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Mix-d: Museum Press Release

Published by Brad on 1 October 2012

Unique online resource on History of Mixed Race Britain launched by Mix-d.

Black History Month takes place this October and the 2011 Census data due out in November is widely expected to show a ‘mixed’ population in the UK in excess of one million.  Mix-d is therefore delighted to be able to announce the formal launch of their ‘Mixed Race Timeline’ hosted by Mix-d, one of the UK’s most high profile and well known organisation dedicated to supporting young people from mixed backgrounds.  The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims to gather in one place information about the history of racial mixing in Britain. Mixed Race Timeline draws on material from a British Academy-funded project conducted by Dr Chamion Caballero (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University) and Dr Peter Aspinall (University of Kent) which explored the presence of mixed race people, couples and families in the early 20th century, and is supported and showcased by Bradley Lincoln, the founder of Mix-d.

Mixed Race Timeline is the UK’s first history project to deal specifically with the story of mixed race people, couples and families in Britain. Currently focusing on the period from 1900 to present day, the Timeline is a rich interactive, entertaining and information-packed resource.  Bursting with fascinating and surprising stories it unearths a hidden narrative that has only recently begun to be disinterred form the dusty archives of British history.  Fascinating stories emerge: Mixed race relationships on the Titanic; Marie Stopes recommending that all ‘half castes’ should be sterilised and Julian Huxley’s powerful anti-racist polemic claiming that all Europeans are of mixed race.  The Mixed Timeline aims to educate and disseminate facts about, and lived experiences of, racial and ethnic mixing in Britain .  The project sourced a huge range of archival material from national and local archives. It included official documents, autobiographical recordings and photo and film material to understand how social perceptions of racial mixing and mixedness have emerged and changed during the twentieth century to date.

Dr Caballero said

“We had hoped to find some records and personal accounts relating to these families and people, but what we found far exceeded our expectations. The project has helped us to understand more about the experiences of these families and the effect that official attitudes to racial mixing and mixedness had on their lives”.

Peter Aspinall commented

“Over the last year we have been able to bring our history of mixed race up to the present day, culminating in the centre stage position accorded mixed race in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games. The Timeline is therefore a unique record of mixing and mixedness over more than a century”

Bradley Lincoln the founder of Mix-d said:

“I’m delighted to host and support this unique British project. Our aim at Mix-d: is to complement existing histories and theories on mixed-race identity and ensure a full and balanced picture is communicated. The Mix-d: Timeline highlights the many hidden stories and experiences of an often invisible population.”

The project’s findings indicated that while mixed race people, couples and families certainly experienced prejudice and hostility in this ‘era of moral condemnation’, they were not inherently ‘tragic’, ‘marginal’ or ‘doomed’, but simply another part of the longstanding diversity and difference that is a feature of British life.

For further information:

Contact Bradley Lincoln, Founder and Director Mix-d
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Publicity/Interviews with Bradley Lincoln: Dr Chamion Caballero or Peter Aspinall pls contact:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call her on 07538992219.

Editor’s notes:

Mixed Race timeline is supported by a grant from The Arts and Humanities Council, under its Digital Transformations Research Development grant scheme. The team are in the process of seeking funding to develop the Timeline further, both in terms of expanding its current content and identifying pre-20th century material.

The first phase of research from the project informed some of BBC Two’s Mixed Race Season (2011). Findings from the British Academy-funded study formed the foundations of the three part BBC2 series Mixed Britannia (Oct-Nov 2011). Drs Caballero and Aspinall acted as academic consultants for the series and Dr Caballero featured in programme three.

Mix-d: is a self funded social enterprise.

Archive Photos

Published by Chamion Caballero on 15 May 2012

When we started the research project the Timeline is based on, one of the most fascinating things for us was coming across so many old photos of mixed race people, couples and families. Though we knew from newspaper accounts, official reports, social studies and other documents that racial mixing was prevalent throughout the 20th century (and of course way before that), it was still astonishing to see evidence of this in photographs, especially those of ‘ordinary’ families as opposed to more famous historical figures.

As the 20th century unfolded, Britain was still the world’s largest empire and many people from its colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East – as well as other parts of the world – had come to the country to work, study or visit. Though these people settled all over the country, they were often most visible in large cities such as Cardiff, Liverpool and London, particularly in port community neighbourhoods where a great many settled.

Many of the images we came across were consequently found in local archives of cities such as Bristol. Like many port cities in Britain, Bristol has a long history of black and minority ethnic people, many of whom had relationships and families with local white British inhabitants. For example, Eliza and Mabel are the granddaughters of Henry Parker, a black American former slave, who married Louisa, a white Bristolian, around 1850. This picture of them was taken in the early 1900s. Bristol Record Office has a wonderful collection relating to the Parker family and they have kindly granted us permission to include their photos, amongst others, in the Timeline. Being able to include such amazing photos of ordinary mixed race families and people is a fantastic way to highlight their historical presence – a picture truly does speak a thousand words.

Chamion and Peter

The Laroche family, circa 1910

Published by Brad on 16 March 2012

Since our last blog entry, we have been busy trying to map out the layout for the Timeline and organise our material for inclusion on it which, due to the amount of material we have, is an enjoyable but challenging task. We’ve also been trying to conduct some additional research in Manchester.

The city wasn’t one of our original project sites but given that Mix-d is a Manchester based organisation, we thought it would be great if we could include some Mancunian experiences in the Timeline. We’ve been lucky enough to have a fantastic volunteer come on board to help us with this – Catherine Poust, a final year Archaeology and Ancient History undergraduate at the University of Manchester, is currently sourcing material from Manchester archives and has already unearthed some great stuff, including some biographies, photos and newspaper accounts. Catherine says that ‘I got involved with the Mix:d Museum because I saw the importance of this really fascinating investigation and wanted to contribute from a local perspective. So far it’s been a very interesting journey.’

