Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Black London

Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century

Marc Matera
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 440
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Black London
    Book Description:

    This vibrant history of London in the twentieth century reveals the city as a key site in the development of black internationalism and anticolonialism. Marc Matera shows the significant contributions of people of African descent to London's rich social and cultural history, masterfully weaving together the stories of many famous historical figures and presenting their quests for personal, professional, and political recognition against the backdrop of a declining British Empire. A groundbreaking work of intellectual history,Black Londonwill appeal to scholars and students in a variety of areas, including postcolonial history, the history of the African diaspora, urban studies, cultural studies, British studies, world history, black studies, and feminist studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95990-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Map
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-21)

    THE UBIQUITOUS PRESENCE OF AFRICA in 1930s London, especially when compared to the United States, astounded Eslanda Goode Robeson, the wife of the African American singer and movie star Paul Robeson: “There is news of Africa everywhere: in the press, in the schools, in the films, in conversation. English people are actively interested in Africa economically and politically.”¹ Her observation is incongruous with historians’ associations of interwar colonial troubles and metropolitan anxieties with Ireland and India. Her narrative of life in London also contradicts most narratives of the rise of multiethnic Britain, which trace the presence of people of African...

    (pp. 22-61)

    DURING THE EARLY DECADES of the twentieth century, the black population in London consisted largely of black workers and a much smaller number of black professionals and artists born in Britain and the colonies; colonial students from Africa and the Caribbean; and African American entertainers and intellectuals passing through and sometimes settling in the city.¹ From the mid-nineteenth century, a steady stream of university students from South and West Africa and the Caribbean entered Britain, most to pursue degrees in law or medicine. African rulers and the mission-educated African elite, especially in coastal towns like Freetown, Lagos, and Accra, sent...

  9. TWO Black Internationalism and Empire in the 1930s
    (pp. 62-99)

    IN 1935, AS KWAME NKRUMAH PASSED through London en route to the United States, where he would study at Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania, he saw a newspaper placard that announced “mussolini invades ethiopia.” He remembered feeling “as if the whole of London had suddenly declared war on me personally.”¹ After the Second World War, Nkrumah returned to London for an extended sojourn. During the intervening decade, many of his friends and future collaborators mobilized existing institutions and formed new organizations in the city to combat the combined forces of imperialism and the global color bar. While Paul...

  10. THREE Black Feminist Internationalists
    (pp. 100-144)

    THE NUMBER OF WOMEN from the Caribbean and Africa in London remained small until the 1940s. No aggregate figures are available for women from the colonies studying in Britain, but a proposal to establish living accommodations for Caribbean women students at College Hall reported yearly totals of no fewer than seven and as many as seventeen at the University of London between 1923 and 1933.¹ Although wealthy families along the coast of West Africa increasingly sent their daughters to study in Britain from the nineteenth century onward, there remained a huge gender discrepancy in access to education, especially higher education...

  11. FOUR Sounds of Black London
    (pp. 145-199)

    MUSIC WAS AN EVER-PRESENT PART of black sociability and anticolonial activity in early-to mid-twentieth-century London, and nowhere more so than in the Soho establishments of Amy Ashwood Garvey. In 1935, she opened the International Afro Restaurant beneath her residence at 62 New Oxford Street and, not long thereafter, the Florence Mills Social Parlour, a restaurant and nightclub on or near Carnaby Street.¹ Black internationalist activity consisted of more than organizing protests, writing books, and publishing journals and small tracts. Music and its sponsorship was another example of the ways that black women generated new political imaginaries and solidarities.

    The Florence...

  12. FIVE Black Masculinities and Interracial Sex at the Heart of the Empire
    (pp. 200-237)

    I ARGUE IN THE FOREGOING CHAPTERS that interaction in London and intellectual and cultural exchange among people of African descent embedded within particular spaces of sociality both mediated and facilitated the movement of news, ideas, texts, and people along intersecting imperial and transatlantic circuits, generating expansive notions of black unity in response to global political developments and a changing imperial system. London, including many of the spaces examined in the preceding chapters, offered new possibilities of self-invention and love across the color line. Private life and social activities became another arena in which black men contested the limits placed on...

  13. SIX Black Intellectuals and the Development of Colonial Studies in Britain
    (pp. 238-279)

    COLONIAL AFRICA ASSUMED GREATER PROMINENCE in metropolitan imaginings of the British Empire between the 1920s and 1940s. The increased attention to Africa took popular as well as intellectual forms—from colonial exhibitions and imperialist films such asSanders of the Riverto the African Research Survey, which culminated in Lord Malcolm Hailey’s encyclopedicAn African Survey.An increase in the production of knowledge on colonial Africa, in particular, accompanied the institutionalization of colonial studies in Britain, and the foremost personalities in the fields of anthropology and imperial history had a significant impact on the major policy shifts of the period....

  14. SEVEN Pan-Africa in London, Empire Films, and the Imperial Imagination
    (pp. 280-319)

    ON JANUARY 16, 1948, the British Film Institute, in association with the Colonial Office, held a conference in London titled “The Film in Colonial Development.” Participants included a mix of colonial officials and experts in filmmaking. Arthur Creech Jones, the Labour secretary of state for the colonies, delivered the opening address, and his parliamentary private secretary, Aidan Crawley, chaired the conference. John Grierson, the doyen of the documentary film movement in Britain and by this time the director of mass communications for UNESCO, spoke on the subject “Film and Primitive Peoples.” The formal papers covered such diverse topics as the...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 320-326)

    AMIDST SEVERAL UNPUBLISHED BOOK MANUSCRIPTS in the private papers of Dr. Robert Wellesley Cole at the School of Oriental and African Studies, I discovered “West Africa: an Outline of the History.” More than four hundred pages in length, it traces some five hundred years of the region’s development and interactions with the outside world.¹ Born in Freetown in 1907, Wellesley Cole came to Britain in 1928 to pursue a degree in medicine and, ultimately, a specialization in surgery, becoming the first African surgeon in Britain. He participated in a number of black organizations in the decades that followed. He remained...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 327-378)
    (pp. 379-394)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 395-410)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 411-412)