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Volume 5.2 1997
ISSN 1048-3721
This page was last updated on 03/15/99



Deborah J. Rossum

What I myself wanted out of life was no help.... The ordinary man did not ask himself the questions I was always asking. But I had not always asked myself these questions.... [If] I had been French or German or African I would have thought differently. But I was British, I knew best the British way of life, not merely in historical facts but in the instinctive responses.... I had acquired them in childhood....2

The most common historical narratives relating the presence of Black communities in Britain begin, still, with the post–World War II arrival of the SS Empire Windrush. Less is known about the existence since Elizabethan times of Black settlements in Britain, communities whose members were servants, sailors, abolitionists, and, later, barristers, journalists, cricketeers, and composers of music. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, those who traveled to Britain from the Black Diaspora did so for disparate reasons and augmented these established communities for varying lengths of time. Their sojourns were as businesspeople and professionals, as petitioners to the Empire’s highest courts and, in the greatest numbers, as laborers and students. For some, the migration to Britain was mandated largely by economic exigencies and heightened by a near-universal desire for self (and family) betterment. For others, the "journey"3 was more a pilgrimage, a lure, which had at its end the metropole—the "Empire’s centre of gravity."4 As ascribed by Cedric Robinson, England was the natural setting for this British, if Black, middle class, a "site so persistently and idyllically envisioned in the literary and historical texts employed in the [colonial schools, and] ... where students could extend their intellectual and professional attainments and anticipate coming into their rightful heritage."5 In boarding a Plymouth-bound ship to depart Trinidad in 1932, C.L.R. James recounts his thoughts and the incumbent emotions when he was poised at last to enter the arena where he believed he would play the role for which he had prepared himself: "The British intellectual was going to Britain."6

It is this particular stratum of individuals—Black, middle-class intellectuals who traveled to and resided in London during the first half of this century—that is the focus of this essay. Specifically, we examine briefly the formation of Black British identities as they related to the prevailing notions regarding "Englishness" and the body politic, including an assessment of how this relationship intersected the principal canons of western liberalism. This is an important ideological battleground, and one, I believe, on which these Black intellectuals were obliged to engage. How did this linkage vary over time and accommodate the ever-shifting and continually negotiated spaces that configured the British "colour line"?


There has been a Black community in Britain for over five hundred years. The maritime explorations of West Africa from the fifteenth century onwards gradually brought that continent and its people to the active attention of the Europeans. By the 1500s, a Black presence in Britain was perceived as inevitably "troublesome"—a contaminant within the body politic—and was defined increasingly as a social "problem" to be solved by repatriation. In 1596, in a letter to the Lord Mayor of London, Queen Elizabeth I protested that there were of late "divers Blackamoores brought into these realms, of which kind there are already here to manie...."7 A 1601 royal proclamation pronounced that the Queen was

highly disconcerted to understand the great numbers of Negroes and Blackamoores which are carried into [the] realm ... the most of them [being] ... infidels having no understanding of Christ or his Gospel: hath given special commandment that the said kind of people shall be with all speed avoided and discharged out of this Her Majesty’s realms.8


Despite this royal edict, the Black community increased. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was fashionable for titled and propertied English families to have Black slaves as part of their household staff.9 More than any proclivity on the part of the British aristocracy, however, the increased Black population in Britain during this time was a result of increased white settlement of the West Indies and the explosive expansion of the slave trade. The "triangular trade" involved the capture of greater numbers of Africans and their shipment from their homelands to the New World. Trading ships returning to England carried tropical fruits and, not infrequently, a "coffle of slaves," as did the ships bearing planters, sailors, and military and government officials returning to England for their retirement. By 1770, the Black population in London was estimated to be between 14,000 and 20,000; for Britain as a whole, it was estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000.10

The years between 1770 and 1939 were marked by three major periods of Black migration to Britain. In 1783, the population increased notably with the influx of loyalists, Blacks who fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War and, consequently, had been awarded their freedom. Britain’s Black population increased again in the 1870s when sailors from West Africa and the East and West Indies—attracted by the prospect of casual labor or dumped from tramp steamers—augmented the small but established community in Cardiff, which was beginning to prosper as a coal port along with Newport and Barry. By the early 1900s, population estimates placed the number of Blacks in Great Britain at between 20,000 and 25,000.11 Black communities in Britain grew and expanded substantially during the First World War, owing to both increased migration and the British recruitment practice of importing large numbers of laborers—as well as service personnel—from its colonies. Despite the influx of Blacks during the First World War, overall the Black population in Britain declined over the course of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. High unemployment and migration back to the colonies followed the shutdown of the war industries and the demobilization of the armed services, but the number of Blacks newly immigrating to Britain—where economic prospects were thought to be better—following the First World War, particularly from the West Indies, was consistently larger than the number of those who returned to the colonies.

Despite the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and the outlawing of slavery itself in the British colonies in 1833, the legal status of Blacks in Britain remained problematic. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Black slaves were employed chiefly as domestic servants who worked alongside white, paid employees. After 1807, these individuals augmented the numbers of Britain’s white laboring classes. But for both former slaves and for freeborn Blacks, dominion over their freedom was perceived as tenuous and at risk as long as slavery in the colonies endured. The abolitionist movement founded in the 1760s provided an "official" forum for questioning, if not initially challenging, the morality and the lawfulness of slavery. In the decades to follow, pressure from both abolitionists and proponents of slavery provoked a series of legal confrontations that sought, in part, to define the concept of "freedom."12 What was the status of an enslaved individual brought into a society built on a supposed heritage of liberty? What questions did this issue pose for society? These issues critically informed the subsequent debates relating "race to society, debates that would propel generations of Britons of all colors."13

These debates were inflamed during the race riots that followed the end of World War I. During 1919 and 1920, "disturbances" visited nearly every port town where a Black community resided, prompting government calls for deportation. Discharged white soldiers who were resentful of and bitter over the scarcity of employment directed their frustrations and hostilities against the Black workers. Accusations of "stealing" whites’ jobs were accompanied by charges of "stealing" whites’ women, renewing historically long-lived fears of miscegenation.14 Despite the accusations of demobilized soldiers, most members of the Black workforce lost their positions to the returning white veterans. Indeed, the circumstances were so dire in many instances that some individuals and families felt they had no choice other than to leave Britain. Most of the newer immigrants, however—if questioned—considered themselves British subjects and chose, when possible, to remain in Britain.

