ARU students showcase mixed race histories as part of their ‘Live Briefs’

First year history and politics undergraduates at Anglia Ruskin University unveiled the results of their hard work at Professor Lucy Bland’s recent 'Live Briefs' seminar. Presenting in teams to Dr Chamion Caballero, The Mixed Museum’s Director, the students showcased the findings they had gathered on different aspects of Britain’s mixed race history, part of their assignment to apply their research skills to real world historical enquiries.

Chamion Caballero with first year students at Anglia Ruskin University
Chamion with some of the presenting students at ARU.

The ‘Live Briefs’ task: finding mixed race histories in archives

ARU’s ‘Live Briefs’ scheme challenges students to apply their academic skills to real-world projects as part of their end of year assessments. Continuing our long term partnership with Professor Lucy Bland and ARU, The Mixed Museum invited her students to assist them with a number of live projects linked to the museum. The students were tasked with visiting local and digital archive collections to gather material under six themes related to various aspect of Britain’s mixed race history. 

Blogpost ARU live briefs

After several months of research, the students were ready to present their findings. Our Director, Dr Chamion Caballero, travelled to ARU to hear the presentations in person.

Chamion was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the students’ work, from the archival searches that they had conducted, through to the material they had found and their presentation performances - particularly as for many students this was their first time to talk in front of an audience.

East Anglia stories

Impressively, several of the groups had managed to uncover material that was entirely new to The Mixed Museum. The team focusing on exploring East Anglia’s mixed history had found a number of fascinating newspaper articles.

These included an extract from the Evening Star from the 1980s containing residents’ memories of Black GIs in Ipswich:

Powerpoint showing cutting from the Evening Star, 3 December 1984 discussing Black GIs in Britain.
Group's PowerPoint slide showing cutting from the Evening Star, 3 December 1984.

The same group also uncovered an article from 1949 in the Felixstowe Times discussing a mixed race baby in a local children's home:

[The article] shows how the mixed race babies of the time were perceived.  It talks about St. Mary’s home for babies in Felixstowe, where it details the story of two babies struggling to be adopted.  One is said to have asthma, whilst the other has “a more straight-forward problem – she had an Egyptian father”.  This shows a parallel between attitudes at the time – being mixed race was seen as an ailment, essentially the same as being sick.

From the 'East Anglia' team's presentation

Group's PowerPoint slide showing article ‘St. Mary’s Cliff-Top Babies Home’, Felixstowe Times
Group's PowerPoint slide showing article ‘St. Mary’s Cliff-Top Babies Home’, Felixstowe Times, 4 June 1949, p.5

Post-war narratives

The group tasked with looking into post-war mixed race history consulted an impressive range of records, including local Census returns, books, and newspaper articles. Their research led them to Robert Jenkins’ 1961 novel, Dust on the Paw, discovered through looking at newspaper reviews in digitised newspaper archives. The book, featuring social reactions to a marriage between an Afghan man and a white Englishwoman, was also new to us.

Group PowerPoint slide showing newspaper extracts discussing the book A Paw in the Dust.
Group PowerPoint slide showing newspaper extracts discussing A Paw in the Dust.

The range of histories and accounts that the students presented was incredibly wide-ranging. Many groups highlighted multiple stories and famous people whose inclusion in the The Mixed Musuem’s Timeline would greatly widen the types of histories we share, and may attract new audiences. One such suggestion was the guitarist Slash from Guns and Roses whose mother is Black American and father is a Jewish Englishman. Slash - real name Saul Hudson - spent his early childhood in a small suburb of Stoke-on-Trent.

Next steps

Chamion was greatly taken by how the first year students had worked collaboratively to explore and combine a range of firsthand and secondary sources to deepen their knowledge of Britain’s multiracial history.  We look forward to incorporating some of the new stories, hidden voices, and fresh perspectives they found into The Mixed Museum's collection over the coming year.

Many thanks to all the students who took part in the 'Live Briefs' and to Lucy Bland for inviting The Mixed Museum to be a partner organisation.

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