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‘SLAVERY IS STILL ALIVE’ - Black Power and slavery in Britain 1967-72

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This paper recovers concepts of slavery and emancipation advanced by black radicals living in Britain who identified themselves with Black Power. It focuses on the defining period of the movement in Britain: from Stokely Carmichael’s speech at the Dialectics of Liberation conference in July 1967, to the arrest of the Oval 4 in March 1972. In essence, it argues that, despite profound disagreements within the Black Power movement, all agreed on the continuing significance of slavery. Second, that slavery was accorded a central role in historical narratives constructed to explain and defend the new movement. Third, that (along with fascism, apartheid, and colonialism) slavery was used as a type to described and critique contemporary Britain. Finally, while all agreed that slavery was, in some sense, highly significant, the nature and lessons of slavery, and the relationship between slavery and contemporary Britain, were contested.

While the paper primary focuses on the movement in Britain, it situates the movement within its international context. Therefore, it traces the influence of the 1968 Montreal Congress of Black Writers – Towards the Second Emancipation, the example of American radicals, and Trinidad’s 1970 Black Power Revolution on the British movement.

This talk is part of the Homerton Seminars series.

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