Economic depression and the accompanying unemployment were persistent and serious problems in the interwar period and were most acutely felt by Britain’s working classes. Discriminatory practices directed against Black workers by both white employers and unions critically aggravated the levels of poverty and distress existing within poorer Black communities. At the same time, the increasingly visible Black professional and student populations were met by a societal color bar whose inherent racist and discriminatory practices affected their lives in the most fundamental ways. Additionally, looming on the international stage were the specters of apartheid and Jim Crow. It was, however, the more privileged circumstance of the professional class and the more favored position of the student intellectual that "frequently lay bare the fundamental contradictions within imperial rule."15 For the Black intelligentsia "the question of color and racial prejudice became an increasingly important one both politically and ethically."16 In the immediate aftermath of World War I, British society faced a "sizable domestic race problem" for the first time; a circumstance, it is argued, that formed the embryonic stages of the modern concept of "race relations."17 Eric Walrond offered the following reproachment in a 1938 issue of the Marcus Garvey publication The Black Man:

[I]t is indeed a paradox that London, the capital of the largest Negro Empire in the world—the cradle of English liberty, justice and fair-play—the city to which Frederick Douglas fled as a fugitive from slavery—should be so extremely inexpert in the matter of interracial relations....18


By most definitions, the Black community in Britain was a marginal one. As noted historically, the socioeconomic status of Blacks in Britain was one in which they were identified as members of the working classes. There was during this same period, however, a small community of largely middle-class men and women from which a cadre of intellectual elites was drawn. The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Battersea city mayor John Richard Archer were native-born Blacks; journalist George Padmore and barrister and West African Students’ Union [WASU] co-founder Lapido Solanke were semipermanent residents. In addition to the pursuit of their own livelihoods, it was on behalf of the Black working classes that many of the philanthropic efforts of this intellectually aggressive, politically conscious Black middle-class intelligentsia were directed during this period. The nature of this interclass relationship is important and will be a further focus of this paper. For now, in short, the interwar years were chronicled by this Black populace as dynamic, exhilarating, harsh, and volatile; and it is against this backdrop that the following discussion will play.


My father was an important member of the community in church and state. We were British and proud of it.... All education from kindergarten to University in Freetown was English. So was history, inc ‘1066 & all that’ school children learnt. The whole Empire pledged their troth annually by sitting to the same Senior School Leaving Certificate of Cambridge, with the option of London Matriculation & Oxford being available. We know the geography of Britain & Europe better than that of our own country....19


It is a widely held opinion that the concept of Englishness was recast during the years 1880-1920, a period of great national crisis when not the least of the nation’s anxieties lay in the uncertainties of the destiny it had manifested for itself vis--vis its imperial aspirations. The responsibility for defining Englishness, subsequently, was appropriated by certain narrowly drawn constituencies and their institutions—for example, the middling professional classes who were the chief architects of the public school system and whose identities, in turn, were forged and influences consolidated in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

If prior to 1880 Englishness was construed primarily within constitutional parameters, the post-1880 "traditions" relating to identity were reinvented to emphasize a celebratory sense of moral and cultural superiority, skin color,20 the English language, and the popular ideals of freedom. Freedom, as it was represented by nineteenth-century liberalism, was characterized as "an ideal force ... [located] deep within the national character, and capable of universal dissemination as England’s special gift to the world,"21 and, above all, to her colonies. Englishness became linked inseparably to "otherness," and the former became a "peculiarity" that was determined by relationship rather than by classification. In his pivotal examination of the concepts of Orientalism, Edward Said posits that during the last two decades of the nineteenth century the efficacy of the dominant version of Englishness resided in its ability to represent both itself to others and those others to themselves.22 Or, as is argued, the potency of Englishness lay in its ability to recognize, to interpret, and, I would maintain, to contrive.

It is important to note the binary as well as the oppositional characteristics of Said’s illustration. At stake is the command of privilege, especially its prerogative to construct and to license acts of representation and their consequent dissemination and promotion via empire at home and abroad.23 In brief, the brokering of claims to authenticity and authority are at issue here as well as the resultant perception of a sanctioned dominion over the properties of inclusion and exclusion; that is, the naming and the colonizing—both literally and figuratively—of the Other. Within this dominion, consequently, lies the space where the meaning, place, and utility of the Other are defined. In concluding his 1915 study Inequality of the Human Races, Arthur de Gobineau writes:

[History] shows us that all civilizations derive from the white race, that none can exist without its help, and that society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it....24


The concepts of Orientalism are by no means solely applicable to the Black experience in Britain. In a mid-1970s study of the sociopolitical relationship of the "Celtic fringe" to greater Britain, Michael Hechter defines a framework of "internal colonialism" wherein the identity of the provincial and Gaelic culture (the periphery) is ordered and maintained by that of the metropolitan and English culture (the core).25 Philip Dodd and Robert Colls, in an influential 1986 collection of essays, Englishness: Politics and Popular Culture 1880-1920, revisit this association; they further contend that certain Celtic influences are granted an essential, unique, and, I would offer, complementary role as contributors to a larger, and perceived superior, English national vision. Of special interest in their analysis is what they argue are the costs of the satellite culture’s marginalization; that is, the positioning and placement of the satellite culture as the subject of the core culture’s observations in a relationship that has been called the imperial gaze. In much the same way, for the mid-Victorian era the presence of a Black Britain—so-called "the Negro Question"—was at the center of intense debates for not only what the white English imagined it said about themselves but also, more specially, for what it told them about their own supposed racial uniqueness and superiority.26

I want to turn now to a consideration of the interstices of race, gender, and class variables in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Britain. Despite my specific focus on a Black, mainly middle-class intelligentsia, the predominantly working-class status of Blacks within English society is especially significant to the evolution of racialist ideologies. Barbara Fields posits that race and gender—and I would add class—are interdependent and socially constructed.27 In highly class-conscious Britain, these characterizations constitute, as well, social hierarchies which, in turn, gave rise to master narratives and discourses. These narrative discourses could be and were crafted and deployed by one group with the intent of subordinating the other. Importantly, the discourses of British racialism were predicated, in part, on preconceived attitudes toward distinctions of class. A 1894 issue of The English Race, an ideological journal published by the Royal Society of St. George, read:

There is some fear that the English stock is getting deficient in that healthy and legitimate egotism which is necessary to self-preservation.... Above all other racial elements in the British system, the English needs to be distinguished and preserved....28


