The African Grounds of Race Relations in Britain


ACLS Fellowship Program




By the 1960s, race relations had become the dominant way of conceptualizing racial tensions in Britain and the rationale for a broad array of research projects, publications, and non-governmental organizations. Interest in race relations, however, did not center initially on Afro-Caribbeans and other nonwhite migrants to Britain, as is commonly assumed. The concept had an earlier history in South Africa and elsewhere in colonial Africa, and it gained traction among powerful circles in Britain as a way to come to grips with the the challenge of African nationalism. This project is a history of the process by which race relations became a useful framework for reckoning with the prospect of decolonization in the British empire and for managing its economic effects in particular. It highlights the efforts of large corporations to navigate colonial independence and reveals the underestimated and continuous influence of Africa on thinking about race and racism in Britain.