Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications (BLP) is a radical London-based publishing company founded in 1968 by Guyanese activists Jessica Huntley (23 February 1927 – 13 October 2013) and Eric Huntley (born 25 September 1929). Named in honour of two outstanding liberation fighters in Caribbean history, Toussaint L'Ouverture and Paul Bogle, the company began operating during a period in the UK when "books by Black authors or written with a sympathetic view of Black people’s history and culture were rare in mainstream bookshops in the UK." Alongside New Beacon Books (founded in 1966) and Allison & Busby (founded in 1967), BLP was one of the first black-owned independent publishing companies in the UK. BLP has been described as "a small, unorthodox, self-financing venture that brought a radical perspective to non-fiction, fiction, poetry and children's books."
The birth of Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications was a direct response to the 1968 banning from Jamaica of historian and scholar Walter Rodney, who was then teaching at the University of the West Indies in Mona and outside the lecture halls had been sharing his knowledge and exchanging ideas with the island's working people, prompting the government's censure. Thousands of Jamaicans took to the streets protesting the ban and in London a group of concerned West Indians — the Huntleys, Richard Small, Ewart Thomas, Andrew Salkey and others – decided to challenge it by publishing and distributing Rodney's speeches and lectures. These were published in 1969 as BLP's first title, The Groundings With My Brothers, financed by friends and community funding, and much reprinted. Speaking in 1979 at an event marking BLP's 10th anniversary, Jessica Huntley recalled: "It was a political position we took.... We barely made the money to pay the printer.... We just gave away a lot of copies to people so people must read it." The company went on also to become the original publisher (jointly with Tanzania Publishing House) in 1972 of Rodney's influential work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
Among other notable titles on the BLP list are Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dread Beat and Blood, Beryl Gilroy's Black Teacher, several books by Andrew Salkey (a director and long-time supporter of BLP), Journey to an Illusion: The West Indian in Britain by Donald Hinds, and poetry collections by Valerie Bloom, Sam Greenlee, Lemn Sissay, Lucinda Roy, Imruh Bakari and John Lyons.
Bogle-L'Ouverture was also involved in educational interventions on behalf of Black children and parents — crucially highlighted in Bernard Coard's How the West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain (New Beacon, 1971); as Gus John has written: "So, when in our work with young children we discovered that black children were typically drawing themselves as white, or expressing a preference for white dolls and seeing white friends as 'nicer' and more desirable, Jessica and Eric published the eye-catching and upbeat little colouring and story book Getting to Know Ourselves [by Bernard and Phyllis Coard, 1972]."
BLP initially functioned from the living-room of the Huntley home in West London, which additionally served as a bookshop where teachers could come to browse and buy, and became a meeting place that hosted "book launches and readings, political and social debates, with contributors from the Caribbean, Africa, US and Asia." (Early discussions out of which the Caribbean Artists Movement developed had also taken place in the Huntleys' home.) However, after a neighbour complained to the local authorities about the residential property being used for business purposes, the Huntleys were forced to move the office and sales activities.
In 1974, the Bogle-L'Ouverture Bookshop opened in Chignell Place, West Ealing; it "served the valuable function of stocking books about the Caribbean, Africa and the Third World, especially from publishers in the Caribbean", and was a cultural hub for the community: "Bogle-L'Ouverture also became a 'drop in centre' for parents, school students and teachers who came for guidance, for counselling and for direction with respect to issues concerning their studies, essays or theses they had to write, their job applications, employment, career prospects and/or their experience of racist institutional cultures or/and racist managers." Bogle regularly organized meetings, talks and readings at the bookshop with the participation of such eminent writers as Ntozake Shange, Louise Bennett, Farrukh Dhondy, Andrew Salkey, Sam Selvon, Kamau Brathwaite, Merle Hodge, Petronella Breinburg, Cecil Rajendra, and others.