"Class" has occupied much of British historiography for the past thirty years in ways that lie outside the scope of this essay. For the purposes of my argument, it is important to note that, throughout the nineteenth century, social advancement for the middle and laboring classes was widely held to be possible through the vehicles of moral probity, thrift, and self-help. Higher up the social scale, members of the professional classes increasingly augmented the registries of gentility, and the impetus for acquiring a higher social ranking itself intensified. At the same time, however, access to the avenues of social mobility began to decline.29 The search for status prompted increased levels of self-awareness as well as more aggregate and differentiated models of class consciousness. Upwardly mobile individuals and groups recast the measure of respect and prestige as much by their exclusion of the "unsuited" as the acceptance of the "qualified." The chasm between the poorest and richest segments of society inevitably widened as new models of differentiation were adopted. One of these models, that of biological selectivity, assumed ideological standing. It was a model that allowed the urban gentry to barter their perceived common identities as members of the Anglo-Saxon race for the privilege of conditional class membership beside the traditional, landed aristocracy.30

Forty years after the pivotal parliamentary reforms of 1832, a process of "segregation and differentiation" was in play which resulted in the separation of the working classes into two static categories—the respectable and the residuum. Given the predominantly working-class status of Black Britain, the racial character of this population became defined by and associated with purported social and criminal patterns of deviancy. As such—regardless of community ties, class, and, to a lesser extent, gender—Blacks were depicted increasingly as a commonly accepted threat to the nation’s social order. While working-class and middle-class 31 Blacks had never been collectively considered social equals by the majority white society, they were considered in certain happenstances as capable of achieving "gentlemen[ly]"32 status. Ironically, the poor and the "non-English" were those "Englishmen" whose rights were the inspiration for Pax Britannia; but here they were cast as the residuum of society. Working-class Blacks were a part of Britain’s casual labor force and, as such, were considered part of society’s residue—a "dangerous and contaminating element of society."

Gareth Stedman Jones characterizes this transitional period as one wherein the working classes moved from a state of demoralization to one of degeneration.33 He argues further that in the first circumstance, the working classes were regarded as "impressionable and biddable" objects of a generally benign middle-class gaze and held in a type of "cultural stasis"—a site where the former await the effect upon them of their betters’ "civilizing mission."34 This purported transformation took place as Britain’s industrial powerhouse was on the downswing. During this period, the advocates of racial purity established a notable public forum, and, likewise, found a natural audience in the self-conscious anxieties of the middle classes. The efficacy of the "civilizing mission" upon the laboring classes was challenged by some in the middle classes who hypothesized that this capability had been overstated.35 Subsequently, an obvious and reconstituted knowledge came to the fore, and a cultural narrative was reinvented.

The more strident racialism that marked the late-Victorian era had been foreshadowed in the volatile and increasingly unstable dynamic of the colonial experience. Imperialist aspirations were considered the medium for framing questions of race. Britain’s imperial mission was imbedded in metropolitan, industrializing English society: advances in science, art, and manufacturing were all viewed as tools for "civilizing" the "savage" brown, black, and yellow peoples of the world. Englishness was conceived as the ultimate measure of civilization and an attribute whose superiority was dependent on the inferiority of its subject gaze. However, over time, resistance to British imperial authority on the part of the colonials, not surprisingly, was amplified considerably and became reflected in violent rebellions such as the so-named Jamaica Insurrection of 1865 and the Indian Mutiny of 1857. But civil British society measured itself against the devastation visited by the institution of slavery upon West Indian and African societies and, not unexpectedly, the former was judged vastly superior.36

Black West Indians, like the casual poor, were considered beneficiaries of the largely middle-class call to "civilize" the less fortunate, both at home and abroad. The discernible poverty within the Black British communities was seen as a form of racial incapacity, which was preordained by quantitative, biological determinants. In short, historically, Black people were considered as bound to a state of servility and, as a race, constituted a significant exception to the liberties decreed by and enjoyed under English rule. Racialism, similarly, became an accepted ideological medium by which questions of power and privilege, sovereignty and citizenship, justice and might were tested and promoted.37 Racial theories were used "to legitimize relationships of dominance and disability within the Empire." Likewise, Britain’s achievement of military supremacy and administrative authority over colonized peoples was fed back to the metropolis in the forms of stereotypes, mythologies, and ideologies, which, in turn, were used to validate the presumed idolatry of the Anglo-Saxon race.38 The signifying of race in this manner suggests an assumption of authority—whether moral or otherwise—that dictates the subordination of one group of people to another.

Informed both by colonialism and by social Darwinism—particularly its presumptions about evolutional and racial hierarchies—discourse relating to the Black working classes was affixed increasingly to a nationalist dialogue that intimated class and was posited, most significantly, under the rubric of "the Natural Order." The positioning of one race to another, subsequently, was defined as a form of class interaction,39 where, hierarchically, Black people as members of a particular race could be and were portrayed as symbols of British society’s feared decline. Alienness as equated to inferiority became the language of racialist discourse and, as such, was promoted specially in the popular customs and culture of the time.40

From the 1880s onward, this anti-alien bias, abetted by an institutionalized racialist ideology and secured by protectionist legislation, was a strategy employed repeatedly against Black, Asian, and the so-designated others. In designating separate classifications for Blacks, whites attained the former’s preemptive exclusion from the ranks of the paid working classes.41 This was especially the case in assessing the practices of the British shipping industry. "British radical opinion," Paul Rich contends, "...remained [well into the twentieth century] unreceptive to the notion of permanently urbanized Black working-class communities as an inevitable concomitant of British imperial expansion and development." George Brown, an investigator sent to Cardiff in 1935 by the League of Coloured Peoples to investigate the specifics of the "coloured seamen’s crisis," concluded in his report:

[This] hostile labour attitude towards coloured seamen respects neither kith nor kin, creed or colour. For these coloured men have their homes in this country. Their wives are products of the soil, their children are ENGLISH. Many of them have given of their youth and labour to the industrial and military services of this great nation ... these men are coloured, so are five out of every seven persons in the British Empire! Without people of colour there would be neither Cardiff nor an Empire....42


In his seminal 1940s study Negroes in Britain, Kenneth Little argues that class variables dominated those of race in accounting for the experiences of the Black British. The treatment of Blacks in England, he contends, was not necessarily the same circumstance as the enslavement of Black people. "It was poverty and the wrong connections, rather than the wrong color, which accounted for the Negro’s lowly place in society and the prejudice shown against him [sic]."43 I have argued here, however, that when assessing the wedding of liberal and imperial England, such claims become problematic. In examining the historical accounting of Black experiences in Britain—comparatively or otherwise—it is clear that a discriminatory, as well as an institutionalized, color bar was advanced, employed, and maintained. In examining the collective experiences of Black Britain, I am persuaded by the work of Hazel Carby, Barbara Fields, Henry Gates, and Toni Morrison, among others, who argue that the category of race is constructed, in part, as an ultimately reductive master narrative through which variables of class and gender are reflected, positioned, and negotiated.

