Tribute to an ‘African rebel’

Tribute to an ‘African rebel’

Written by: Arun Kundnani

Four years ago this week, thousands of people lined the streets of Haringey, north London, to follow the last journey of one of Britain’s most outspoken political leaders. Now, an archive has opened dedicated to remembering the life and work of Bernie Grant MP.

The seventy cubic feet of items held in the archive cover a range of activities undertaken by Bernie Grant, locally, nationally and internationally, from his early work as a trade-unionist, then as a Haringey councillor and finally as a member of parliament for Tottenham. Material includes personal documents, news items, photographs, letters, flyers and other ephemera. Even Bernie’s personal collection of political badges is held in the archive.

Born in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1944, Grant arrived in Haringey in the 1960s. He came to national prominence following the riots on the Broadwater Farm Estate in 1985. His criticisms of the police earned him the nickname ‘barmy Bernie’ in the press but the people of Haringey showed their trust in Grant by electing him to parliament in 1987.

As one of the first African-Caribbean MPs, he famously attended the state opening of parliament in African dress. As well as fighting against racism, particularly from the police, Grant also worked on campaigns for the elimination of overseas debt for poorer nations, refugee rights and reparations for colonialism and the slave trade.

A website based on the archive is now available for access. The site,, features a showcase of items from the archive and has audio and video clips available for download.

An exhibition of items from the archive, including his letters, campaigning material, and much more, is currently on show at Bruce Castle Museum, Lordship Lane, Tottenham, until 2 May (Wed-Sun, 1-5pm).

Related links

Bernie Grant Archive

Bernie Grant Trust, Bernie Grant House, 266-268 High Road, Tottenham, London N15 4AJ. Tel: 020 8880 9100. E-mail:

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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