The George Padmore Institute’s (GPI) collections fall into two main parts: a) archives, which are the historical records of organisations, campaigns, events and individuals (mostly unpublished) and b) library materials, such as previously published journals and magazines. The bulk of materials are from the personal archive of the GPI’s late founder John La Rose, a leading black anti-racist and anti-imperialist educator, publisher, and political and cultural activist. In addition, there are smaller collections that the GPI has acquired.
Most of the archival records held by the GPI are records of struggles, both originating from and providing information on struggles in the UK, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, as well as other regions of the world. The records are either unique or held in only a small number of other institutions in the UK and elsewhere. They are the records of key organisations and individuals in struggle, in the context of what were nationally and internationally significant campaigns and movements, especially from the 1960s to the 1990s. For example, the anti-Apartheid movement, human rights struggles in post-independence Kenya, struggles against police brutality, racist discrimination in education and health, struggles around publishing, culture and access to information and many other areas.
The GPI’s library materials include a wide range of journals and magazines on different aspects of what can loosely be termed 'emancipatory' or progressive movements and ideas, including socialism, feminism, anti-racism, pan-Africanism, Marxism and internationalist solidarity more generally. These are predominantly from the 1950s to the 2000s and many of them are long-since out of print and difficult to find. The collection includes journals and magazines on Africa, Caribbean, Asia, Latin America, Britain, western Europe and some international material from socialist bloc and trade unions associated with it, which is now quite rare to find. The materials are mostly in English with some journals in Spanish and French.
Many of the GPI's holdings are from the 1950s to the 2000s, a period characterised by its creativity and hope but also new complexities of emerging struggles. On the one hand, major anti-racist struggles were being waged in Britain by people who had recently settled here from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia and important gains were made. At the same time, it was a period in which formerly colonised countries were winning their independence or were already in the process of nation building following independence. It was also a period in which British imperialism was often replaced by a rising US neo-colonialism and domination from US companies, as well as being shaped by the Cold War tensions at the international level. Much of this is recorded in detail and from the vantage point of actors intimately involved in these developments and the debates which they provoked. It is a period that is increasingly outside of social and living memory but many of the issues which shaped the period remain extremely relevant today. Consequently, the records and other materials in the GPI’s collections offer an important resource for understanding this historical period, both as a goal in its own right and also to gain a historical basis for thinking about the issues facing society today.