James Baldwin Plaque Unveiling

Friday 17 May 10am

James Baldwin author, poet and activist is a legendary figure in literature and US Civil Rights history. He marched with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, debated at Cambridge, argued with US presidents and gave incredible speeches. He spent a great deal of time in London and often lent his status to support local anti-racist campaigners.

The 18th May 1953, is when Baldwins first book ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ was published. That book launched his stellar career where he produced classics like the Fire Next Time,If Beale Street could Talk and Notes of a Native Son etc.

In July 1985, Baldwin visited the CLR James library in Hackney. Hackney council had declared 1985 a Year of Anti-Racism. The library had been re-named after the Pan-Africanist historian and author of the revolutionary ‘Black Jacobins’, CLR James, due to intense activism by local anti-racist groups.

In the early 1980s the Hackney Ethnic Minorities Library Consultative Committee had picketed offices, occupied the Town Hall, lobbied, campaigned and successfully got the libraries to stock Black history books and remove racist literature.

On the Friday 17th May 10am 2024 we will unveil a Nubian Jak Blue Plaque to recognise Baldwin’s presence and the link to Black British Civil rights.

In the weeks preceding and following the unveiling there will be a number of walks,talks, films and workshops about local anti-racist groups of the 1980s as well as reviews of James Baldwin’s speeches and books.

Look out for a fantastic season of events and an exhibition about the HCDA (Hackney Community Defence Association) and their incredible story of fighting police brutality and corruption. See Hackney Library website for details or Instagram.

We Remember HCDA Exhibition will open at Hackney Archives upstairs at CLR James Library, Dalston Lane on April 4th

Also look out for events celebrating Antiagha Adiha the amazing Hackney activist who set up Hackney Community Voluntary Service in 1995

This unveiling is brought to you in collaboration with: Black History Walks, Hackney CSV, Hackney Libraries , Jacaranda Books, Hackney Archives, Nubian Jak, WaywiveWords and PenguinRandomHouse.

We also hope to have represenation from Medgar Evers College in New York. Medgar Evers was a World War 2 hero, a Civil Rights activist and good friend of Baldwin’s. He was assasinated in 1963 for campaigning to end American apartheid. The College is named in his honour.

Full programme, timetable , livestream link and book giveaway details will be sent to those who register

For more on Black British Civil Rights see our book, ‘Black History Walks in London Vol 1’ (see image below) available from Jacaranda Books

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This plaque is produced by Nubian Jak and sponsored by Black History Walks.

Correcting the lack of historical blue plaques to Black people

Blue Plaques are associated with English Heritage but according to their own research only 4% of their 900 London plaques represent Black and Asian people, the percentage of Black people in London is 40% https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/search-news/diversity-blue-plaques/ In 2016 they set up an initiative to find evidence for more diverse plaques. B.A.S.A, the Black and Asian Studies Association has been submitting names and lobbying for more Black people on plaques since the 1990s.

Out of 900 English Heritage plaques in London, only 18 are about Black people or just 2%. Their blue plaque scheme goes back to 1866. English Heritage is a body that was set up in 1983. Their budget is around £180 million.

The Nubian Jak charity has unveiled 95 plaques and two statues honouring African/Caribbean people. They were established in 2006 and do not have even 1% of the English Heritage budget.

Other coming events from Black History Walks

  • Black History Bus tour
  • Black History River cruise
  • Fighting the Slavemaster walk
  • Regents Canal walk and cruise
  • Harlem in Mayfair walk
  • Trafalgar Square walk
  • The Little Mermaid’s real Black history and the books to prove it
  • African Superheroes Day
  • How to rip off Black historians

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