Race Today

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Race Today was a monthly (later bimonthly) British political magazine. Launched in 1969 by the Institute of Race Relations, it was from 1973 published by the Race Today Collective, which included figures such as Darcus Howe, Farrukh Dhondy, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Leila Hassan. The magazine was a leading organ of Black politics in 1970s Britain; publication ended in 1988.


Race Today was established in 1969 by the Institute of Race Relations.[1][2] From 1973 onward, the monthly magazine was under the direction of a breakaway organisation, the Brixton-based Race Today Collective.[1][3] This body aimed for a political rather than scholarly approach, based on a combination of libertarian Marxism and radical anti-racism.[1][3]

The magazine's first editor under the new leadership was journalist and broadcaster Darcus Howe.[2] Howe was much influenced by Trinidadian Marxist C. L. R. James, and under his tenure Race Today became a leading voice of Black political journalism in Britain.[1] (James would later live his final years in the building that housed the office of Race Today, at 165 Railton Road in Brixton, where a blue plaque was installed by English Heritage in 2004.)[4][5][6] A compilation of Howe's arguments in Race Today appeared in a 1978 pamphlet entitled The Road Make to Walk on Carnival Day.[7]

Farrukh Dhondy, later the author of a biography of C. L. R. James, began his writing career with Race Today in 1970.[8] Another notable member of the Race Today Collective was Linton Kwesi Johnson, who joined the group in 1974.[3] His first book of poems appeared the same year under the Race Today imprint, and he later served as the magazine's arts editor.[3][9] The publication and its editor feature prominently in the song "Man Free (For Darcus Howe)" on Linton Kwesi Johnson's 1978 debut album Dread Beat an' Blood with his then band Poet and the Roots.[10]

In the mid-1970, the Race Today Collective allied with the Black Panther Movement formed by John La Rose, who had been the chairman of the Institute of Race Relations in 1972 and 1973.[11] In 1978, the magazine's publication frequency changed from monthly to bimonthly.[12]

In 1985, Leila Hassan became the journal's editor; both the magazine and the Race Today Collective were discontinued in 1988.[1] Described as "the most articulate organ of British Black politics in the 1970s", Race Today maintained close ties to the Notting Hill Carnival.[13]

Race Today Publications was one of the organisers of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books, together with New Beacon Books and Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications.[14]

In September 2019 the book Here to Stay, Here to Fight: A Race Today Anthology, edited by Paul Field, Robin Bunce, Leila Hassan and Margaret Peacock, was published by Pluto Press.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Dr Evan Smith (2010). "Conflicting Narratives of Black Youth Rebellion in Modern Britain". Ethinicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal. 1 (3): 16–31.
  2. ^ a b Ionie Benjamin (1995). The Black Press in Britain. Trentham Books. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-85856-028-1.
  3. ^ a b c d Forbes; Peter (2002). "comtemporarywriters.com". Linton Kwesi Johnson. Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  4. ^ "Darcus Howe – fighter for Black people’s rights", Brixton Blog, 2 April 2017.
  5. ^ "CLR James | Writer | Blue Plaques". English Heritage.
  6. ^ a b Leila Hassan, Robin Bunce and Paul Field, "Books | Here to Stay, Here to Fight: On the history, and legacy, of ‘Race Today’", Ceasefire, 31 October 2019.
  7. ^ Milla Cozart Riggio (2004). Carnival: Culture in Action: the Trinidad experience. Routledge. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-415-27128-8.
  8. ^ Alison Donnell (2002). Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-415-16989-9.
  9. ^ Don Snowden (9 March 1990). "Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson Finds the Right Words Again". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  10. ^ Christian Habekost (September 1993). Verbal Riddim: The Politics and Aesthetics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry. Rodopi. p. 162. ISBN 978-90-5183-549-6. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  11. ^ Linton Kwesi Johnson (4 March 2006). "John La Rose (obituary)". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  12. ^ Staff. "Race Today Publications". George Padmore Institute. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  13. ^ Simon Featherstone (2005). Postcolonial Cultures. Edinburgh University Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-7486-1743-2.
  14. ^ Sarah White, Roxy Harris and 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, p. vi.

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