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Level 5

5AAH1071 Black in the Union Jack? Black Lives in Modern London

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Alana Harris
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500 formative essay, 1 x 3,000 word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essay

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Through an innovative collaborative partnership with the BCA, 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 KCL 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 HMT 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.

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)

Suggested Introductory Reading 

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)

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.


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