Date: 5th October, 2015
For Immediate release
They also served. Project spotlights First World War’s Black African and Caribbean involvement
The contribution of Black African and Caribbean men and women in the First World War will be commemorated in the West Midlands, thanks to a Birmingham-based project.
A grant of nearly £62,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) means the project, run by Churches Together in England, can recruit volunteers from Black churches throughout the West Midlands to unearth the stories of “the invisible people” largely overlooked in official records.
Caribbean soldiers first joined the Allied troops in 1915 and, although there was an initial reluctance by British Army commanders to let them fight in the front line, massive losses among white troops, and the intervention of King George V, saw this attitude change.
The project will also gather information on how the involvement of Black African and Caribbean troops altered perceptions in their home countries and in the diaspora.
The stories discovered will be shared through a new website and on 1000 DVDs to be distributed throughout the region’s archives and libraries. There will also be ten community engagement sessions; a touring exhibition that will visit locations such as the MAC, the Drum in Aston and Birmingham Library; a colour booklet will be published and a commemoration event organised in October 2017.
Anne Jenkins, Heritage Lottery Fund’s Deputy Director of Operations, said: “Thanks to National Lottery Players we have been able to support many hundreds of projects marking the centenary of the First World War, the impact of which touched every corner of the UK and far beyond. We are delighted that so many communities and organisations have been able to uncover hitherto overlooked histories of the conflict and this project is one such. It will help to put the record straight and will assist young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how the War has shaped our modern world.”
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred of Churches Together in England, said: “Black churches in Britain, including the Midlands, have tended to look to the landing of the SS Empire Windrush in 1948 for their point of reference. However, many from Africa and the Caribbean came to Britain in the centuries before. Some contributed to the First and Second World Wars, including those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for liberty with their lives. This project will bring these unsung heroes and heroines into view and what better place to begin shining a light on this ‘hidden history’ than in the Black Churches. This is an exciting project.”
For further information
Phil Cooper, HLF press office, on: 07889 949173. www.hlf.org.uk
Dr Joe Aldred, Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations, Churches Together in England, on: 020 7529 8131, mobile: 07775 632288. www.cte.org.uk
Notes to Editors
Thanks to National Lottery players, Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery