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Diversity in Archives: Ethnic Minority Voices

Guide to searching for diverse voices within archive collections at Hull History Centre

Ethnic Minority Voices

 

Find records of ethnic minority people in the Hull History Centre collections.

Background

Finding the voices of people from ethnic minorities within archive collections can be difficult, partly because a person’s race or ethnicity is often not recorded in a record, and partly because many records relating to the lives of these communities and people have not been kept.

Ethnic minority people are not a homogeneous whole, and records representing different communities have survived at different rates. Depending on your research interests you may be able to find specialist archives to help you, such as the Black Cultural Archives or the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Collections at the University of Leeds.

Hull University Archives' collections are not yet fully representative of our society, and although this is something we are working to rectify, at the moment you may have to do some lateral thinking to identify material for your research.

Searching

To find records which do exist, using background historical knowledge of Britain can be very useful. For example, as a former colonial power, Britain controlled territories all over the world, and many people from those countries have made their homes in the UK. As a result, searching for country names such as “Montserrat” or region names such as “West Indies” can find results relating to people with this heritage. In the Hull University Archives, you’ll find documents created by Montserratian poet E. A. Markham (reference U DAM) and Jamaican physician and activist Harold Moody (reference U DMN/10/51), amongst others. Download a sample page from one of E. A. Markham's notebooks, kept in 1983 when he was in Papua New Guinea, below.

If you’re researching Hull and East Yorkshire, the website African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire contains a large amount of original research and background information which might give you some suggestions. Local newspapers can be a good starting point for this kind of research; the page on Black seamen in Hull draws heavily on pieces written in the local press. Hull History Centre offers free on-site access to the British Newspaper Archive, which includes the Hull Daily Mail and Hull Packet.

Records relating to the history of race relations in Britain can be found in several Hull University Archives collections. The majority are within the records of Liberty (reference U DCL), the civil liberties charity, but there are also files within the archives of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (reference U DJC), the Association of Chief Police Officers (reference U DPO), and several collections of MPs’ papers.

Search the Hull History Centre catalogue for “race relations”.

Records relating to immigration can also be found within the Liberty, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Association of Chief Police Officers collections. Files relating to individual cases are closed under data protection legislation, but organisational and general records are usually available to consult. Try searching for “immigration” or “immigrant” to locate records relating to both individuals and policies.

Search the Hull History Centre catalogue for “immigration”.

Bear in mind that these kinds of records may have been created about, rather than by, people from ethnic minorities. They may tell you more about the mindset of their creators than about the lives and experiences of the people within them.

University of Hull records

The University of Hull has welcomed Black students, as well as those from other ethnic groups, for many years. You can find out a little about their lives and ideas through the student newspapers which have been produced over the years (reference U SUH). In 1957, Black student Barclay Pepple wrote a rebuttal to a "satirical" piece published in the student magazine Torchlight which had referred to Black students as "sons of witchdoctors". Download a PDF copy of his letter to the editor below.

Records of the Atlantic slave trade and enslaved people

There is much more to Black history than enslavement and the slave trade. However, the impact that this trade had, and continues to have, is enormous. See our separate page for information about Hull History Centre's relevant holdings.

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