You are here:

At about 11.30 pm on the night of 12 January 1983, Colin Roach, a twenty-one-year-old Black man, went into Stoke Newington police station. Within forty-five minutes, he was dead in the foyer of the police station from a gunshot wound to the head, which a coroner’s inquest in June 1983 deemed to be self-inflicted. In the months following Colin Roach's death, there were demonstrations organized by the Roach Family Support Committee and the Hackney Black People's Association to demand a formal, public inquiry into the circumstances of Colin's death. This paper will explore the role of grief and anger in racial politics in 1980s Britain, focusing upon the death of Colin Roach and its aftermath. At the centre of this examination is the experience and visibility of Black death in late 20th century Britain. Emotions such as grief and anger provided a framework for the interpretation of a particular, historically situated structure and experience of state power in this regard. In the case of the death of Colin Roach, grief and anger comprised powerful interpretive frameworks for the Black community to comprehend a particular problem: the policing of Black people in the 1980s. Grief and anger also helped form and mobilize political communities. The expression of emotions such as grief and anger by such communities played a role in interrogating and disrupting the structure and practice of policing Black communities. Finally, the paper explores the particular position of Black mothers in the experience and expression of grief and anger in the late 20th century.

Stephen Brooke is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at York University, Canada. His previous publications include Sexual Politics: Sexuality, Family Planning and the British Left from the 1880s to the Present Day (OUP, 2012), and in 2020, he was awarded a SSHRC Insight grant to begin a project entitled 'Politics and Emotion in Britain, c.1970 to c. 1970'.


All welcome – This event is free, but booking is required.