An Archive-Junkie with Great Tales: The 1919 Race Riots in Britain Provoked the Emergence of a Publicly Articulated Critique of the Double Standard Which Allowed White Men to Have Their Way with African Women in the Colonies, While Black Men Were Beaten in Britain for Marrying White Women. Not Fair; So I Became an Archive Junkie
Ray, Carina, New African
At 33 years old, I still write "fan mail" and it was through one such letter to Baffour Ankomah that I first made contact with New African. Having periodically read NA since the late 90s, I became a faithful fan in 2002 while living in Accra, Ghana, where I eagerly awaited its arrival each month. This was the time when NA's reportage on Zimbabwe began to put Baffour, and the magazine as a whole, into some seriously hot water! Each month, I wondered if Baffour would "tone it down". The fact that he never did garnered my respect, even if I haven't always agreed with his viewpoints.
After temporarily relocating to London in 2003, I promptly emailed Baffour to see if I could meet him in person, as well as the people behind NA. I was warmly received in NA's London office, and was delighted to be able to pick Baffour's brain for several hours at a nearby pub! What more could a fan ask for?
My first piece of writing for NA appeared in January 2005. It was a lengthy response to Stella Orakwue's History's Most Sordid Cover-Up, which appeared in her Not in Black and White column. Therein, I argued the historical origins of mixed race populations in Europe's former colonies in North and South America, the Caribbean and Africa are not located solely in this silenced history of the rape of black women by white men, as Stella had suggested. I was heartened that the piece was published and that it was taken up with interest by NA readers.
Meanwhile, I had been working in archives located in Ghana and the UK for several years and was constantly blown away by the stories I was coming across. With seed funding from One Race Films, a Los Angeles-based production company, I was able to digitise all of the records I was working with. What I needed next was a space where I could share with others all the amazing stories embedded in my digital archive. I approached Baffour with the idea of a Tales from the Archives column ... and the rest is "Black History"! In October 2005, my first Tales column appeared under the not-so-subtle sub-title, "Britain: The Sex Problem". Based on a series of Home Office files located at the National Archives in Kew (London), the debut column focused on the race riots which swept the British ports in the summer of 1919.
At the heart of the riots was the accusation that black men, primarily from Britain's colonies, were not only taking work away from recently demobilised white British men, but also taking "their" women. …