“Let the Unarchived Speak!”: Blair digital collection charts Black British progress

By Thomas L Blair 30 October 2021 ©

Black Britons entered the 21st century hard hit but aspiring for advancement. Fortunately, the onset of the internet paved the way for a mini-boom in their social media use.

But left unarchived, their needs and demands will remain benignly neglected. Left unrecorded, the gap will surely comprise all presumptions about Black opinion.

However, since 1997 my British-based Thomas L Blair Digital Collection has been a free digital account of the popular Black social and intellectual contributions to the national heritage.

It comprises two parts. One is the weblog chronicleworld.co.uk, a news journal on Black Britain, Afro-Europe and the Diaspora. In addition, there are more than 84 works in the Blair E-book Collection in the British Library catalog http://explore.bl.uk/  and the Library’s Social Welfare Portal of web-based material from the UK domain. https://bit.ly/3izGv0n

 The Chronicleworld Weblog
A good starting point is the current Chronicleworld Weblog. Here readers discover a range of “how’s”. How Black public intellectuals revitalise race pride and identity.  How activists organise movements to counter prejudice and discrimination.  And how ordinary folk add the “sounds of blackness” to their aspirations for equity and justice.

There are plenty of “who’s”, too. Black innovators are shaping the bonds of mutual aid and self-help in communities. They include

  • The grassroots organisers of informal kith and kin banking systems such as West African esusu and Caribbean pardners
  • The evangelical preachers who can rip out the fixtures in a shop, build a pulpit, add a piano and chairs – and produce a church and a hymn-singing, body-swaying congregation.
  • The militant youth  thrusting Blackness into an expanding world view
  • Unheralded doctors, health care workers, engineers, scientists and web innovators
  • Street pastors working to lift the veil of youth’s tears
  • Promoters of fraternal alliances between trade unions and Black workers
  • Guerrilla writers, artists, lettered elites, broadcasters, musicians, griots, calypsonians, poets and public intellectuals united against racism.
  • The University-Community based advocates for positive institutional change in education and local government
  • Black Power-saluting members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Agenda-setting activists for reparations for centuries of injustice.

The Blair E-book Collection in the British Library
The Blair E-books Collection in the British Library is part of a rising tide of critical studies of neglected “minority interests”. Freely available to readers. it merits a place in schools and universities and on the networks of policymakers and community organisers. And there are three reasons why.

First, it complements courses in the Applied Social Sciences, Literature and Cultural Studies and, equally, can augment Business Management courses aiming to attract and train future Black achievers.

Second, the Collection can also contribute to Race, Gender and Equality courses that need a greater appreciation of Black women in sports, fashion, arts culture and music, and in business, public affairs and government.

Third, the Collection has especial value for Black History and race relations archive and libraries. It can help community organisers close the information gap. Moreover, it assists the social service of inter-faith and inter-racial groups, immigrant associations and anti-racist campaigners.

Therein lies the goal and substance of the Thomas L Blair Digital Collection. Together it chronicles not only popular trends but reveals honest dialogues about common and unique challenges. I hope it will place and secure the Black Experience in the archives of the British national intellectual heritage and public affairs.

Note on the author
 Professor Thomas L Blair BA, MA, PhD, a sociologist, cyber-scholar and member of the National Union of Journalists, brings to these resources decades of work in community informatics and freedom of expression. An American of West Indian heritage and long-time resident in England, he has a unique trans-national focus on the Black Experience in Britain, Afro-Europe and the Diaspora.