Racist attacks and the aftermath
In 1977–79, the Bookshop was targeted for attack by racist groups, as were the few other outlets for radical material — including New Beacon Books, Grassroots and Headstart in London, as well as enterprises in Nottingham, Manchester and Birmingham — with abusive graffiti repeated daubed on the windows and doors, National Front literature and excrement pushed through the letterbox. Jessica Huntley recalled: The National Front used to break windows. Then we got threatening calls. They gave us seven days to move, and if we didn't get out, what's going to happen. We got calls from the Ku Klux Klan. They were everywhere. And, of course, we had a campaign against that and our poster was, 'We Will Not Be Terrorised out of Existence'." The Huntleys with fellow bookshop owners formed a "Bookshop Joint Action" group to raise awareness of the attacks through producing leaflets, holding public meetings and picketing the Home Office, which eventually resulted in national media coverage that forced the police to take action.
Bogle-L'Ouverture met regularly with New Beacon Books and the Race Today collective as part of an ongoing alliance that was determined "to send a strong message to the racists: 'that they were not going to be intimidated and they would continue to publish and sell their books'. The final event would be a gala to celebrate Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications' 10th Anniversary." A "cultural extravaganza" was held at the Commonwealth Institute, compered by Carmen Munroe and featuring a variety of performers, poets, drummers, dancers and musicians including Misty in Roots, Keith Waithe, Cecil Rajendra, Linton Kwesi Johnson and others. Its success demonstrated "the potential for an event on this scale taking place in different parts of London and the UK on a regular basis. They discussed the idea of an annual book fair, which was later developed and eventually implemented as the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books", held between 1982 and 1995, of which Jessica Huntley was joint director with John La Rose until 1984.
Change of name
After Walter Rodney was assassinated in Guyana in 1980, the bookshop was renamed to honour him. Following changes in the publishing industry in the 1980s, when small independent publishers and booksellers faced often insurmountable competition from large multinational conglomerates, the Bookshop was forced to close in 1990. Beset by financial difficulties, caused partly by overseas clients defaulting on payment, Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications could no longer publish using the original company imprint; however, the efforts of "Friends of Bogle", a loyal group of supporters, contributed to the Huntleys' ability to resume publishing as Bogle-L'Ouverture Press, once again operating from their own home.
An interactive installation by Michael McMillan recreates the Walter Rodney Bookshop as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 at the Guildhall Art Gallery (July 2015–January 2016), drawing inspiration from Bogle-L'Ouverture's output and the Huntley Archives held at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Artists featured in the exhibition — which was described by Colin Prescod (chair of the Institute of Race Relations) as an "exposition of startling and radical imaginative works, addressing grand British cultural and historical matters, and touching on themes of existential and social restlessness" — include those on whose talents Bogle-L'Ouverture drew for its book jackets or for the posters, greetings cards and other artwork sold in the bookshop, such as Errol Lloyd and George "Fowokan" Kelly.
A blue plaque unveiled in October 2018 outside the Ealing home of Jessica Huntley and Eric Huntley commemorates their work in the founding of Bogle-L'Ouverture.
In 2005, papers relating to the business of Bogle-L'Ouverture, together with documents concerning the personal, campaigning and educational initiatives of Eric and Jessica Huntley from 1952 to 2011, were the first major deposit of records from the African-Caribbean community in London presented to LMA, where they are available for research as part of the City of London's Black Community Archives.
Annual Huntley Conference
Since 2006, the Huntley Archives at LMA have inspired an annual conference on themes reflecting different elements of the content of the collection. The themes and keynote speakers to date have been:
- 2006 (1st) — "The Groundings with Bogle-L’Ouverture: A Story of Black Publishing". Keynote Speaker: Moira Stuart, OBE.
- 2007 (2nd) — "Writing the Wrongs: Fifty Years of Black Radical Publishing in Britain". Keynote Speaker: Margaret Busby, OBE.
- 2008 (3rd) — "Looking to Africa: Garvey, Rasta and Rodney". Keynote Speaker: Kwame Kwei-Armah, OBE.
- 2009 (4th) — "Remembering Walter Rodney, Revolutionary Pan-Africanist". Keynote Speaker: Dr Kimani Nehusi.
- 2010 (5th) — "Young, Black & British: Identity and Community through the generations". Keynote Speaker: Professor Aggrey Burke.
- 2011 (6th) — "Get Up! Stand Up! Campaigning for Rights, Respect and Self-Reliance". Keynote Speaker: Marc Wadsworth.
