[ The article was rejected by a travel magazine for the following reason: ‘This article is touching a very sensitive matter, and although we all know your intentions are good, it might be subjected to negative interpretation. On top of this issue, the article does not offer much visual information through the pictures. Unfortunately, we don’t think we can publish this article, as it demands much thorougher explanations, and kind of gets out of our ‘travel’ scope. You may of course use it for your personal blog/website’ ].
The Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, South London, was founded in order to understand and disseminate the history of the black community in England, and to foster dialogue between generations and cultures.
History of the archives
The collection of the Black Cultural Archives was opened to the public in 2014 to disclose personal papers, organisational records, rare books, ephemera, photographs and legacy objects – often coming from private collections – that witnessed the history and development of black culture. After traveling through different places, black culture found its roots in a new country, England, where it had to deal with isolation and discrimination. Today, the white building that hosts the Black Cultural Archives in Windrush Square, in the centre of Brixton, holds more than 6,000 books and offers the opportunity to acquire an in-depth knowledge of Africa, the Caribbean and British Black history. The archives show how knowing our past helps us to understand who we are.
Talks, exhibitions and a reading room
Windrush Square, where the archives stand, commemorates the arrival of the Empire Windrush from Jamaica in 1948. Bringing 492 immigrants into Brixton, this ship marked the beginning of modern British multicultural society. If you are a fan of Black culture, the Black Cultural Archives will certainly stimulate your curiosity, whether you are looking for a place to develop your studies or if your approach to a new culture is of more recent origins. Entering the archives you can choose to look in the collection and spend time in the reading room – make sure that you book the material that interest you in advance. You can also attend one of the many free talks given by experts that examine some key issues on black history in England – these must be booked in advance too. However, if your curiosity leads you to learn through direct observation of objects and photos, you can take a look at the free exhibitions set up in a small room in the ground floor of the archives.
Have your say
The free exhibitions organized by the Black Cultural Archives welcome visitors in an area in which photographs, paintings and records are displayed on topics like the Black Georgians, the Black Women’s Movement, Arts, Publishing, Education and Uprisings. You will travel through the misunderstandings and struggles that today seem so far from our way of thinking. An interactive wall puts the visitor’s attention on relevant questions and anyone is free to participate with a thought, an idea, or simply sticking a post-it so as to contribute to a conversation between different ethnic groups and mentalities. An interesting bookshop sells prints and books on the most important characters in black history, and for alcohol lovers there is also a selection of Matugga, a type of rum produced in East Africa and distilled in the UK, a mix of places and cultures too!
Black coffee, black music
There is a small cafe inside the archives that serves warming meals, snacks, cakes, coffee and juices. The atmosphere is relaxed, the staff very welcoming, and the tables have brightly colored fabrics reminiscent of African clothes. From a corner of the cafe, looking through a large window, you can admire the 41 metre high red brick and Portland stone clock tower of Lambeth Town Hall built in Brixton from 1906-1908. Great coffee for a little more than 2 GBP (less than 3 USD) and black music in the background will turn your fast break into a long pause.
Your ethnicity does not matter!
The visit to the archives involves not only those who identify themselves with the heritage, but also who want to deepen their knowledge of British history and culture.
Opening hours: Tues-Sat, 10 am-6pm, closed Sun-Mon.