productions' Jamaica Hidden Histories 2013-2015 project. 1975-2007.

LMA/4774 Mollie Hunte (Educational Psychologist)

Papers relating to her work as educational psychologist: minutes, printed material, including case papers relating to her work with young people. Includes records of Caribbean Parents Group and Credit Union, Westphi Academy and her own PEV Consultancy. 1950s-2015

Accession ref: B16/064 Noel Hardy

Black community programmes and interviews on film and video and related papers relating to his career as Senior Producer for ILEA TV at Inner London Education Authority and under his own Dragonfly consultancy working with Len Garrison/ACER. 1970s-1980s.

Accession ref: B08/211 - Phoenix, Sybil Theodora

Minutes, reports, personal files and notes, correspondence, accounts, plans, printed material, photographs.

Organisations include: Phoenix Afro-European Fashions Limited; Telegraph Hill Youth Club and Moonshot Club (known as Pagnell Street Centre), Lewisham; Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust, Tressillian Road, Lewisham including Guyana Connection; Friends of Marsha Phoenix (formerly Parents' Association); involvement with Methodist church including Clubland, Walworth Road, Southwark, and Methodist Leadership Racism Awareness Workshops (MELRAW); Turning Point, a training agency at Goldsmith's College, University of London; Mayoress of Lewisham Borough Council (1998-89), First Love Radio Limited, Lewisham; Knights Institute of Sports; Knights Millennium Foyer; files on Lewisham Racial Equality Council, Lewisham's Association of Voluntary Youth Organisations, Lewisham Environment Trust, National Council of Women of Great Britain, Women of the Year Association, Married Women's Association, Association of Guyanese Nurses and Allied Professionals in the U.K., Lewisham Youth Aid, Commonwealth Youth Council, British and Foreign School Society, Lewisham Youth A.I.D., Lewisham Council for Community Relations, and involvement with New Cross Fire. 1950-2008

LMA/4231 - Robeson, Paul

Paul LeRoy Bustill Robeson (1898-1976) was an internationally renowned American bass-baritone concert singer, scholar, actor, athlete, writer, orator and lawyer forwarding the civil rights cause. LMA holds the collection 'Recordings, Writings and Ephemera Relating to the Life and Works of Paul Robeson' (LMA/4231) including vinyl, tapes and compact cassettes, letters and printed material from 1930s-1980s including related exhibitions and musical events collected by Ken and Flo Goodland. The audio-visual records are available by prior appointment only.

LMA/4571 - rukus! Federation Limited

rukus! Black, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (BLGBT) cultural archive contains collected diaries, letters, minutes and related papers, magazines, pamphlets, flyers, posters, journals, books and monographs, photographs and prints, audio-visual material, memorabilia and ephemera. Collected from individuals, activists, DJs, Club promoters, community organisations, writers, artists and magazine publishers. Includes records of rukus! Federation Limited (2000-2010), Ajamu (1975-2010) and Topher Campbell (1994-2010), 1975-2010.

LMA/4573 - Waithe, Keith

Published recordings of The Macusi Players and Essequibo music and printed material. 2005-2010.

Accession ref: B10/183 - Wilkie, Willis Darnley

Personal archives relating to involvement in organisations including Social Services Departments at Ealing Borough Council and Brent Borough Council; Huntley-Wilkie Consultancy; Westphi Academy; 376 Hostel; London Link Project; Ealing Community Relations Council); Personal papers including certificates, correspondence, appointment diaries, career papers, audio-visual videos and tape cassettes and photographs. Includes papers of Edna Vinton Wilkie (nee Pierre), wife of Willis, mainly from 1955-2010.

Other Collections

Parish records

Parish records are a vital source of information about the identity, age and occupation of individual people, together with details of the place they originally came from. The baptism, marriage and burial registers in our collections refer to Black people from 16th century onwards. For example, a register from Saint Luke, Chelsea contains a baptism entry for Charles, a 10 or 12-year-old boy, 'brought from Guiana' as a servant by Sir Walter Raleigh, baptised on 13 February 1597/8 (P74/LUK/161 folio 5v).

