John La Rose Collection

Collection Ref No.:

GB 2904 JLR

Date range:



Ephemeral material collected by John La Rose

This fonds consists of some of the material collected by John La Rose between the 1950s and the 1980s. Selected items from the 1990s are also included. The material chosen here covers political and cultural trends during the period, especially in the UK and Caribbean.

The JLR fonds is made up of published material, correspondence, and publicity material. The catalogue structure corresponds to the boxes in which the material was collected over the years. The 8 sub-fonds (UK Community Relations, UK Culture, UK Society and Politics, Africa, Caribbean, Cuba, East - covering the Middle East, Asia and Australasia - and North America) provide a starting point for research.

The material has been catalogued by bundle, file, or by individual publication.

Within each of the Caribbean, Africa, East, and North America sub-fonds, the material is organised into series corresponding to countries. Within the UK and Cuba sub-fonds, material is organised into series corresponding to the type and location of the producers of the records.

Within each sub-fonds there are also series for journals and/or newspapers, apart from the UK and Caribbean sub-fonds, whose journals and newspapers are located in collections GB 2904 JOU and GB 2904 NEW respectively.

All runs of journals and/or newspapers are currently incomplete, and the GPI Archive only holds one issue of some publications; please check the extent field. Often an organisation's records will be catalogued in GB 2904 JLR, for example publicity and organisational material produced by the West Indian Students Union, while any journals or newsletters, in this case the 'WISU Newsletter', is catalogued in GB 2904 JOU.

Researchers are advised to note the GPI Archive's other collections, including the Caribbean Artists Movement (GB 2904 CAM) and the New Cross Massacre Action Committee GB (2904 NCM), in both of which John La Rose was an active participant.

Related Material: GB 2904 JOU - often an organisation's records will be catalogued in the collection GB 2904 JLR, while any journals or newsletters produced by the oranisation are catalogued in GB 2904 JOU. Where this occurs, material has been cross-referenced.

Material relating to Eric and Jessica Huntley can also be found in 'The Huntley Collections' held at the London Metropolitan Archives, references LMA/4462 (Bogle-L 'Ouverture Press Limited) and LMA/4463 (Huntley, Eric and Jessica: Personal).

Admin history:


John La Rose was born in Arima, Trinidad, in 1927.  At nine he won a scholarship to St Mary's College, where he later taught before becoming an insurance executive.  He also taught in Venezuela.  He was an executive member of the Youth Council in Trinidad and produced their radio programme, 'Voice of Youth'.  In the mid-1950s he co-authored with the calypsonian Ramond Quevedo - Atilla the Hun - a pioneering study of calypso entitled Kaiso: A Review, republished in 1983 as Atilla's Kaiso.

In the 1940s John La Rose helped to found the Workers Freedom Movement and edited their journal Freedom.  He was an executive member of the Federated Workers Trade Union, later merged into the National Union of Government and Federated Workers.  He became General Secretary of the West Indian Independence Party and contested a seat in the 1956 General Election for the party.  He was also involved with the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, becoming their European representative from 1962 onwards.

John La Rose arrived in Britain in 1961. In 1966 he founded New Beacon Books, the first Caribbean publishing house, bookshop and international book service.  Growing up in a colonial society in the Caribbean made him acutely aware that colonial policy was based on a deliberate withholding of information from the population.  There was also a discontinuity of information from generation to generation.  Publishing, therefore, was a vehicle to give an independent validation to one's own culture, history and politics - a sense of self - and to make a break with discontinuity.

In 1966 John La Rose, along with the Jamaican writer and broadcaster Andrew Salkey and the Barbadian poet and historian Edward Kamau Brathwaite, co-founded the Caribbean Artists Movement, providing a platform for Caribbean artists, poets, writers, dramatists, actors and musicians (see GB 2904 CAM).  In 1972/73 he was Chairman of the Institute of Race Relations and Towards Racial Justice.

John La Rose was involved in the Black Education Movement from the late 1960s, particularly in the struggle against banding, and the placing of West Indian children in schools for the educationally sub-normal.  He founded the George Padmore Supplementary School for West Indian children in 1969 and helped found the Caribbean Education and Community Workers Association.  In the 1980s he was instrumental in setting up the National Association of Supplementary Schools, and was its Chairman for a time (see GB 2904 BEM).

In 1975, after a black schoolboy was assaulted by the police in Haringey, John La Rose and concerned parents founded the Black Parents Movement to combat the brutalisation and criminalisation of young blacks, and to agitate for youth and parent power and decent education.  The Black Parents Movement, in alliance with the Race Today Collective and the Black Youth Movement, became one of the most powerful cultural and political movements organised by blacks in Britain (see GB 2904 BPM).  The alliance formed the New Cross Massacre Action Committee in response to the New Cross fire which resulted in the death of 14 young blacks, and mobilised 20,000 black people and their supporters in March 1981 to protest the death of the young people and the failure of the police to conduct a proper investigation.  John La Rose was the Chairman of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee and gave tremendous support to the bereaved families (see GB 2904 NCM).

John La Rose was also part of many organisations focusing on international concerns.  In 1982 he helped to found Africa Solidarity, supporting the struggle against dictatorship and tyranny in Africa, and he also became Chairman of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya, also founded in 1982.  In response to the rise in fascism and xenophobia, he helped to found European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice in the late 1980s, bringing together anti-racists and anti-fascists from Britain, Belgium, Italy, France and Germany.

One of John La Rose's greatest achievements was the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (1982-95), organised jointly with Bogle L'Ouverture Books and Race Today Publications.  He was joint director with Jessica Huntley of the Book Fair and from 1984 its sole director.  John La Rose was the editor at New Beacon Books and of their journal, New Beacon Review, and published two volumes of his own poetry, Foundations (1966) and Eyelets of Truth Within Me (1992).  He also did some filmmaking in the 1970s.

The George Padmore Institute was established in 1991 and chaired by John La Rose.  The Institute continues the traditions and methods of work that New Beacon Books and the organisations connected with it have developed since 1966.

John La Rose died on 28 February 2006.  He is part of a Caribbean tradition of radical and revolutionary activism whose input has reverberated across continents.

Custodial History:

The material in this collection was gifted to the George Padmore Institute by John La Rose (1927-2006).  The collection is accruing and more deposits are expected over time.