21 October 2021

Black History Month: Black Poppies in south-west England? Black and Asian experiences during World War One

Where are the Black poppies in the south-west of England?

World War One is often portrayed as a ‘white man’s war’. The focus on the fighting front, in Europe at least, relegated the contribution of most non-European soldiers. They provided essential labour for the less glamorous logistical needs of British and dominion forces.

Stories collected during the centenary of the conflict, however, reveal a multi-layered and more inclusive picture. They highlight the participation of African, Chinese, Caribbean and other indigenous peoples to Britain’s war effort.

Part one

Using Southwest England as a lens, Dr Kent Fedorovich will explore two parallel themes.

Firstly, how did Black and Asian people within the empire contribute to Britain’s war effort?  Indigenous labour was a critical resource which the British exploited ruthlessly. This provided military force in Africa and the Middle East, but also logistical support on the Western Front.

Secondly, where are the Black poppies in the south-west of England? Have any stories been unearthed, and, if so, what do they tell us about the region and its society at such a pinnacle moment in world history?

Part two

The second part of the event will be delivered by Tony T, co-founder of Sweet Patootee Arts. In 1997 Tony T and colleague Rebecca Goldstone became the UK’s first Arts and Heritage practitioners to record the story of a Black British West Indies Regiment veteran.

Further interviews with Black Caribbean WW1 veterans, alongside testimonies from Black Caribbean women, led to creation of MUTINY (1999). As the UK’s first Black ‘participation-led’ project, this explored real-life Black British Caribbean experiences in the First World War. Back then precious little of this heritage was readily available in physical collections or online. Black Caribbean voices of that conflict had been ‘silenced’ for 80-odd years.

Tony’s presentation will reveal how subsequent research and interviews led him to reassess this story and its impact.

Speakers:

  • Dr Kent Fedorowich, Reader in British and Imperial Commonwealth History, University of the West of England
  • Tony T – Arts & Heritage Practitioner with Sweet Patootee Arts

How to take part

This free, online talk will be held over Zoom. Please book your place below. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration email. Please check your spam folder if the email does not arrive. Bookings close at 4pm on Thursday 21 October.

Although this talk is free, we would be grateful if you could consider making a donation.

Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings. Please allow extra time before the talk begins to make sure everything is working correctly. It’s up to you whether you turn on your video but all guests will be muted once the talk begins. You are welcome to ask questions in the chat box throughout the talk.

This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk in partnership with M Shed seminar series.

Image courtesy of Ian Chard. The photograph shows survivors of an attack by a Gloucestershire regiment on German lines, 19 July 1916.