Archives are resources for teaching anti-racism

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is a public research centre which specialises in the history of London. We are currently focusing on work with our audio collections as part of a UK-wide project ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’. LMA aims to digitally preserve almost half a million rare and at-risk sound recordings, keeping seminal speeches of Londoners safe for future generations.

Two such Londoners are Jessica and Eric Huntley. The Huntley’s played an active role in the British African – Caribbean community from their first arrival in England in 1956, and worked on seminal campaigns for racial and social justice. Their archive contains a wide range of materials relating to black supplementary schools and the Black Parents Movement, the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, international campaigns to end the South African apartheid regime, political repression in Guyana and to free former Black Panther and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row. Their publishing house Bogle L’Ouverture published landmark texts by Walter Rodney and Bernard Coard.

Black pupils event, conference leaflet. LMA/4463/D/11/01

40 years on from the 1981 Black People’s Day of Action march that attracted 20,000 black Britons from all over the country, Black Lives Matter protests continue to demand investigations into institutional racism. The Black Curriculum calls for better teaching of Black History, and as the keepers of this rich collection, LMA’s Learning and Engagement work has focused on showcasing the Huntley’s activities. Partnering with A New Direction (AND), LMA produced a series of resources for secondary school teachers as part of AND’s ‘Teaching for Creativity’ series, to support teachers to explore elements of Black British history and anti-racism with students. 

The resource takes the form of lesson plans accompanied by slideshows and media, with guidance on delivery of creative sessions and student assessment, drawing from the archive to explore topics of difference and trace how attitudes in society change over time. Through listening to historic audio recordings, the resource opens out conversations about race and racism, activism and social justice. Students are challenged to consider why some people felt that the education and criminal justice systems were not in equal service to all sections of society in the 1980s, and to reflect on current debates. Activities develop critical thinking habits in students, encouraging them to be inquisitive, ask questions and examine a range of sources to develop a viewpoint. These are crucial skills for young people today in an age where social media can platform fringe views, information goes unverified, and politics is increasingly polarised.

Eric Huntley with students, 1980s. Photograph c. Melanie Friend. LMA/4463/D/11/05/001

LMA is passionate about the social history of London, and the power of the voices within the archive to help us connect with the past. Though the archive is vast, the resource uses bite-sized clips so students can hear directly from the protagonists and witness the intensity of their words. Selections include activist Eric Huntley advocating for self-publishing to challenge the dominant culture, educational psychologist Dr Wavney Bushell reporting back on students’ experiences of racism in schools, and John Agard’s performance poetry unpicking the colonisation of language. Listening to these speakers may help students feel the urgency in their struggle, and prompt us to consider how these issues appear today. 

The Huntleys’ belief in the power of the written and spoken word and importance of history in education, motivated them to preserve their records. They hoped it would inspire young people by improving knowledge about black heritage within education and wider society. We hope that young people are charged by what they hear, and in homage to the sacrifices made by the Huntleys, consider their role in serving their community. 

Download the resource here: https://www.anewdirection.org.uk/what-we-do/schools/teaching-for-creativity/culture-community-activism

Hannah Kemp-Welch
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage: Learning and Engagement Coordinator
London Metropolitan Archives

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2 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Derbyshire Record Office and commented:
    Great to see another example showing just how relevant archives are and can be to our modern society – we learn about the past to inform and inspire a better future.

    Like

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