Personal Papers of John La Rose (1940s - 2010s) Archive Collection

September 8, 2021

John La Rose (1927-2006) is considered to have been one of the most important activists in Black British and Caribbean history. He was 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’s personal papers were bequeathed to the GPI on his death in 2006.

John’s personal correspondence provides: insight into the many political and social concerns of the time, his wide circle of friends, including many authors, artists and illustrators, the decision to set up the New Beacon publishing house and numerous other aspects of his life.

John regularly wrote down fragmentary details of activities, events and campaigns with which he was involved. The collection holds these many notebooks as well as manuscripts of his writing, including essays, articles, interviews and speeches. These demonstrate John’s wide interests and his analytical and original thinking. The collection also includes manuscripts of books New Beacon Books did not publish, either for financial or practical reasons.

Family photos, audio and audio-visual material also form part of the archive collection. For John, it was extremely important to record contemporary activities for future generations. Starting with the Caribbean Artists Movement in the 1960s through to the GPI in the 2000s, he made sure that organisations with which he was involved made audio recordings of as many of their activities as possible.

John appreciated art and enjoyed the creativity of painters and sculptors. As well as using original artwork for New Beacon’s own book covers by artists such as Errol Lloyd and John Hendrickse, he collected cards, calendars and other materials with black images on them as this practice increased and things started to change from the 1960s onwards. John also collected posters reflecting his cultural and political interests.

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.

To find out more details about the Personal papers of John La Rose visit archive page here.

To view a film produced by the GPI on the Ephemeral Materials Collected by John La Rose visit the Discover page.

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John La Rose as a young boy at the centre of a family photo taken in Trinidad circa 1935