These interconnections, however, cannot be framed simply in terms of racism or in terms of the contributory presence of racialist attitudes, however pervasive the latter might seem. This conclusion denies the strategic role that race represents as a metalanguage, a strategy contrived and predicated on the desire to recognize—and by this manner, to exploit—difference as a means of social subordination.44 Race and racialism are regularly dealt with as constants— transhistorical phenomena—and as variables so absolute that they defy historical analysis and which, subsequently, cannot be argued persuasively within the disciplined boundaries of academia. I posit here a divergent hypothesis, where, as a circumstance, English racialism is held as a constituted, historical artifact that is produced as a means to a societal end. In this way race—like racialism—is a commodity whose worth can be measured in terms of agency. It is a concept with the capacity to transfigure, to act, and, in turn, to be acted upon. In sum, race as a classification constitutes an ideology complete with a vocabulary tooled for contrasting life experiences and, as such, is best understood not in isolation but in conjunction with other ideological predictives. In short, although Euro-ethnocentrism and racialism share meanings in common, the perceived shift in societal attitudes was reflected primarily in the degree of antagonism directed toward and active discrimination against Black settlement in Britain. This was a development that, subsequently, was endowed by the political and legal canons of that nation, and one reflected, as well, in the very sum and substance of that nation.


[The] meritocratic England [of our sensibilities] ... the one of Romance novels and Whig Histories ... fair play and deep moral regulation ... [had passed] and was now more a [de]lusion.45


Eric Walrond believed that England’s aura shone with a particular intensity in the colonies:

Viewing the ‘Mother Country’ with an adoring eye, the Negro in the British overseas colonies is obviously at the mercy of the rainbow. He [sic] sees England through a romantic and illusive veil. What he so affectionately imagines he sees does not always ‘square’ with the facts.... This deception, common to the virgin gaze of African and West Indian alike, is partly a case of ‘distance lends enchantment,’ partly a by-product of the black man’s [sic] extraordinary loyalty to the Crown.46


I began this essay with a brief discussion of liberalism, which was regarded during the later decades of the nineteenth century as nearly synonymous with Englishness as incorporated within the statutes of the polity. This liberalism "established itself as a major element in the self-image of [the British] people,"47 both domestically and abroad—an image, as well, that need not be dependent on skin color but was shaped through thought and deeds. In the liberal and gendered concept of a good society, theoretically, there was a pride of place for every white male including, with discrete omissions, the immigrants and visitors who "flocked to [that nation] for its liberties, safety and prosperity."48 In the early twentieth century, certain liberal concepts were on the wane, as Edwardian and, later, Baldwinian conservatism found increasing favor on both the popular as well as the institutional levels of English society, and the ideologies of social Darwinism and eugenics still maintained a significant currency. This period coincided with the heightened visibility as well as the increased numbers of more vocal and activist segments of the Black communities, whose intelligentsia, after all, had been weaned on ideals of brotherhood and a common humanity. Such an archetype, when set beside their shared experiences with an increasingly vituperative and vigilant color bar, was disillusioning at best. It is the example and nature of these fault lines within British society, their culture and meanings, which will provide the focus for the remainder of this essay.


We are all British subjects. To many of us the pigment of our skins bars us from taking our rightful place at the table of Empire.... English reserve must be made to melt away, before the fervour of those who plead our cause. We must show that we are ready for a place in the sun after a century of freedom.49


Ideologies gain agency from the embodiment of what Paul Gilroy calls commonsense interpretations and, accordingly, provide a vocabulary for, as well as a means of, deciphering new situations.50 Conflicts arise when perceptions and experiences change to a degree that they are no longer mirrored in established ways of knowing. Barbara Fields has argued that an established vocabulary "attaches itself, unnoticed, to new things ... [and results in] a limitless capacity for usurping the lives of men and women."51 This model is especially helpful in examining Britain of the 1920s and 1930s—a country perceived as in crisis—and the growing radicalization of larger segments of Black Britain. The "language of race"52 was appropriated by these Black intellectuals and used, in turn, as a discursive tool to "signify a [positive and an empowering] cultural identity."53 Certain developments within the larger Black communities—increased levels of migration, a growing (albeit slowly) middle class characterized by a heightened awareness of political and community activism, the increased circulation of a London-based Black press 54—were dynamic forces for change. Moreover, they had a critical effect on both the conceptualization of race as a means of classification and the evolution of race relations in greater Britain.


At the start of another year’s work we would urge upon our members ... to take an active part in this organisation. The League has not been formed, as some of our critics like to think, because coloured people in England have an inferiority complex and are anxious to impress the people of this land of the free. All thinking people of all shades and nationalities are seeking either to make stronger and firmer their place among nations of the world, or make a place for themselves as they have so far been unrecognised. The thinking Negro is seeking a place for himself [sic] in the world today.... It is [met] therefore that those who are privileged to come to the world’s metropolis ... should come together in one united and strong organisation and seek out how best to help the race travel along the road of progress....55


I noted previously the variety of circumstances that prompted Black migration to Britain, augmenting that nation’s permanent Black settlement. Importantly, these individuals and their causes were divided by a number of factors: class and caste differences, ethnic rivalries, competing sensibilities between West Indian and African interests, differing cultural backgrounds separating migrants from the east and west coasts of Africa, and so on. For the purposes of this study, however, I will generalize and incorporate these separations into two sociopolitical groups: the liberal humanitarians and the radicals. Each of these groups had its own operational style and ideology, as well as its own distinctive approaches to and relationship with Englishness and the metropole. These respective categorizations shared overlapping memberships, and it was not uncommon for individuals, and even organizations, to combine their efforts on behalf of community interests—such was the case during the Black seamen’s crisis of 1935, as well as the mobilization on behalf of Abyssinia in 1936. However, the dichotomy between liberal humanitarianism and radicalism is useful in any examination of Black identity in the interwar years.

