Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives (BCA) was founded in 1981, by educationalist and historian Len Garrison and others. BCA's mission is to record, preserve and celebrate the history of people of African descent in Britain.[1] The BCA's new building in Brixton, opened in 2014, enables access to the archive collection, provides dedicated learning spaces and mounts a programme of exhibitions and events.[2]

Black Cultural Archives
Established1981 (1981)
Location1 Windrush Square, Brixton, London, SW2 1EF
Founderincluded Len Garrison


In 1981, Len Garrison and other members of the Black British community started a collection, originally housed in Coldharbour Lane in Brixton and later based in Kennington,[3] that sought to redress the historical imbalance of the representation of black people in Britain.[4]

In 2010 the BCA won major funding, including £5million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the London Development Agency,[5] and moved back to Brixton to become the UK's first national black heritage centre.[6] A site dedication ceremony took place in June 2013,[7] and the new BCA building – a Grade II-listed Georgian building, the former Raleigh Hall[3] – at 1 Windrush Square, was officially opened on 24 July 2014.[8][9][10][11] Designed by architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, it was named in 2015 as "Building of the Year" in the New London Architecture awards.[12][13][14]

On 16 February 2017, BCA received a royal visit from Charles, Prince of Wales, and the Duchess of Cornwall,[15] during which Prince Charles praised the contribution of people from the West Indies and Africa in World War 1 and World War 2.[16]

The current managing director of BCA is Arike Oke, who took up the appointment in February 2019 after Paul Reid, director since 2006, stepped down.[17][18]


In 2008, a two-year HLF-funded project called "Documenting the Archive" enabled the cataloguing of BCA's collections of books, objects, and archives, which "document the hidden stories and experiences of Black people either through personal and family journeys or through the rich network of Black-led community organisations", and "celebrate Black achievements "alongside the strong sense of campaigning and resistance to racial inequalities."[4] BCA's records are also accessible through an online catalogue.[19]

Exhibitions and projects

BCA's inaugural exhibition was Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain (24 July–30 November 2014),[20] which chronicled "the often hidden histories of Britain's black foremothers", including Mary Seacole, Mary Prince, Adelaide Hall, Olive Morris, Jessica Huntley, among others.[21] In October 2016 this exhibition was launched online as part of the Google Cultural Institute.[22]

BCA worked over a period of years with the Victoria and Albert Museum to acquire photographs either by black photographers or that document the lives of black people in Britain, complemented by a range or oral histories.[2] The resultant exhibition in 2015 was entitled Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s – 1990 (inspired by the 1984 book by Peter Fryer Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain).[23]

The exhibition Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar, from 9 October 2015 to 4 June 2016, featured the everyday lives of Black people in Britain during the Georgian period (1714–1830), with a special feature by Christy Symington on Olaudah Equiano.[24][25]

Other exhibitions have included Rastafari in Motion, the story of Emperor Haile Selassie I and the Rastafari movement in Britain (14 June–10 September 2016); Black Sound (7 April 2017 – 17 February 2018), the story of 100 years of musical creativity, co-curated in partnership with The Champion Agency and Lloyd Bradley; and Expectations (7 August–24 October 2018), described as "the first ever photography exhibition ‘takeover’ at the Black Cultural Archives using photographs taken by Neil Kenlock".[26]


  1. "About Us", Black Cultural Archives.
  2. "Staying Power – About the Project", Victoria and Albert Museum.
  3. "Black Cultural Archives is coming home 24 July 2014 – Black Cultural Archives moves back to Brixton and into a new heritage centre", Lambeth Talk, June 2014.
  4. "Our Collections", Black Cultural Archives.
  5. Elizabeth Pears, "Work Starts On Long-Awaited National Black Heritage Centre", The Voice, 11 June 2013.
  6. Owen, Paul (12 October 2010). "Boris Johnson and Lottery Fund announce £5m funding for black cultural centre in Brixton". The Guardian. London.
  7. Ruth Waters, "Black Cultural Archives Site Dedication Ceremony", Brixton Blog, 8 June 2013.
  8. Dotun Adebayo, "New Black Cultural Archives Are Worth Their Wait In Gold", The Voice, 8 August 2014.
  9. Tom Dickens, "Moving celebration marks long journey to the Black Cultural Archives launch in Brixton", Brixton Blog, 24 July 2014.
  10. "Heritage Centre". Black Cultural Archives. Archived from the original on 10 February 2011.
  11. Hannah Ellis-Petersen, "Black Cultural Archives unveils new centre in Brixton", The Guardian, 29 July 2014.
  12. Ade Onibada, "Black Cultural Archives Named Building Of The Year", The Voice, 8 July 2015.
  13. Kate Lloyd, "Brixton's Black Cultural Archives crowned London's Best New Building", Time Out, 9 July 2015.
  14. Laura Mark, "Brixton's new Black Cultural Archives named London Building of the Year", Architects' Journal, 8 July 2015.
  15. Victoria Northridge, "The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit Black Cultural Archives", BCA, 17 February 2017.
  16. "Prince Charles praises contribution of men from West Indies and Africa in the world wars", Daily Express, 16 February 2017.
  17. Eleanor Mills, "Change in leadership at the Black Cultural Archives", Museums Journal, Museums Association, 14 February 2019.
  18. "We say thank you and goodbye to Director, Paul Reid", Black Cultural Archives, 1 March 2019.
  19. "Black Cultural Archives Online Catalogue".
  20. "Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain", Black Cultural Archives.
  21. Bim Adewunmi, "Black women in Britain – from the Romans to the Windrush", The Guardian, 6 October 2014.
  22. "Black women in Britain", Google Arts & Culture.
  23. "Staying Power: A new exhibition at Black Cultural Archives", Future Brixton.
  24. "Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar", Black Cultural Archives.
  25. "BBC World on Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar", YouTube video of Lebo Diseko (BBC World) and S. I. Martin (historian and curator) exploring Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar.
  26. "Past Exhibitions", Black Cultural Archives.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.