- 2012 (7th) — "Arts & Activism: Culture & Resistance". Keynote Speaker: Errol Lloyd, artist.
- 2013 (8th) — "Educating Our Children: Liberating Our Futures". Keynote Speaker: Professor Beverley Bryan, lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
- 2014 (9th) — "When They Were Young: Re-Searching Our Archives".
- 2015 (10th) — "Mountain High: Archive Deep".
- 2016 (11th) — "Animating Black Archives - the Next Ten Years".
- 2017 (12th) — "What’s the New Radical? Deep Roots and New Shoots in Black Publishing"
- 2018 (13th) — "Art, Blackness, Identity and Activism | Rebooting the Legacy: No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 – 1990". This was billed as being an "unconference" – in which participants were actively invited to contribute throughout the day.
Friends of the Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archives (FHALMA)
Friends of the Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archives (FHALMA) is a non-profit charitable foundation, run by volunteers, founded in 2013 with the aim of "bringing to life the narratives, histories and knowledge discovered in the archive materials found in the Huntley Collections" and promoting the heritage of the Caribbean and African Diaspora through education and community projects.
- Margaret Busby, "Jessica Huntley obituary", The Guardian, 27 October 2013.
- Margaret Andrews, Doing Nothing is Not An Option: The Radical Lives of Eric & Jessica Huntley, Middlesex, England: Krik Krak, 2014. ISBN 978-1-908415-02-8.
- "Creation for Liberation Parts 1 and 2 (1979 and 1981)", YouTube video.
- Andrews (2014), p. 113.
- "Bogle L'Ouverture Publications", The Radical Lives of Eric & Jessica Huntley website.[dead link]
- "Towards a radical black publishing space", George Padmore Institute.
- "PPP remembers fallen Party stalwart, Jessica Huntley –in 'Evening of Tributes and Reflection'", Guyana Chronicle, 9 November 2013.
- Andrews (2014), pp. 115–121.
- Petamber Persaud, "Preserving Our Literary Heritage", Guyana Chronicle, 2 August 2014.
- "Bogle-L'Ouverture", George Padmore Institute.
- "Bogle-L’Ouverture: A story in Black publishing", Guyana Chronicle, 8 January 2012. (Extract from an interview with Rickford Benjamin-Huntley, Georgetown, Guyana, December 2011.)
- Peter Fraser, "Jessica Huntley 1927-2013 An appreciation", Stabroek News, 21 October 2013.
- Lemn Sissay has said: "Holding that first book in my young hands – I was 21 – was one of the most life affirming experiences of my existence to date. It was a gift bestowed by two incredible people, Jessica and Eric Huntley, at a small important publishing house in Ealing West London called Bogle-L'Ouverture." "Meet the 2014 Authors – Lemn Sissay"[permanent dead link], Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, 09-02-2014.
- "Selected Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications", in Andrews (2014), pp. 179–181.
- Gus John, "Jessica Huntley, veteran political and cultural activist dies at 86", 14 October 2013.
- Andrews (2014), p. 123.
- Kadija Sesay, "Bogle L'Ouverture", in Alison Donnell (ed.), Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture, Routledge, 2002, pp. 52–53.
- Andrews (2014), p. 125.
- London Metropolitan Archives at London’s Screen Archives/ Film London.
- Andrews (2014), p. 131.
- Jenny Bourne, "Jessica Huntley", Institute of Race Relations, 17 October 2013.
- Andrews (2014), p. 137.
- Asher and Martin Hoyles, Caribbean Publishing in Britain: A Tribute to Arif Ali, Hansib (2011), 2015, p. 57. ISBN 978-1-906190-42-2.
- Andrews (2014), pp. 138–139.
- Andrews (2014), p. 140.
- Andrews (2014), pp. 141–142.
- "The International Book Fairs", George Padmore Institute, Archive Catalogue.
- Sarah White, Roxy Harris & Sharmilla Beezmohun (eds), A Meeting of the Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books – Revisited, London: New Beacon Books/George Padmore Institute, 2005.
- "John La Rose", George Padmore Institute.
- Linton Kwesi Johnson, "John La Rose" (obituary), The Guardian, 4 March 2006.