The liberal humanitarian League of Coloured Peoples [LCP] was founded in 1931 by Harold Moody, a Jamaican-born physician. It was London-based and functioned alternately as a social club, housing bureau, employment agency, and political pressure group. The LCP, along with the West African Students’ Union 56 and the African Progress Union,57 represented what St. Clair Drake called the pan-African style of liberal humanitarianism and was the first conscious and deliberate attempt to form a multiracial organization led by Blacks in Britain. Their significance lay, in part, in their ability to bridge the gap between the mainstream, white, paternalistic bodies like the Anti-Slavery Society and the more locally based student bodies like the West African Students’ Union. During the 1930s, editorials, essays, and even poetry appeared in the pages of The Keys, the journal of the LCP; efforts that examined issues as diverse as the "good character" of the visiting West Indian cricket team and the outrage and condemnation of Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936.58 In the early issues of both The Keys and the WASU, contributors articulated a consciously socially correct, "uplifting" image of Black Britain, one designed to promote and to advance Black culture while challenging the racialist stereotypes and attitudes that denied the historical existence of Black culture and Black civilization.

The liberal humanitarians considered themselves "ambassadors, unpaid representatives of their race"59 and, on the whole, desired simply the participatory rights of good citizenship to which they were entitled as ardent and responsible subjects of His Majesty’s British empire. C.L.R. James writes:

[We] can help to stimulate the growing consciousness of the blacks ... [and] to learn from the black masses the lessons of the profound experiences that they accumulate in their daily toil, to point out certain pitfalls that may be avoided, to co-ordinate information and organization, to do an incessant propaganda in every quarter of Britain, exposing the evils, pressing such remedies as are possible, and mobilising whatever assistance there is to be found in Europe for the cause of African emancipation.60


In the first issue of the African Times and Orient Review, editor Duse Ali Mohammed endorsed the following:

[In] stepping into the arena of Anglo-Saxon literature and politics, [the journal] arrogates to itself no pretensions of superiority, neither does it gird itself with weapons of offence.... [The] recent Universal Races Congress, convened in the Metropolis of Anglo-Saxon world, clearly demonstrated that there was ample need for a Pan-Oriental, Pan-African journal at the seat of the British Empire which lay the aims, desires, and intentions of the Black, Brown and Yellow races—within and without the Empire—at the throne of Caesar.61


The radical movement began in London in 1934 when Blacks formed an ad hoc committee to assist two Gold Coast delegates who had come as political petitioners with grievances to place before the British government. This collective was revived as the International African Friends of Abyssinia [IAFA]. In 1936, when Mussolini’s troops invaded Ethiopia, the IAFA’s stated main purpose was "to arouse the British public’s sympathy and their support for the victims of fascist aggression,"62 and, wrote George Padmore, "to assist by all means in their power in the maintenance of the Territorial integrity and political independence of Abyssinia." In 1937, the IAFA became the International African Service Bureau. Padmore, Issac Wallace-Johnson, C.L.R. James, and T. Ras Makonnen formed its executive board. Although the IAFA had white sponsors 63 the International African Service Bureau insisted that it owed no affiliation or allegiance to any political party, organization, or group in Europe. It regarded Pan-Africanism as an independent political expression of Negro aspirations for complete national independence from white domination—whether Capitalist or Communist—and "saw the opportunity ... to help enlighten public opinion ... as to the true conditions in the various colonies."64 Like the League and the West African Students’ Union, the IASB had an official mouthpiece in the African Sentinel newspaper, which was succeeded by the monthly International African Opinion. Edited by C.L.R. James, the motto of the IAO journal was: "Educate, Co-operate, Emancipate: Neutral in nothing affecting the African Peoples."65 In assessing the evolution of Black nationalist ideology during this period, Cedric Robinson argues that the Black radicals in Britain were the political vanguard of Black nationalism, the "gatekeepers in the British imperial metropolis for a nationalist audience."66 Their residence in Britain was often only semipermanent; no matter long their stay, their goals clearly were to stimulate the growing consciousness of the worldwide Black community and, eventually, to "press the case for the independence of their national homelands." These activists were harsh critics of Britain and its imperialism. Not surprisingly, they were also censorious about the Englishness within themselves. C.L.R. James had occasion to caution more than once that Africans and people of African descent had been "poisoned by British imperialist education."67 In his 1930 essay How Britain Governs the Blacks, theorist George Padmore alleged:

During these centuries of colonial domination and exploitation, the imperialists of Britain can truly be said to have learnt the art of ‘governing.’ Their policy is a dual one. On the one hand, they maintain their domination over the colonial masses through deceit, hypocrisy and corruption. And when these methods fail, brute force and terrorism, backed up by machine guns and bombing planes are brought into action in order to maintain the authority and ‘prestige’ of these white overlords.68


Whatever the ideological differences between them, individuals from both camps—liberal humanitarian and radical—concurred in cautioning members of the Black communities against "apeing [sic] the white man [sic]"69 and "craving [too much] ... the dubious advantages of western bourgeois society."70 In 1938, writing in London, C.L.R. James admonished his peers with the following:

[We must] base ourselves upon the masses of the people. The individual achievements of a few black men [sic] do not and cannot solve the problems of the blacks. One of our most important tasks is to make clear to the black intellectuals and other members of the middle class, that in the present state of world affairs there is no way for them by seeking the crumbs from the tables of their imperialist masters. They must identify themselves with the struggles of the masses. The betterment of their conditions, helping them in their efforts to raise themselves to the fullest rights of citizenship, that is the main task.71


These ideologically differing organizations and their individual members joined forces similarly on behalf of community interests, such as the Black seamen’s crisis of 1935 and the mobilization on behalf of Abyssinia in 1936. Ultimately, the more significant common ground between two groups—the political reformers and the self-styled revolutionaries—became their shared disillusionment and a resulting political consciousness. When confronted irrevocably with the reality of England and its anathema to Black Englishness, both groups realized that the alleged contradictions within this identity would disallow full participation in and enjoyment of the benefits of white British society. This society had represented itself as the model for liberal standards of fair play, embodying the forms of social assimilation while professing the assurance that any citizen of the crown should and could become as British as the next. The rift between rhetoric and reality led Eric Walrond to write, in his essay entitled On England:

Two [words] ... whose powers of distortion are difficult to excel are ‘liberty’ and ‘democracy.’ More crimes are committed in their name than one would care to enumerate. But it is characteristic of the English, in their hypocrisy and love of deception to loudly proclaim the existence of that which does not exist or which they do all in their power to suppress....72