The 'Black and Asian Londoners Project: Presence and Background 1536-1840' used parish records to gather a significant body of evidence about African, Caribbean and Asian individuals living in London during this period. This information is now available on our online public catalogue as a distinct collection entitled Switching the Lens: Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage 1561-1840. The ongoing development of this dataset is a part of a wider aim to 'decolonise' the collections at London Metropolitan Archives, through new ways of interrogation and interpretation.

Court records

LMA holds records of courts going back to 16th century. These are potentially rich sources for identifying individuals, especially the sessions court records, and Black Londoners appear in these records as prosecutors, witnesses and defendants. Journalistic accounts of many trials heard at the Old Bailey were published from 1680s and they are available to search on the Old Bailey online website. LMA holds the original court papers for these City of London and the County of Middlesex trials up to 1834. See leaflets 39 & 40 for more information on Sessions court records.

Local authority and education records

The records of London government are a rich source of information on all Londoners, particularly around housing, education, employment, leisure, health and welfare provision. Where files specifically focus on Black communities, they often reflect official policy responses to perceived 'problems' of integration and reflect prevailing attitudes to 'race relations'.

LMA holds the records of London-wide governing bodies from 1855 onwards. The archives of Greater London Council (GLC), Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) in particular hold a wealth of material on community engagement and planning by London's top-tier of local government. The GLC's Ethnic Minorities Committee was particularly active and minutes (series GLC/DG/MIN/049-050) and presented papers (series GLC/DG/PRE/049-050), 1981-1986, shed light on its work. Other community initiatives can be sourced by searching GLC grant files (for example series GLC/DG/EM/07) on the creation of Caribbean banking projects, hairdressing businesses, publications, youth forums amongst others. See 'Moving Here' project (details below) for a selection of images of grant applications, reports, posters, press releases and publications from the Race Relations Unit, Arts and Recreation Committee and other GLC departments. See Leaflet 27 for sources for Black Supplementary Education Movement.

Charities and associations

A number of charities, associations, and political parties took an active interest in post Second World War 'race relations' and set up working groups to discuss the challenges faced by immigrant communities. LMA holds records of London Council of Social Services (ACC/1888), Family Welfare Association (A/FWA), London Labour Party (ACC/2417) and Association of County Councils (LMA/4243). Association of Greater London Older Women (LMA/4613) collection includes papers of Black Workers, and Black Lesbian Groups from 1985.

Families and individuals collections

The transatlantic slave trade and colonialism were central to London's economy for centuries and family and estates records from prominent London families can be sources of detailed information on enslaved people on estates in the Caribbean and America.

The Cooper family archives (ACC/0775) document Jamaica and Grenada including letters concerning compensation for the abolition of slavery. Valuations and inventories of estates are common in estate collections and can include lists of enslaved people (for example ACC/0775/811). The will of Robert Dukinfield of Jamaica (ACC/0775/803), for example, leaves to his freed Black mistress (formerly enslaved) a house and lands.

Further significant holdings can be found in the Clitherow family records relating to Jamaica (ACC/1360); in the Seaton, Parnell papers concerning St Christopher [St Kitts] (ACC/1366); in the Watson papers for Antigua and St Kitts (ACC/0455) and in the Angerstein papers concerning Grenada (F/ANG).

Plantation records can also be found in city business collections. For example, Boddington and Company records contain deeds, letter of attorney and a map relating to sugar plantations which they acquired in 1837 on St Christopher [St Kitts], 1790-1812 (Ms 16796).

The Elliot family were Quakers in London and John Elliot's letters show his interest in the abolition cause. He makes reference to the evils of the trade as part of woes of general human society. Letters from his 'cousin' Richard Thomas How of Apsley talk of wanting to 'make fresh application to parliament' concerning abolition in 1793 (ACC/1017/1067). He mentions this again briefly in 1798 (ACC/1017/1078) and Sarah How writes to say how 'pleased to see abolition of the Slave Trade in so far a train' (ACC/1017/1081).

