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Black In The Union Jack? Black Lives In Modern London

Key information

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Module description

Through an innovative collaborative partnership with the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, this module investigates the lived experiences, political activism, forms of cultural production and diverse civic contributions of Black women and men in twentieth-century London. Through a combination of lectures, seminars, and hands-on, source-led exercises – delivered in alternate weeks at King’s and at the BCA in Brixton – students will critique Britain’s imperial past and postcolonial legacies and critically interrogate narratives of migration and multiculturalism that position the arrival of the Empire Windrush as the advent of Black Britain.

Themes covered across the module include the mapping of Black spaces in the metropolis, imperial and transatlantic intellectual and cultural networks, anti-racist protest and resistance, and political organisations. Students will engage with a rich and varied range of primary source materials, courtesy of the BCA and other repositories, encompassing film and photography, music and literature, oral histories and social surveys. Students will gain a good grasp of the relevant historiography, and its modulation over the last four decades, and an introduction to methodological questions about 'public history', 'community archives' and historically-informed activism. 

Assessment details

1 x 1,500-word formative essay;  1 x 3,000-word essay (100%)

Educational aims & objectives

Provisional Teaching Plan

1. King’s: Introduction: Black in the Union Jack?

2. BCA: Black Edwardians; Black Poppies

3. King’s: Interwar London – Riots, Resistance and Radicalism

4. BCA: The League of Coloured Peoples

5. King’s: From War to Windrush to Work

6. King’s: ‘Race Relations’ And Social Science

7. BCA: Counter Cultures and Black Power in the City

8. BCA: The Heart of the Race – Black Women’s Organisations

9. King’s: Electric Avenue – 1981 Uprisings and Scarman

10. BCA: Archiving as Activism and SUS/Stop and Search – 1970s to the present (roleplay)

Additional Costs

Teaching for this module will consist of ten two-hour sessions, delivered in flexible formats at King’s and the Black Cultural Archives (Windrush Square, Brixton SW2 1EF). Travel costs to Brixton are at student’s own expense.

Teaching pattern

10 x 2-hour seminars

Suggested reading list

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Beverly Bryan, Stella Dadzie and Suzanne Scafe, The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain (1985)

Marc Matera, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the 20th Century (2015)

Hammond Kenyetta Perry, London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (2015)

Photofusion, The British Black Panthers and the Black Power Movement: An Oral History and Photography Project (2013)

Z. Nia Reynolds, When I came to England: An Oral history of Life in the 1950s and 1960s (2001)

Rob Waters, Thinking Black. Britain 1964-1985 (2018)

Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.