Opening our archives for Black History Month

By Neil Sayer, Archdiocesan archivist

To mark 30 years since the inception of Black History Month, the Metropolitan Cathedral archives will be open throughout October for anybody wishing to read stories of Liverpool's black community in back issues of the Catholic Pictorial.

You could say, of course, that Liverpool has a head start in being able to provide stories for celebration. The city has the oldest recorded black community in Britain. Its history as a port and centre of trade with the Empire meant that many black people visited and settled: exiled loyalists from the American War of Independence, curious sailors, and students from far-flung corners of the world. Liverpool's black 'firsts' include John Archer who, in 1913, became England's first black mayor – a milestone celebrated on a Royal Mail stamp. There are sports men and women, like boxer John Conteh and the current young heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, and bands such as The Real Thing and The Christians.

Established in 1962, the Pic is considerably younger than the city's black community, yet our old editions still offer insights from the last 55 years into how the life of that community has been reported. Toxteth, of course, is the area of the city where most black settlement historically took place, and it is the Toxteth community that appears most often in the pages of the Pic.

Visitors to the archives in October can access some intriguing stories – from the tale of a nearly-forgotten black boxer who became a world champion, via an innovative child-minding initiative, to a less savoury account of early football hooliganism causing racial tensions in the city. Perhaps you have your own story that was featured in the Pic, or know of a report that our research has not uncovered, and if so, do please let us know.

If you would like to take a look at tales of Liverpool's black community, come along to the reading room at the Metropolitan Cathedral archives this month. Visitors paying to explore the Crypt can access the archives during opening hours from Monday–Friday, while anyone else interested should email