In addition to Catherine’s Manchester-based research, the project team are currently concentrating on mapping out the Timeline during the years 1900-1920. Although this wasn’t a timeframe we primarily focused on in our original project, we nevertheless gathered lots of material from this period, most of which has lain around in folders, so it’s nice to be able to go through and get reacquainted with it. Focusing on the first part of the 20th century has also meant the chance to do some additional research and over the last week we’ve been following up details of a clipping we originally collected about a mixed race family who were on board the Titanic.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1911 dominated the British media in the months that followed. So, though Joseph, an upper-class Haitian engineer and his French wife, Juliette, weren’t British, we have decided to include their story in the Timeline as it illustrates very well the aim of our current project: to contribute towards the often overlooked presence of minority ethnic groups, particularly mixed race couples, family and people, in British history.

The story of the Laroche family, like that of the majority of the passengers on the Titanic, has a tragic ending; though Joseph managed to get the pregnant Juliette and their daughters on to a lifeboat and thus to safety, he lost his life during the sinking of the ship. As well as being moved by this part of the story, we have also been really interested to read about the Laroche family’s experiences on board ship. It appears that while they integrated and made friends with other families and passengers on the Titanic, they also experienced racial prejudice. Apparently the Titanic’s crew were so hostile to the Laroches and other ‘non-white’ passengers that the White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic, later issued a public apology for the crew’s derogatory statements and behaviour.

The combination of ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ experiences of the Laroche family in their daily lives due to their mixedness are a common theme in the accounts of mixed race couples, people and families. We hope that the Timeline will give some insights into this complexity and diversity and help provide a more informed and nuanced understanding of the history of the minority ethnic presence in Britain.

Chamion and Peter

Hello and a big welcome to our blog!

Published by Chamion Caballero on 27 February 2012

Hello and a big welcome to our blog! We are delighted to be working with Mix-d: to share the findings of our research on mixed race people, couples and families in early 20th century Britain through the creation of the Mix-d: Timeline. The Timeline will provide highlight many key events in the history of racial mixing and mixedness in twentieth century Britain, as well provide an insight into the everyday lives and experiences of mixed race people, couples and families during this time.

For this first blog entry, we thought we’d say a bit about why we started the research project that the Timeline will draw on and what we found along the way.

As researchers interested in mixed race people, couples and families, we were aware that the little history that had been told about this group - particularly around the interwar period - had assumed that theirs was an inherently negative or problematic experience. We were also aware that such perceptions continued to influence how mixed people, couples and families were seen in Britain today.

Knowing that contemporary research on racial mixing has tried to challenge perceptions of mixed race people, couples and families in Britain today by asking them about their experiences, rather than assuming what these are, we were keen to see if we could identify earlier accounts that might also cause us to revise our understandings of these groups in early 20th century Britain. In particular, we were keen to compare ‘official’ accounts – e.g. government reports, social science research, newspaper articles, etc. – with those of mixed race people, couples and families themselves. Since we weren’t sure what sort of material might be available, we applied for a grant from the British Academy to allow us to conduct a small-scale exploratory project in this area. The grant allowed us to visit national and local archives, libraries and museums – mainly in the dockland areas of London, Liverpool and Cardiff where we already knew many mixed race couples had met and raised children had settled in the early 20th century.

We had hoped to find some records and personal accounts relating to these families and people, but what we found far exceeded our expectations. The project sourced a fantastic range of archival material, including official documents, autobiographical recordings and photo and film material, which has helped us to understand more about the experiences of these families and the effect that official attitudes to racial mixing and mixedness had on their lives.

Thanks to a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council, we’ll be working with Mix-d: over the next few months to turn our findings into the Timeline which will show key events as well as extracts from documents, photos and video and audio footage. We’ll be keeping you updated on our progress through the blog – feel free to contact us or leave a message if you have any questions or comments. The Timeline is a work-in-progress so we’re interested to hear if there’s anything in particular you think it’s important to include or that we’ve overlooked. We hope that the Timeline will act as its own archive and, over time, that we can expand and add to it further, including through uploading the memories and accounts of Mix-d: readers.

Many thanks for reading so far and we’ll be blog again soon.

Chamion and Peter

Background to the project

Published by Peter Aspinall on 24 February 2012

Anglo-Chinese family, Liverpool, 1930s.

This work-in-progress Timeline draws on material from a British Academy project conducted by Dr Chamion Caballero (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University) and Dr Peter Aspinall (University of Kent) which explored the presence of mixed race people, couples and families in the early 20th century, particularly in the period 1920-1950, a time when racial mixing and mixedness tended to be viewed very negatively by British authorities.

The project sourced a range of archival material from national and local archives. It included official documents, autobiographical recordings and photo and film material to understand how social perceptions of racial mixing and mixedness emerged and the effect they had on the lives of mixed race people, couples and families themselves, as well as their place in shaping contemporary ideas and experiences.

The project’s findings indicated that while mixed race people, couples and families certainly experienced prejudice and hostility in this ‘era of moral condemnation’, they were not inherently ‘tragic’, ‘marginal’ or ‘doomed’, but simply another part of the longstanding diversity and difference that is a feature of British life.

The findings from the research formed the foundation of the three part BBC2 series ‘Mixed Britannia’ presented by George Alagiah and was also the subject of an article in The Guardian. For more information on the research, please see the Mix-d: Timeline Team’s Blog or LSBU’s web page.