Friends host black history walk

‘Whose stories have been omitted?’

'We wondered what Black and Quaker histories are not so well known in and around the building we work in, Friends House London?’ | Photo: Tony Warner, leading the black history walk

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) staff from its BAME network hosted a specially commissioned walk last week exploring Quaker and black history in the streets surrounding Friends House.

Rebecca Woo, BYM’s campaigns coordinator and member of the BAME network, told the Friend that the walk was led by Tony Warner from Black History Walks, which runs trails around London. ‘We also connected their team with our library staff so they have also made use of our archives to put together the walk.’

‘As network coordinators, we first dreamt up the project during Black History Month in October 2021. We wondered what Black and Quaker histories are not so well known in and around the building we work in, Friends House London?’

The tour began in the Library of the Society of Friends, where the walkers learned about events held at (or in collaboration with) Friends House throughout the 1900s to support the black community. ‘We discovered how the building had hosted Harold Moody (the UK’s Martin Luther King) and the League of Coloured Peoples; Angela Davis; James Baldwin; Bayard Rustin; and Oliver Tambo (Nelson Mandela’s right hand man), among others.’

‘Over the next hour we wove our way around the surrounding streets, visiting locations just on our doorstep: St Pancras New Church; the British Medical Association; UCL [University College London]; Gordon Square; SOAS [University of London]; and Senate House. Although we only covered an area within ten minutes’ walk, the streets were full of very different stories about Black history to those we are taught and of links to Quakers that we did not know about.’

Edwina Peart, diversity and inclusion coordinator, described it as ‘a lovely walk in which we were reminded of historic Quaker support for issues of justice and equity – also, the importance of unravelling the nuances and truth of the story that is told’.

Rebecca Woo said the project served as a timely reminder ‘to look more closely at what is right in front of us. And of the importance of challenging history curriculums and conversations to be more diverse. Whose stories have been omitted or overshadowed? Why? How can we tell their stories instead and be more honest about our own?’

She added that, although it was commissioned initially for network members, there is potential for it to be offered to other members of the Quaker community.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.