In examining the responses of Black British intellectuals to their largely negative reception in Britain, it is useful to consider the body of work by Cornel West that examines the "cultural politics of difference." West maintains that the initial responses to the "cataclysmic process of Europeanization," rejoinders he calls modes of resistance, by the modern Black Diaspora were typically "moralistic in content and communal in character." A subsequent struggle ensued with the express intent of wresting control over the representation of Black self-images from hostile segments of white society and reproducing these images in a universally—and homogenizing—positive and self-affirming light. The ultimate goal was assimilation within British society and recognition of and Blacks’ enjoyment of the benefits accruing to good and sober citizenship. In 1926 in the inaugural issue of WASU, the West African Students’ Union presented its organizational objectives, in part, as: " preach ... the message of co-operation ... to help in exposing the African mind [and] ... to educate the world on the hope and aspirations of the African and his [sic] claim to his rightful place in the world."73 As Peter Fryer contends, the liberal humanitarian’s "self-appointed [task] was to save his [sic] people in Britain, so far as he could from suffering the tree’s poisoned fruit." In contrast, the task of the Black revolutionary "was to chop the tree down."74



A sense of identity is formulated by and along the journey’s road; it is interwoven, in part, from the conditions upon which "settlement" is negotiated, fought, and renegotiated. The journey, according to bell hooks, is allied to and within multiple and overlapping identities that beget their own discourse; identities, particularly, that are informed by "personal rites of passage," for example, immigration, (en)forced migration, relocation, enslavement, colonization, education, and regionalization.

Paul Gilroy’s recent and compelling work, Black Atlantic, examines the begetting of as well as the agency for the means of Black identities as they relate to the "logic of Black settlement." Gilroy posits that the process of Black Britain’s sociohistorical formation was predicated on the convergence of distinctly intermixed and varied cultural forms; forms with decidedly separate intellectual and sociopolitical traditions, and where the act of settlement itself connoted a "social movement." During the first half of the twentieth century, the intersection of these sites informed both the constituting of as well as the locating of certain representations of Black Englishness. It was this convergence of distinct political and social traditions that informed greatly the "logic" of the sociohistorical inception of Black Britain. By the mid-1930s Black British political traditions were meeting and uniting toward a more Pan-African style consciousness. Over time, Black Englishness became less about "good character" and more about this marriage of social and political visions with the intent "to correct [and to educate] ... the errant motherland."75 Ultimately, as noted by entrepreneur Ras Makonnen, "the British tradition of free speech and civil liberties was a real asset to men and women who were, after all, seeking to dismantle the British Empire...."76

Modern Britain cannot be studied separately from empire, nor can Englishness be examined independently from imperialism—as such, a legacy of the "imperial visage." In attempting to bring forth various as well as varying voices of individual Black settlers along their respective journeys, it has not been my intention to oversimplify the complexities or the overlapping loyalties vis--vis these intellectuals and the political construction of identities within Black and British communities. Plainly, the courses of these journeys have been both reduced and accelerated. I am hopeful, however, that the distinctiveness of their voices has both conveyed and actuated the resonance that exemplified their lives. These communities of Black settlement were far from homogeneous. Their respective journeys—accompanied by unique and distinct narratives—were as much horizontal as linear. Or, as Barnor Hesse suggests, "journeying is as much sideways and in the standing still as it is backwards and forwards."77 The discourse that attached itself to the concepts and the conceits of Englishness, I am hopeful, has offered glimpses into the oftentimes convoluted and, simultaneously, contradictory will of a people to signify identity. The strategic significance of presenting and of representing the semblance of a monolithic Black community—as a means of both political agency and cultural survival—was understood well within the community of the Black Diaspora. C.L.R. James recalls "in the telling" that:

What interests me, and is, I think, of general interest, is that as far back as I can trace my consciousness the original found itself and came to maturity with a system that was the result of centuries of development in another land, was transplanted as a hot-house flower is transplanted and bore some strange fruit.78

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1 This article has benefited considerably from comments by Tom McCalmont, Antoinette Burton, Chris Walters, Doug Klusmeyer, and Bruce Thompson. However, all errors are attributed to the fractured and fractious sensibilities of the author.

2 C.L.R. James, Beyond the Boundary (Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 154.

3 bell hooks, "Representing whiteness in the Black imagination," Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (New York: Routledge Press, 1992) 338-46.

4 T. Ras Makonnen, Pan-Africanism From Within, ed. (and recorded by) Kenneth King (London: Oxford UP, 1973) 152-53.

5 See Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (London: Zed Books, Ltd., 1983) 369-80; Robinson, "Black Intellectuals at the British Core: 1920s–1940s," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 173-201.

6 James, Beyond the Boundary 111.

7 Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London:Pluto Press, 1984) 4-12; James Walvin, Black and White: The Negro and English Society 1555-1945 (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1973); Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, ed. Anthony Tibbles (Liverpool: National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, 1994) 83.

8 Fryer 4-12. See also, Paul Edwards, "The early African Presence in the British Isles," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 9-29.

9 See, in particular, David Dabydeen, Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1987).

10 On this point, see Kenneth Little, Negroes in Britain: A Study of Racial Relations in English Society (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1948/1972); Edward Scobie, Black Britannia: A History of Blacks in Britain (Chicago: Johnson Publishing, 1972). Two recent and more comprehensive books that address the experiences of the Black communities in London during this period are Gretchen Gerzina, Black England: Life Before Emancipation (London: John Murray, 1995), and Norma Myers, Reconstructing the Black Past: Black in Britain c.1780-1830 (London: Frank Cass, 1996) especially chapter 3.

11 A quantitative social history of this population remains woefully underresearched. See Fryer, Staying Power; Ron Ramdin, The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain (Aldershot: Gower Publishing, 1987) 16-20.

12 These questions were raised in the 1772 Somerset case. See David Brion Davis’s book The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975) 479-501. Also, see Douglas A. Lorimer, "Black resistance to slavery and racism in eighteenth century England," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 58-80.

13 See Lorimer, as cited above.

14 Historically, when interrelations between Blacks and whites are perceived as problematic, if not undesirable, the "fear of miscegenation" is cited most often as a main source of the problems. To this perception, Paul Rich posits in Race and Empire in British Politics that "imperialism buttressed a set of social models based on a hierarchy of races, with the Anglo-Saxon at the top, and upon the inherent antipathy of races to miscegenation and inter-racial liaisons for these produced a mongrelisation of the white race." (See, especially, pages 130-35 in chapter 6: The "half caste" pathology.) See, also, James Walvin, Passage to Britain: Immigration in History and Politics (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984) 81-82; Rob May and Robin Cohen, "The Interaction Between Race and Colonialism: A Case Study of the Liverpool Race Riots of 1919," Race and Class 16.2 (1974): 114-15; Kenneth Little, Negroes in Britain 234-37.

