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Following a very successful series of talks in 2022, the Oral History Society will continue its ‘In Dialogue’ series in 2023 to mark the Society’s 50th anniversary. In partnership with the Institute of Historical Research, the aim is to hear about the work of organisations relating to remembering, capturing, and preserving stories.

This eighth event in the ‘In Dialogue’ series focuses on the Black Trade Union Oral History Project.  While significant, the contribution of Black trade union activism to the labour movement is mainly undocumented.  This history risks being lost. 

The project is creating and will promote a digital archive of voices and testimonies that capture and acknowledge the history of Black trade union activism in the UK for future generations.  As well as collecting testimony, the project hopes to collect archives, artefacts and documents to establish the TUC Library as the leading centre for the history of Black trade unionists in Britain.

Documenting and disseminating this history will help to broaden understanding and highlight the role of black trade unionists, activists and full-time officers.  It will counter the tendency to view black people as victims or outsiders, showing them as conscious agents for social change, and as people who have helped to shape the British trade union.

Seven interviews have thus far been collected including TUC Race Relations Committee members A J Singh, Taranjit Chana, and Elizabeth Cameron, and former members Lorna Campbell, and Micky Nicholas.

Our invited speakers, Jeff Howarth and Wilf Sullivan, will be speaking in more detail about the project.  They will offer us the opportunity to learn more about oral history practice as well as about the development of new resources.  Their talk will be followed by a response from the discussant, Joanna Bornat, and an audience Q&A.

Chair:

Discussant:

  • Joanna Bornat is a long-standing member and trustee of the Oral History Society and an editor of Oral History. Now retired, she is emeritus professor of oral history at The Open University.

Speakers:

  • Jeff Howarth is responsible for the TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University, and has been in post for almost ten years. He was previously a professional Special Collections Librarian and  responsible for the library at Anti-Slavery International (formerly the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society).  Jeff has also managed various oral history projects including Forward to Freedom (the history of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement) and currently manages Britain at Work Voices from the Workplace.
     
  • Wilf Sullivan is Secretary of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and was TUC Race Equality Officer for almost twenty years. He was appointed by the trade union NALGO (now UNISON) as a Regional full-time officer in 1990 and worked for ten years organising and representing members in health, local government and higher education. He worked as UNISONs National Black Members Officer from 2000 before moving to the TUC as the Race Equality Policy Officer. He was a member of the Government’s Ethnic Minority Employment Stakeholders Group, is Vice-Chair of the UK Race and Europe Network, is a co-opted Executive Board member of the European Network Against Racism and sits on a number of race equality research academic advisory boards.

 

The Black Trade Union Oral History Project