Les Back - Engaging with the New Cross Massacre legacy

Les Back, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, has shared a video of his memory of the New Cross fire with the GPI. He says:

‘I was born in south London and moved to New Cross in 1981, just a few months after the Black People’s Day of Action. The New Cross Massacre was a turning point for me as a young, working-class white kid, who was trying to make sense of my close friendships with black people and my own proximity to racism within my family and in everyday life. I walked past the burnt-out house at 439 New Cross Road every day and that experience was the beginning of my involvement in anti-racist work, which led me to work at the Moonshot Youth club. That experience informed a book I wrote called New Ethnicities and Urban Culture (1996), which documented the experience of young people growing up in south London in the 1980s and included passages about the New Cross Massacre.

‘In 1993, I joined Goldsmiths College as a lecturer in Sociology and from that point onwards I started taking students and members of the local community on walks that documented the freedom and civil rights struggles that had taken place literally on the doorstep of Goldsmiths.

‘Between March and May 2017, I curated the 13 Dead Nothing Said exhibition at Goldsmiths in collaboration with the George Padmore Institute (GPI) and Autograph to bring together materials from Vron Ware’s historic photographs that documented the Black People’s Day of Action alongside documents from the GPI archive and the shameful way the demonstration was reported in the news media. As part of the exhibition, we offered workshops with local schoolchildren called “time bridges”, which created conversations with activists including Michael La Rose, Joan Anim-Addo, Roxy Harris and relatives of the victims of the massacre.

‘Nacheal Catnott and I are currently working with the GPI on recording oral history testimonies from people who were on the Black People’s Day of Action in March 1981.

You can watch the new video by Les Back on the GPI’s Discover page.

As a charity, the GPI is dependent for its income on grants and donations. Please consider supporting the GPI with a contribution towards its running costs via the Support Us page.

Sign up to our mailing list via the website!

Follow the George Padmore Institute

Twitter @GPI_Archive

Facebook George Padmore Institute

Instagram @georgepadmoreinstitute