15 This assertion is argued very persuasively by Paul Rich, "The Black Diaspora in Britain: Afro-Caribbean Students and the Struggle for Political Identity, 1900-1950," Immigrants and Minorities 6.2 (Jul. 1987); and in his book, Race and Empire in British Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986/1990) especially chapter 3.

16 See Paul Rich cited above.

17 Barbara Bush, "The History of Blacks in Britain: The 1930s," History Today 31 (Sep. 1981): 46-47.

18 Eric Walrond, "The Negro in London," Black Man 1.12 (Mar. 1936): 9-10.

19 Robert Wellesley Cole, "Pride of Empire," Under the Imperial Carpet: Essays in Black History 1780-1950, eds. Rainer Lotz and Ian Pegg (Crawley: Rabbit Press, 1986) 233-34.

20 The reference to skin color relates to the cultural attributing of white skin to a "superior" Anglo-Saxon lineage. On this point, see Douglas Lorimer, Colour, Class and the Victorians (Leicester: Leicester UP, 1978) 11. Lorimer posits that if the white skin of the Anglo-Saxon woman and man personified the "apex of human civilization," the black skin of the colonial was seen as its "photographic negative."

21 Robert Colls, "Englishness and the Political Culture," Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920, eds. Robert Colls and Philip Dodd (London: Croom Helm, 1986) 30-31.

22 See Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975); Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

23 See, especially, John M. MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Politic Opinion, 1880-1960 (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1984).

24 Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality of Human Races, trans. Adrian Collins (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915) 210.

25 See Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development 1536-1966 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975).

26 Lorimer 11. Victorians, he offers, "seemed to get a clear perception of their own supposed racial uniqueness from the inverted image of the black man [sic]" and, furthermore, the interrelationship between the pressing moral and political issues of the day and the questions of race and slavery made "the Mid-Victorians take an interest in the welfare of the black man, which was out of all proportion to their individual involvement in the affairs of the West Indies, Africa, or America." For a longer assessment, refer to chapter 6: "Mid-Victorian Gentlemen, ‘Nigger Philanthropy,’ and the Growth of Racialism."

27 On this point, see Barbara J. Fields’s arguments in "Ideology and Race in American History," Region, Race and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, eds. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (New York: Oxford UP, 1982); and, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America," New Left Review 181 (May/Jun. 1990); see, also, Hazel V. Carby, "White woman listen! Black feminism and the boundaries of sisterhood," The Empire Strikes Back: Race and racism in 70s Britain (London: Hutcheson Press, 1982).

28 See Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (London: Verso, 1977/1981) 255-90.

29 See Harold Perkin, Origins of Modern English Society (London: Ark Paperbacks, 1969).

30 Lorimer 108-30.

31 I believe, however, that this assumption indicates a certain perception of these circumstances. I maintain that for Blacks access to a means of upward mobility was achieved only at the level of the individual and, furthermore, that the acceptance of a Black and English middle class was operating more at a discursive level in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than one that was indicative of any actual receptiveness on the part of Anglo-Saxon England to the notion of a permanent Black presence within these ranks. In short, I contend that these circumstances were defined, on the whole, by the concept of selectivity assuming ideological standing.

32 However, I make this assertion reservedly because I believe that the definition of "gentle" status carried with it an implicit assumption of whiteness. I refrain, as well, from suggesting that Black women, in general, could ascend the "pedestal of true womanhood," cognizant as I am of the very compelling arguments that maintain American white society did not confer the status of lady on Black women "regardless of income, education, refinement or character." For a further argument, see Evelyn Higginbotham’s summary of this early research in her article "The Metalanguage of Race," Signs: Women, Culture and Society (Winter 1992): 258-74.

33 In his book Outcast London (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), Gareth Stedman Jones posits that in the earlier state of "degeneration," the souls of the laboring classes were perceived, at least, as salvageable. During the 1860s, casual laborers increasingly were considered (and reclassified as) "dangerous" not only because they were understood to be "degenerate" by nature, but also because the very fact of their existence in society was thought to "contaminate" those classes "above" them. (See especially pages 281-314.) See, also, E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Random House, 1977).

34 See Stedman Jones, Outcast London.

35 Stedman Jones 281-314; also, see Jenny Bourne and A. Sivanandan, "Cheerleaders and Ombudsmen: the Sociology of Race Relations in Britain," Race and Class XXI.4 (Spring 1980).

36 See Fields, Race and Ideology in American History 148-49. She asserts that "the historical context for the construction of race as a tool for black oppression is historically rooted in the context of slavery." Furthermore, "the idea one people has of another, even when the difference between them is embodied in the most striking physical characteristics, is always mediated by the social context within which the two came in contact." Also, see P. Fryer, Black People in the British Empire: An Introduction (London: Pluto Press, 1988) chapters 10-12. Additionally, see Rob May and Robin Cohen, "The Interaction Between Race and Colonialism: A Case Study of the Liverpool Race Riots of 1919," Race and Class 16.2 (1974). Cohen and May argue that Blacks were assigned a position in English society corresponding to that of nature in such a way to leave the "freeborn Englishman" (sic), of whatever class, the sole legatee of culture.

37 Fields, Ideology and Race in American History 161-62. She contends that in debating the presumed capacity or incapacity of a slave to accept freedom, slavery became a "racial" question.

38 See Stedman Jones, Outcast London.

39 I qualify this assumption and wish to point out the parallel realities that I believe are operating here. I contend that even while the language of class is being employed in asserting a dominant position, race is acting as the primary signifier and is conflating the category of class in this analysis.

40 On this point there is a plethora of study open to the researcher. See, especially, a very thoughtful collection of essays in Imperialism and Popular Culture, ed. John M. MacKenzie (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1986); and Making Imperial Mentalities: Socialisation and British Imperialism, ed. J.A. Mangan (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1990). See, also, Eric Hobsbawm, "Mass-Producing Traditions, Europe 1870-1914," The Invention of Tradition, eds. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983); Michael Hays, "Representing Empire: Class, Culture, and the Popular Theatre in the Nineteenth Century," Imperialism and Theatre: Essays on World Theatre, Drama and Performance, ed. J. Ellen Gainor (London: Routledge, 1995); Robert H. MacDonald, The Language of Empire: Myths and Metaphors of Popular Imperialism, 1880-1918 (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1994); Robert Colls, "Englishness and the Political Culture," and Peter Brooker and Peter Widdowson, "A Literature for England," Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920, eds. Robert Colls and Philip Dodd (London: Croom Helm, 1986).

