The John Rylands Library and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre collaborated to create a very successful collection encounter celebrating the diversity of Manchester, by highlighting stories from ethnic minority groups within the Library’s collection. Over two days 139 visitors engaged with the team as we showcased stories which begin with the work of missionaries and commonwealth statesmen, and continued with poets, activists, and the journey towards inclusion.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Below is a sample of the items on show:

Christian Brethren Archive: The Echoes of Service Lantern Slide Collection in the, Zambia.

The Christian Brethren Archive is a series of printed and archive collections relating to the Christian brethren movement, from its inception to the present. Founded in the mid-19th century, Echoes of Service is a service organisation who provides assistance and support to brethren mission workers around the world. The lantern slide collection is of relatively unknown provenance, and depicts the work of mission workers in the early 20th century.


Guardian Archive: Letter from General Jan Christiaan Smuts to C.P. Scott

The letter relates to C.P. Scott’s retirement as editor of the Manchester Guardian, with reference to praise of his handling of the Boer War.

C.P. Scott was the most prominent and distinguished editor of the Manchester Guardian, in post for over 50 years (1872-1929), and made a very unpopular stand in the paper against the Boer War in the Transvaal. General Smuts was a South African and British Commonwealth statesman, and military leader. He served as prime minister of the  Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. Although Smuts had originally advocated racial segregation and opposed the enfranchisement of black Africans, his views changed and he backed the Fagan Commission’s findings that complete segregation was impossible.

Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign Posters 1987-89

Viraj Mendis is a Sri Lankan national, who fought a high profile anti-deportation case out of Manchester, between 1987 and 89. Mendis was (is) highly political and outspoken, he supported the Tamil Tigers’ insurgency in Sri Lanka and was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Britain. He had come to the UK on a student visa, but had outstayed his visa fearing for his life if he returned to Sri Lanka.

Mendis’ anti-deportation campaign was significant because he fought it on political grounds rather than just personal ones, campaigning for a change in immigration laws that he and many others on the left saw as fundamentally racist. Rather than petitioning his MP to avoid deportation (the usual route) he took sanctuary in the Church of the Ascension in Hulme, as his campaign base. His campaign was national and ideological, with factions of the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign in cities around the country. His case was discussed in parliament.

In 1989 police broke into the Church of the Ascension and Mendis was deported back to Sri Lanka. He now resides in Europe.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Find out more at:

Phillis Wheatley, Untitled Poem, Bow in the Cloud, 1834

Phillis Wheatley contributed to Bow in the Cloud, a collection of original writings by 50 writers against slavery.  Wheatley was the first African-American poet and the first African-American woman ever to publish, all while enslaved. Wheatley’s work met with acclaim and admiration following its publication, but before it was published she was required to defend the authorship of her work before a panel of prominent Boston luminaries, who, eventually convinced that she was the author of the poems, signed an attestation to this effect.

Bow in the cloud.jpeg

Louise Dacocodia, Windrush nurse (1934 – 2008)
Portrait, c.1959

Louise Dacocodia was Jamaican born and came to the UK during the Windrush to staff the newly formed NHS. She went onto become the first black senior nursing officer in Manchester. She retired in 1989 and received an honorary Master’s degree awarded by the University of Manchester, in tribute to her service to nursing. Louise was also very committed to the black community in Manchester. She served on the Race Relations Board committees in the 1960s and 70s and initiated an anti-racism campaign. In 2005 she received an MBE for her services to the people of Manchester.


The African Community in Manchester, 1940s
Photographs of the African community in Moss Side and Cheetham Hill, 1940s

The AIUC received a donation (c.2009) of photographs from Leslie Johnson. He was the adopted son of an African father and English Month, Jide and Renee Johnston. The images depict growing up in 1940’s Moss Side with a majority African community. This collection is coupled with an oral history from Leslie Johnson and Coca Clarke (who is also seen in the images.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To find out more visit:

The John Rylands Library and AIUC will collaborate again at the University of Manchester Black History Month Celebrations on October 3rd. We will be holding a pop-up exhibition at the entitled ‘BAME and British.’ Information can be found here. This will be followed by an online exhibition, which can be found on this blog, exploring the unsung heroes of the BAME community and Manchester.

Photo credits: Caroline Hall and Gwen Riley Jones.