To mark Black History Month at LSE, EMBRACE and LSESU had organised a talk by Tony Warner on ‘What were black people doing in World War I?’ on the 12th of October. Romy Ajodah, who attended the talk, breifly reviews the session here.
Tony Warner’s talk took the audience through slides and clips outlining the role of black people in conflicts dating back to the 1700s. These images and videos were very interesting in that they have rarely been seen in the mainstream media.
Tony spoke of how many of the black soldiers recruited to armies in Europe had been slaves selected to prevent uprisings by those who were still slaves. He also detailed the roles of soldiers who received medals for rescuing those in command of them, or who endured conditions worse than prisoners of war while fighting in the World Wars.
In many cases they were recruited as a last resort when conflicts had reached a stage at which it was clear the war being fought was likely to be lost without them. Yet they were often relegated to non-frontline duties, such as carrying munitions, for fear that they would learn fighting techniques which could later be used against those recruiting them. The historical context was clearly explained, for example, how their role linked to colonialism.
All in all I learned a great deal from the talk and it was clear that this information was just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the speaker’s frequent referencing of his sources, I will be able to read around the topic and hope to be able to watch some of the footage used at greater length.
Romy Ajodah has worked at the LSE for almost 7 years. Throughout most of this time, she has worked in the Human Resources department. Recently, however, she has moved to the role of Administrator and PA to the Head of Department in the International Relations department. She is a member of the LSE’s EMBRACE network (Ethnic Minorities Broadening Racial & Cultural Exchange) which works to raise awareness of various racial and cultural issues of relevance to all staff.