Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)DA6
TitleBirmingham Black Oral History Project Archive
Extent6 boxes
DescriptionListening cassettes and transcripts of interviews with African Caribbean and South Asian migrants to Birmingham after 1945, together with photographs of some interviewees and publicity and administrative material relating to the Birmingham Black Oral History Project. There are recordings of interviews with twenty four named participants who had individual interviews, and recordings of two group sessions at which a number of interviewees spoke. There is also a recording of an interview with an unidentified interviewee. There is evidence elsewhere in the Birmingham Black Oral History Project archive that other interviews may have been undertaken but not recorded.

Interviewees were both men and women who ranged in age from those born in the 1910s to those born in the 1950s. Most interviews were made in English but there are a small number in South Asian languages. The content of the interviews typically includes discussion of early life and education; family, economic, social, cultural, and religious life in the interviewees' place of origin; their expectations and experiences on arrival in Britain; their motivations and intentions on coming to Britain; experiences of racism; reactions to cultural and social differences and religious experiences; and their struggles to establish communities within British society. Many of the interviewees also reflect on change and continuity in experiences since their arrival in Britain and express their thoughts about the experiences of black and Asian communities in Britain in the early 1990s.

The recordings consist of 72 audio cassettes, with a duplicate set. Original transcripts exist for 11 of the interviews, though some of these transcripts are incomplete or exist in draft form only. New transcripts for many of the interviews were made by staff at the Cadbury Research Library in 2021.

In addition to the recordings and transcripts there are several sets of photographs of interview participants and their families and of Project workers, as well as images of Handsworth and Project promotion events in the 1990s. The archive also contains some administrative papers generated by or collected by Project members, relating to the management of the project and to some of its activities, as well as to some African Caribbean and South Asian communities which were active in Birmingham in the early 1990s and which the Project may have worked with.

The archive as a whole, and particularly the interviews, is a valuable and significant record of the experiences and thoughts of a group of post-war migrants to Birmingham
ArrangementRecords have been arranged into the following sections:
DA6/1: Recordings
DA6/2: Transcripts
DA6/3: Photographs and project publicity materials
DA6/4: Project management papers and associated material

The files of administrative papers in DA4 were arranged by Birmingham Black Oral History Project members or by staff at the Orchard Learning Resource Centre
Access ConditionsThese interviews contain personal information covered by Data Protection regulations. Only some participants in the Birmingham Black Oral History Project gave informed consent for their interviews to be made available to researchers. Where this is the case both the interview recording and transcript are open for research. Where participants did not give informed consent, or there is no evidence of this, a closure period has been applied to both interview recordings and transcripts in order to ensure compliance with this legislation. In most cases, closure of the recordings and transcripts is for the lifetime of individuals where known, or 100 years. A small number of interviews remain closed in accordance with the wishes of family members of participants
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue.
Access StatusPartially closed
Administrative HistoryThe Birmingham Black Oral History Project was established in 1990 by a group of organisations and individuals who wanted to preserve the memories of the oldest living generation of African Caribbean and South Asian migrants to Birmingham by recording, preserving, and maintaining an archive of oral history and photographic material. It aimed to collect and disseminate oral history, focusing on the older population of migrants who came to Birmingham in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, to recapture and record their memories of the places they were born and grew up, their immigration to Birmingham, and their lives in Britain.

Project members included representatives from the Asian Resource Centre, the University of Birmingham, the West Midlands Oral History Group, the Indian Workers Association, and the University of Warwick, as well as individuals. A management committee, including a chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, and treasurer, was set up to ensure the project met its aims and objectives. The Project received financial support from Birmingham City Council, the Bryant Trust, the Barrow and Geraldine S. Cadbury Trust, the William A. Cadbury Trust, Central Telethon, the Digbeth Trust, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Hilden Charitable Fund, and West Midlands Arts.

The Project aimed to collect and record oral history interviews and to train people from ethnic minority communities and others in the skills needed for the collection and recording of material. It planned to publish collected and related material in various forms for educational and other purposes, and to encourage the further recording of the oral history of ethnic minority communities in Birmingham and elsewhere. It intended to work with with other organisations and projects to achieve its aims and to run workshops for schools, develop educational and training materials, make films for video and television, make tapes or plays for radio, work with theatre and the music industry.

The Project set up a centre at 70 Villa Road in Handsworth to provide a base from which to raise awareness about its work among potential interviewees and arts organisations. It raised funds for the ongoing survival of the Project and to acquire or have access to video and sound recording equipment. It also planned to recruit or train interviewees and technicians. In 1992 the Project centre was staffed by Samera Charles and Ravi Thiara, assisted by a team of volunteers.

Oral history interviews were undertaken between 1990 and 1992, with most dated 1991-1992. Interviewers included Doreen Price, Siobhan Nunes, Ken Francis, Ravi Thiara, and Ranjit Sondhi. Some of the interviews took place at group sessions at community centres for older African Caribbean or South Asian people but most were with individuals on a one to one basis. Interviews were semi-structured, following a set of questions, and were recorded on tape. Copies of the interviews were deposited at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery for inclusion in Birmingham City Sound Archive.

Project activities appear to have ceased after 1992, and in the late 1990s Project members began to discuss the deposit of the archive for permanent preservation. An agreement was made in 1999 to donate the archive to the Selly Oak Colleges.
Custodial HistoryThe archive of the Birmingham Black Oral History Project was deposited in the Orchard Learning Resources Centre in September 1999. In 2000, the custodianship of all archive collections held at the Orchard Learning Resources Centre was transferred to the University of Birmingham
OriginalsThe originals of the tape recordings are deposited in Birmingham City Sound Archive, housed in the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery
CopiesThe recordings were digitised in at Special Collections in 2020 and preservation and access copies in wav and mp3 format are stored in Special Collections' digital repository. Some of the recordings deposited in Birmingham City Sound Archive were digitised by Birmingham Museums Trust in 2021 and are stored in its digital asset management system.
Access to digitised copies of the oral history interviews that are open for research is either online via Birmingham Museums Trust online library or at Special Collections. Please see the catalogue records for each interview recording and transcript and contact Special Collections for more information about access
Associated MaterialsBirmingham Museums has digitised some of the interviews of people who arrived in Birmingham as part of the Windrush Generation and these are available via its online library. See URL
Audio and transcriptions of some of the interviews have been made available at (Accessed June 2016). See URL for archived version
Publication NoteA project booklet 'The Land of Money?' was published in 1992 with an accompanying set of 2 audio cassettes comprising extracts from some of the oral history interviews.
Free copies of the booklet and audio cassette are available from Special Collections, while stock lasts


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