- Andrews (2014), "Chronology", p. vii.
- "Black History Month: Creation for Liberation", City Lights Blog, 25 February 2013.
- Andrews (2014), p. 148.
- Andrews (2014), pp. 146, 148.
- Andrews (2014), p. 149.
- "Reflecting London’s diversity through art", Heritage Lottery Fund, 16 January 2015.
- William Axtell, "Guildhall celebrates black British artists with No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action", Culture24, 9 July 2015.
- "Black British culture in the City", Soca News, 7 September 2015.
- "The Artists Profiles". Featured artists: Frank Bowling, Sonia Boyce, Winston Branch, Eddie Chambers, Paul Dash, Sokari Douglas Camp, Uzo Egonu, Denzil Forrester, Fowokan, Lubaina Himid, Taiwo (Emmanuel) Jegede, Claudette Johnson, Tam Joseph, Kofi Kayiga, Chila Kumari Burman, Errol Lloyd, John Lyons, Ronald Moody, Keith Piper, Aubrey Williams.
- Angela Cobbinah, "No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990", Camden Review, 16 July 2015.
- Amandla Thomas-Johnson, "Preserving Britain’s Black Heroes", The Voice, 10 July 2015.
- "Blue plaque to mark work of Ealing activist couple", Ealing Times, 28 September 2018.
- "Huntley Archives", London Metropolitan Archives, City of London.
- "Black African Caribbean Community archives", London Metropolitan Archives: Information Leaflet Number 21.
- Maureen Roberts and Richard Wiltshire, "Archive Treasures: The Huntley Archives", London Metropolitan Archives — The Collections, 12 November 2013.
- "Huntley Conferences", No Colour Bar website.
- Friends of the Huntley Archives at LMA website.
- "Huntley Conference", HuntleysOnline.[dead link]
- Jan Pimblett, "Reaching New Communities Through Archives: Black History at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)", ARC (The Society of Archivists), April 2007, pp. 10–15.
- "Looking To Africa: Garvey, Rasta & Rodney" at IRR.
- Toyin Agbetu, "Conscious Activism: Making History?", Ligali, 24 February 2009.
- "The campaign for classroom equality and ethnic identity", Camden New Journal, 11 February 2010.
- "Huntley Conference", OBV, 25 February 2011.
- Kwaku, "Sixth Annual Huntley Conference: A Quick Feedback & Positing The African British Descriptor", NewAfricanPerspective, 29 March 2011.
- Jane, "Don’t throw activist histories away: Huntley Conference on Arts & Activism, Culture & Resistance", Platform, 21 February 2012.
- "Educating Our Children: Liberating Our Futures", CLS.[dead link]
- "The Eighth Annual Huntley Conference", Black Women In the Arts.
- Richard Wiltshire, "Keep on, keeping on - an archivist's reflections on a depositor - Jessica Huntley, radical black publisher, political and community activist", City of London, 9 April 2014.
- "9th Annual Huntley Conference – When They Were Young: Re-Searching Our Archives", TheNuBlk.
- "Animating Black Archives", George Padmore Institute, February 2016.
- "Events: What’s the new Radical? Deep Roots and New Shoots in Black publishing", Shades of Noir, 21 February 2017.
- "UnConference | Annual Huntley conference", 24 February 2018.
- "Art, Blackness, Identity and Activism | Rebooting No Colour Bar: The Legacy...", 24 February 2018.
- Margaret Andrews, Doing Nothing is Not An Option: The Radical Lives of Eric & Jessica Huntley, Middlesex, England: Krik Krak, 2014. ISBN 978-1-908415-02-8.
- Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications at FHALMA official website.
- "Creation for Liberation Parts 1 and 2 (1979 and 1981)", YouTube video. Part 1 records the November 1979 event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of Bogle-L'Ouverture.
- Philippa Ireland, “Laying The Foundations: New Beacon Books, Bogle L’Ouverture Press and the Politics of Black British Publishing”, E-rea.
- Omar Alleyne-Lawler, "No Colour Bar, But A Baton Of Social Progress", Black History Month 2015, 7 September 2015.
- Friends of the Huntley Archives at LMA at Total Giving.