Black Britain before Windrush: A plea for a different history of the 1930s
Saturday – 10.30-11.30 – S1GGL
‘These are what the French so aptly call les dessous de l’histoire – the underneath of history that comes out, years later, that has been in the records, all along, for all to see…’ – Nancy Cunard, 1934
When we learn, teach, or otherwise engage with the history of the 1930s – whether in the secondary school classroom, the university lecture or seminar, or in museums, films, and documentaries – we encounter a story that is primarily European in its telling. We encounter personalities, events, and images such as those of Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, the breadlines of the Great Depression, maybe the Jarrow March, perhaps even the Spanish Civil War; all associated with Europe and white Europeans. But the history of the interwar period did not only happen in Europe and did not only involve white Europeans. In this talk, I will discuss the other ‘underneath’ of the history of the 1930s, the many prominent Black individuals and organisations within Britain and throughout its Empire caught up in the key events of the period. This discussion of their struggles against racism, their critiques of fascism, and the underappreciated role that they played in the history of the period, constitutes a plea for a different history of the 1930s, a history made to the measure of the world.