This collection comprises the personal papers of John La Rose (1927-2006), founder and first Chair of the George Padmore Institute (GPI) and co-founder of New Beacon Books, Britain's first black publishing house, bookshop and international book service. John La Rose is considered to have been one of the most important activists in Black British and Caribbean history. He died in 2006 and bequeathed his personal papers to the GPI.

The collection includes personal correspondence files, notebooks, the majority of his own manuscripts, family photos, audio and audio-visual material. This is supplemented by files of contextual material plus examples of posters and artwork of interest to him. The collection ends with tributes and tribute events surrounding JLR's funeral in 2006.

Delegates seated shoulder to shoulder down a long, narrow table in a poorly lit room. They are listening to translations on their headphones. Each part of the table is marked with the name of a country and the signs nearest the camera are for individual Caribbean islands.
John La Rose (third on left of table) at the Fourth World Festival of Youth and Students 1953, Bucharest, Romania

Personal correspondence files (1950s-2006): these reflect John's wide circle of friends, friendships and interests and provide many insights into the concerns of the time. A substantial amount of correspondence concerns John's interest in publishing, his decision to set up the New Beacon publishing house with the assistance of Sarah White in 1966 and its later expansion into bookselling. There are files of correspondence with individual authors, artists and illustrators and publishing companies. John corresponded with people from the Caribbean, Africa, the USA, South America, France, India as well as in the UK. He was also interested in numerous organisations, both in the UK and abroad, and these are present in this collection.

Notebooks: John never kept a regular diary. But he always had a notebook to hand. Much of his writing is half-finished, fragmentary and in note form. However, spanning much of John's life in Britain, his notebooks hold details on major activities, events and campaigns in which he was involved.

Manuscripts: John was always interested in what people were writing and as a publisher he received numerous manuscripts and was asked to be a judge for various writing competitions. New Beacon Books received many more manuscripts than it could publish itself, either for financial or practical reasons.

There are also manuscripts of John's own writing. He did not write large books but he did write numerous essays, articles and tributes; he gave interviews and speeches. These all reflected his wide interests, serious analysis, original thinking, imagination and hope. Many of these were published during his lifetime - mainly in magazines, newspapers, journals and anthologies.

Art work: John appreciated and enjoyed the creativity of painters and sculptors. His friend from Trinidad, Art Derry, designed the logo for New Beacon Books as well as the cover designs for many of New Beacon's first titles. Original art work for later titles included paintings by Errol Lloyd and John Hendrickse. He was also interested in the increasing public use of black images from the 1960s onwards and would collect any cards or calendars that had black images to show how things were changing. The posters he collected represented his cultural and political interests, both activities that he had been involved in himself or ones that he was interested in or supported from a distance.

Black and white photo taken outdoors under a tree, with a garden wall and vegetation behind. John stands at the centre, surrounded by his siblings, with parents sitting at the front of the group.
John La Rose as a young boy at the centre of a family photo, presumably taken in Trinidad c. 1935

Photographs: a selection of photographs represents different aspects of John’s life and interests - his family, friends, the people he met, activities - and there are also more formal photos of John taken for particular occasions.

Contextual Material: John did not always have the time (or space) to file material of interest to him, especially topic-related material, so it would be put into a box with a general subject heading. The majority of the boxes relate to specific countries or regions.

Audio and Audio Visual: John was very aware how important it was to record contemporary activities for the information of future generations. Starting with the Caribbean Artists Movement in the 1960s through to the GPI in the 2000s, he always tried to make sure that organisations with which he was involved made audio recordings of as many of their activities as possible. He was also interested in receiving any audio or audio visual records from other activities and events, including copies of his own interviews or talks.  

Tributes: many written tributes were sent to the family, the GPI and New Beacon Books in the days and months following John's death. Numerous tribute events were organised, both big and small. They reflected his wide range of friends and contacts and the international spread of his ideas and influence.


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