By Olivia Hennessy, BA History, Level 2
Black History is important throughout and after October. Sharing stories of those who have been forgotten is vital; their history should not be forgotten. I would like to share black figures who have interested me and deserve more recognition. The first black figure is Olive Morris where she left an ‘extraordinary legacy of local activism.’ She made many contributions in London and Manchester.
Morris was Jamacian-born before she moved to London at the age of nine. She was politically influenced in the 1960s and 1970s due to the difficulties in the African-American community. Discrimination in housing and employment was some of the main issues Morris faced in her life time. In addition, this woman took on racist police officers. They were accusing a Nigerian diplomat of stealing a car when he had parked his car, leaving his wife and children there while he bought some records. To Olive Morris, this was an injustice towards an African having a nice car.
In 1968, Morris became a core member in the British Black Panther Movement. She also co-founded the Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD). Morris was also an active member of the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative. She studied at Manchester university, where Morris campaigned over high over-seas student’s fees. In 1979, Morris Died at the age of 27 from an uncommon cancer.
Olive Morris has made an impact in our community today. The photograph of Morris standing at a Black Panther Movement demonstration became significant to Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, a Brixton-based artist. The particular moment was based at Coldharbour Lane in 1969, where Morris held a placard which read: ‘Black Sufferer Fight Pig Police Brutality.’ This research led to the meeting with Liz Obi, a community activist and a friend and colleague of Olive Morris. Obi became of the ‘key collaborators’ in the project.
In 2008, the long-termed project led to the formation of Remembering Olive Collective (ROC). This was formed by a group of women with different backgrounds. They worked together to ‘document and make public the story of Olive Morris, her contemporaries and the issues she fought for.’ The ROC expanded in 2009 when they launched the Olive Morris collection at Brixton library. This collection has Morris’s papers, 30 oral interviews from those who knew Olive Morris and their involvement with the 1960s and 1970s political struggles.
In conclusion, Morris made an incredible impact and left behind a legacy that should be left unforgotten. She wanted to create a better world for working class people, reflected by her serious activism. I have written this blog post to share Olive Morris’s story and the impact she had after her death.
Fawcett. Blog written by Dr Angela Osbourne, Historical Researcher and Heritage Consultant, 2nd October 2018. [Accessed on 25/09/21] https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/blog/black-history-month-power-olive-morris
National Portrait Gallery. ‘Olive Morris’. [Accessed on 25/09/21) https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp157692/olive-elaine-morris
Remembering Olive Collective. ‘Do you Remember Olive Morris?’ by Lopez de la Torre. [Accessed on 25/09/21]. https://rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com/about/
Fawcett. Blog written by Dr Angela Osbourne, Historical Researcher and Heritage Consultant, 2nd October 2018. [Accessed on 25/09/21], https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/fa/c/c3/Olive_Morris_died_1979.jpg