Why Is Jamaica’s Len Garrison Known As The “Godfather Of Black British History”?



He is regarded as the godfather of Black history in the United Kingdom. Len Garrison, who was born in Jamaica, is credited with changing the narrative surrounding educational racism.

His quest to transform the British education system began in the late 1970s. He responded to a strong desire among educational administrators and teachers for learning materials that addressed the history and background of African and Caribbean students.

Garrison founded the African and Caribbean Educational Resource (Acer) to address this issue, according to The Guardian. He implemented educational materials at the Dick Shepherd School in Brixton, South London. The Inner London Education Authority contributed to the program’s success, and his educational materials are now widely used in all London schools.

He also launched a project called the Young Penmanship Awards for Creative Writing to train young adults in innovative writing. This boosted the careers of many Black writers and artists, including music critic Clive Davis and playwright Michael McMillan.

Garrison was born in St. Thomas, Jamaica, on June 13, 1943. His parents moved to the United Kingdom in 1952. In 1954, he moved to West London with his family. He had a passion for photography, which he would use to document black history in the United Kingdom. While at Kingsley Grammar School in Chelsea, he worked as a part-time cinema projectionist in Clapham Junction. He then went to London’s King’s College. He later worked as a medical photography specialist at Guy’s Hospital.

In 1971, he was admitted to Ruskin College, Oxford, to pursue a diploma in development studies. His dissertation focused on the Jamaican Rastafarian movement. He was able to study African and Caribbean history at Sussex University, where he graduated in 1976. Garrison then pursued a master’s degree in local history at Leicester University. This knowledge motivated him to advocate for the recognition of Caribbean and Black history in the United Kingdom.

Garrison expanded the scope of his campaign in 1988 as the director of Afro-Caribbean Family and Friends. He pioneered one of the most effective mentoring programs, “Build,” and assisted orphaned and abandoned black children in discovering their talents.

He also founded the East Midlands African Caribbean Arts Council. This drew public attention during an exhibition titled “The Black Presence in Nottingham” in 1993.

He returned to Brixton four years later to work on the Black Cultural Archives, which he founded in 1980. Historians say Garrison was active in activism as a student and documented every aspect of history with his notepad or cameras. In 1980, these materials and memorabilia became a valuable resource for the Black Cultural Archives.

The Black Cultural Archives project later collaborated with Middlesex University to create the Black History Archive and Museum.

Garrison passed away on February 18, 2003. His wife Marie, whom he married in 1987, and their son Tunde survived him.


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