City business archives and missionary societies and political movements

London's colonial links with African and Caribbean countries can be found in business records, from papers of individual traders to records of major institutions. For example, The Bank of British West Africa archives (CLC/B/207) includes branch reports and returns which give insights into colonial attitudes. There are also photographs of bank branches, staff, cities, regions and people. For listings of mainly city-based businesses held which were active in Africa and the Caribbean see our Business Records guide

As well as business records, records of missionary work in the Caribbean, Africa and America are held from 1838-1960s in the records of the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society (CLC/005) and the New England Company (CLC/540).

Also held are papers of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (London Branch) (LMA/4421) which include minutes; campaign records concerning issues in South Africa such as the release of political prisoners, calls for the arms embargo, and halts to investment in that country, as well as appeals for widespread consumer, sports and cultural boycotts; and papers of local groups in London, 1970s-1990s.

'Moving Here'

Online source 'Moving Here' project created a website which provided details and digital images of archival sources concerning 200 years of Migration of members of the Caribbean, South Asian, Irish and Jewish communities to the United Kingdom. The project was led by The National Archives and contributions were made by a consortium of 30 archives, libraries and museums who contributed material to the catalogue of 200,000 items. The original website content is no longer live and was acquired for preservation by The National Archives in 2013 and is available on their web archive.

To search and view images of records contributed by LMA, please search the Web Archive advanced Search. Limit your research to the website 'movinghere.org.uk'. Note the phrase 'London Metropolitan Archives' will bring all relevant items submitted by LMA.

Related community archives elsewhere

Further reading

Caribbean Migration Histories Timeline on Moving Here website.

Many titles can be found in LMA library under reference 20.171 and at City of London libraries, including:

  • Ellis, Barbara. Caribbean reminiscences: 50 years on: black elderly group, London: Ellis, (1998) [LMA: Pamphlet 20.171/ELL]
  • Glass, Ruth: 'Newcomers: the West Indians in London': Centre for Urban Studies (1960) (Report; no.1) [Guildhall Library: L 21:8]
  • Goulbourne, Harry. 'Having a Public Voice: Caribbean Publishers and Diasporic Communications', which discusses the history of Bogle L'Ouverture Press in detail, Chapter 6 in Caribbean Transnational Experience. Pluto Press, Arawale Publications (2002). [LMA 20.171/GOU]
  • Hochschild, Adam. Bury the chains : the British struggle to abolish slavery. London: Pan (2006) [LMA: 20.171/HOC]
  • Hoyles, Asher and Hoyles, Martin. Caribbean Publishing in Britain: A Tribute to Arif Ali. London: Hansib Publications Limited (2011) [LMA to be added August 2016]
  • James, Winston (editor). Inside Babylon: the Caribbean Diaspora in Britain. London: Verso (1993) [Guildhall Library: 305:896]
  • Martin, S. I. Britain's slave trade. London: 4 Books (1999) [LMA: 20.171/MAR]
  • Pilkington, Edward. Beyond the mother country: West Indians and the Notting Hill white riots. London: Tauris (1988) [Guildhall Library: L 21:8]
  • Reddie, Richard S. Abolition! : the struggle to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Oxford: Lion (2007) [LMA:20.171/RED]
  • Rees, Rosemary: Britain and the slave trade. Oxford: Heinemann (1995) [LMA: 20.171/REE]
  • Walmsley, Anne. The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: a literary & cultural history. London: New Beacon Books Limited, (1992) [LMA: 45.0/WAL]
  • Walvin, James. Black ivory: a history of British slavery. Washington, D.C.:Howard University Press (1994) [LMA: 20.171/WAL]
  • White, Sarah et al (editors): A Meeting of Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books Revisited. New Beacon Books Limited (2005) [LMA: 20.171 WHI]

Help us document the history of the Black Caribbean Community

LMA is actively collecting archives relating to the Black Caribbean community in London. Please contact us if you would like to potentially deposit records.

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Telephone: 020 7332 3820

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