Openings Museums Heritage United Kingdom

Let us remember famous black men and women

African and Caribbean cultural archive opens £7m new home in Brixton, London

A pioneering exhibition, undated, 1980s

It has been a long journey, but today, 24 July, the dream of opening a permanent home for the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, south London, has become a reality. The archive and history centre, which records and celebrates the achievement of Black Britons, opens its doors.

The Black Cultural Archives was established in 1981 by members of the African-Caribbean community. Among the founders was the Jamaican-born academic, Len Garrison. He and fellow activists were pioneers of researching and collecting the evidence of the black contribution to British history. They were in part motivated by a desire to remember the servicemen and women who fought in the First and Second World Wars. The artist and film director Steve McQueen has used the archives to research films and other projects.

The £7m project to convert and extend an historic building that had fallen into disrepair in the heart of Brixton includes an outdoor courtyard for performances and events. The archive overlooks Windrush Square, which is named after SS Empire Windrush in which more than 400 black migrants, many ex-servicemen, sailed from the Caribbean to London in 1948. The archive's new home is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lambeth Council, the Mayor of London, Bloomberg, J. Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, among others.

The archive's inaugural exhibition (until 30 November) chronicles the history of Black women in Britain, including the remarkable Jamaican-Scottish hero of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, who travelled under her own steam and at great risk to supply British troops near the front with home comforts while nursing the wounded.

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