41 See Laura Tabili’s very insightful and extensively researched examination of this strategy in her larger work We Ask for British Justice: Workers and Racial Difference in Late Imperial Britain (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994); see also P. Rich, Race and Empire in British Politics. Here he attributes to the "colonial legacy" the promulgating of the inference that Black communities—as ethnic and minority communities—need always lie outside the cultural bonds that held British, that is Anglo-Saxon, communities together. See, in particular, his assessment of this point in chapter 6.

42 Geo. W. Brown, "Investigation of Coloured Colonial Seamen in Cardiff, April 13th-20th, 1935," Keys: The Official Organ of the League of Coloured Peoples 3.2 (Oct.-Dec. 1935): 21.

43 See Little, Negroes in Britain.

44 See Higginbotham, The Metalanguage of Race.

45 Robinson 273-374.

46 Eric Walrond, "The Negro In London," Black Man 1.12 (Mar. 1936): 9.

47 Dennis Smith, "Englishness and the Liberal Inheritance after 1886," Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920, eds. Robert Colls and Philip Dodd (London: Croom Helm, 1986) 255.

48 Robert Colls, "Englishness and the Political Culture," Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920, eds. Robert Colls and Philip Dodd (London: Croom Helm, 1986) 36.

49 Editorial, Keys 1.3 (Jan. 1934): 42.

50 On this point, see the work of Barbara Fields and Paul Gilroy, especially The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993); Michael Taussig, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1980).

51 Fields, Ideology and Race in American History 153.

52 See M.M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Carly Emerson and Michal Holquist (Austin: U of Texas P, 1981). The "language of race," Bakhtin posits, has the "power of the word to mean"—one that arises from "concrete situational and ideological contexts."

53 On this point, see (among other theorists) the work of E. Higginbotham, "The Metalanguage of Race"; and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the "Racial" Self (New York: Oxford UP, 1987).

54 During the period 1880-1950, there was operating in Britain a Black press consisting of over a dozen publications that were predominantly Black-edited and Black-controlled/owned and included newspapers, periodicals, organizational newsletters, etc. A good summary of these materials is Roderick MacDonald, "The wisers who are far away: The Role of London’s Black Press in the 1930s and 1940s," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 150-72. A fuller examination can be found in Ionie Benjamin, The Black Press in Britain (Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books, 1995).

55 Editorial, Keys 1.4 (Apr.-Jun. 1934): 65-66.

56 The West African Students’ Union—founded in 1925 at a meeting attended by twenty-one law students—was the most successful effort (after several attempts) to form an organization that "could speak for all West African students in Britain." For twenty-five years the WASU provided a forum for its members to articulate their criticism of British colonial rule, as well as to expose and to challenge the discriminatory practices that were an inherent dimension of that nation’s "imperial adventure." In Staying Power, Peter Fryer contends that the WASU "provided a training ground for the leaders of the West African nationalist movements, not surprisingly, drawing as they did from a membership who would be the future judges, lawyers, and politicians in West Africa." See pages 324-25.

57 The names of the founding members of the African Progress Union (1918)—John Richard Archer, Duse Mohammed Ali, John Alcindor—read like the "Who’s Who" of Black civic, professional, and political life in Britain during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The membership, comprised mainly of students and business/professional people, came from Africa, British Guinea, Honduras, the West Indies, and the United States. The goals of the Union, according to the December 1918 issue of the African Telegraph, were "to promote the general welfare of Africans and Afro-Peoples; to set up a social and residential club in London as a home away from home; to spread knowledge of the history and achievements of Africans and Afro-Peoples past and present; and to create and maintain a public sentiment in favour of brotherhood [sic] in the broadest sense." Reported in Fryer, Staying Power 293.

58 Most of these organizations had affiliated with them a publication: The Keys (retitled The Newsletter in 1940) was published by the LCP; likewise, the WASU was published by the West African Students’ Union. Two APU patrons were key to publishing the African Telegraph and the African Times and Orient Review newspapers. John Eldred Taylor—a businessperson and journalist from Sierra Leone—had assisted Duse Mohammed Ali in launching the African Times and Orient Review and was also the proprietor of the African Telegraph.

59 St. Clair Drake, "Value Systems, Social Structure and Race Relations in the British Isles," diss., University of Chicago, 1954.

60 Editorial, International African Opinion 1.1 (Jul. 1938): 1. Reported in Roderick MacDonald, "The wisers who are far away: The Role of London’s Black Press in the 1930s and 1940s," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 150-72.

61 Foreword, African Times and Orient Review 1.1 (1912): 1.

62 See Fryer, Staying Power 344-45.

63 As reported in Fryer, Staying Power, this list included future labor colonial secretary Arthur Creech Jones, as well as Nancy Cunard, Victor Gollancz, Sylvia Pankhurst, D.N. Pritt, and Dorothy Woodman.

64 See Fryer, Staying Power 343-47.

65 See J. A. Langley, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa 1900-1945: A study in ideology and social classes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973) 63-68. According to Langley, James’s vision of the IAO was "a journal for activists, not a literary paper giving advice from ivory towers; which sought, not to dominate other black organizations, but to co-ordinate and centralize their activities." See also Fryer 346.

66 Robinson 2.

67 C.L.R. James, "Abyssinia and the Imperialists," Keys 3.3 (Jan.-Mar. 1936): 32, 39-41.

68 George Padmore, "How Britain Governs the Blacks," Negro Anthology, ed. Nancy Cunard (New York: Negro UP, 1934/1969) 809-13.

69 Tom Grant, "The L.C.P.," Keys 2.4 (Apr.-Jun. 1935): 87.

70 Stephen Peter Thomas, "The West African," Keys 1.1 (Jul. 1933): 13-14.

71 See Roderick MacDonald, "The wisers who are far away: The Role of London’s Black Press in the 1930s and 1940s," Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, eds. Jahdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield (Avebury: Ashgate Publishing, 1992) 150-72.

72 Walrond, "On England," Black Man 3.10 (Jul. 1938): 18.

73 See G.O. Olusanya, The West African Students’ Union: and the politics of Decolonisation 1925-1958 (Ibadan: Daystar Press, 1982).

74 Fryer 343.

75 Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1983) 376.

76 Makonnen 152

77 Barnor Hesse, "Black to Front and Back Again: Racialization through contested times and space," Place and the Politics of Identity, eds. Michael Keith and Steve Pile (London: Routledge, 1993) 162-82.

78 James 41-42.

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