Anti-racism in Britain: Histories and Trajectories

An online conference: 20 and 27 February 2021

Concepts of ‘race’ and racism are central to British history. They have shaped, and been shaped by, British identities, economies and societies for centuries, from seventeenth-century enslavement in the Caribbean to the ‘hostile environment’ of the 2010s.


Yet state and societal racism has always been met with resistance. Britain has been home to anti-slavery societies, Pan-African Congresses, and anti-fascist organisations. At a more quotidian level, even those who might not have identified as anti-racist have challenged the racism of their peers, bosses and friends in informal ways. People have challenged and reshaped notions of ‘Britishness’ through dress, art and staking their claim to British identity. The conference will explore the trends and patterns of British anti-racism — its continuities and discontinuities, its fusions and fissions — in order to understand how anti-racism has shaped Britain, and the possibilities for the anti-racist struggles of today and tomorrow.

Day 1 – Saturday 20 February 2021


Hakim Adi’s opening lecture
Anti-racism: A British Tradition


Panel 1: The State and Citizenship

Christopher Fevre, ‘There is no justice here for the coloured man’: Challenging Racist Policing in Britain, 1919-1959

Amy Grant, A Strange Sanctuary: State, Hate, and God in Late Twentieth Century Britain

Virgillo Hunter, The Windrush Scandal: Migration, Citizenship, Family and Belonging


Panel 2: Music and Culture

Benjamin Bland, Morrissey, the Music Press, and the Contested Meanings of Anti-Racism in Contemporary British Youth Culture

Jessica Chow, Black Against the Stave: Black Modern Girls in British Interwar Jazz

Vanessa Mongey, Student on the move: Showcasing African culture in the North


Panel 3: Anti-racism and Identity

Talat Ahmed, Tartan Inclusivity or Workers Internationalism: The origins of St Andrew’s Day Anti-racism March and Rally

Joseph Finlay, Jewish responses to ‘race’ and racism in postwar Britain


Panel 4: The Spatial and Gendered Dimensions of Anti-racist Activism during the Black Power Era in Britain

Zalirah Cooper, The Black British North: Establishing Space and Forming Resistance in the North (1970s-80s)

Jessica White, ‘One of the best days of my life was when I met Olive’: Olive Morris in Manchester, 1975-1978

Kerry Pimblott, “To visit and meet, learn and observe”: Black British Women and Activist Travel to the People’s Republic of China, 1964-1979

Day 2 – Saturday 27 February 2021


Panel 5: Exploring Transnational Politics of Anti-racism, 1880-1960: Chances, Limits and Legacies

Alison Holland, ‘Constant dripping wears away a stone’: The British Legacy of Anti-Slavery in Australia. Towards an Antiracism History.

David Killingray, Action to counter race discrimination in Britain from the 1880s to 1913

Felix Lösing, False empathy: The British Congo reform movement and white saviourism


Panel 6: Stop the Seventy Tour

Geoff Brown, Tony Collins, Christabel Gurney, Peter Hain, Christian Høgsbjerg, Pete Loewenstein and Elizabeth Williams


Panel 7: Memory and Engaging with the Past

Megan Hunt, ‘An American-centric understanding of black history and identity.’ Martin Luther King, Jr. and the African American Freedom Struggle in British schools

Sophia Siddiqui, Anti-racist feminism: engaging with the past in the present

Patrick Soulsby, ‘History has to be reckoned with…’: Anti-racist memory cultures of British colonialism and the Holocaust, c. 1980-2001


Archives and anti-racism

With Anya Edmond-Pettitt (Institute of Race Relations)


Panel 8: London and Anti-racism

Martin Evans, Fires in two post-colonial Babylons: Some reflexions on a comparative and connected history of anti-racist movements in London and Paris 1976-1985

Finnian Gleeson, Memory, Generation, and Anti-racist Practice in Postcolonial London: The Case of Docklands

Gil Shohat, Colonialism and National Socialism: On the Politics of Comparison in British and Pan-African Anticolonial Circles in the 1930s

Organising committee: Saffron East (University College London); Grace Redhead (University of Warwick); Theo Williams (Durham University)

Contact information
Twitter: @Antiracism2021