Race Today is an essential resource for those studying the history of black community struggles in the 1970s and 1980s. The magazine started life as a journal produced by the Institute of Race Relations in the 1960s, but following an ideological dispute severed its links with the IRR in the early 1970s and was thereafter run by a collective whose members included Fraukh Dhondy, Leila Hassan, Darcus Howe, Gus John and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Race Today appeared monthly from May 1969 to 1978, and bi-monthly from 1979 to 1988.
It was published from 1969 to 1973 by the Institute of Race Relations and from March 1973 to August 1974 by Towards Racial Justice.
- Peter Watson was editor from May 1969 to Feb 1970.
- Alexander Kirby was editor from Mar 1970 to Oct / Nov 1973.
- Ian Macdonald was guest editor in Dec 1973.
- Darcus Howe was editor from Jan 1974 to Dec 1984.
- Leila Hassan was editor from May/Jun 1985 to Jan 1988.
The Library has an excellent but incomplete run of Race Today from 1969 to 1988.
We would gratefully receive donations of issues to complete the run.
Members of the Race Today Collective included:
John La Rose (1927-2006) was born in Trinidad where he was active in trade union and political movements. He came to England in the early 1960s and founded New Beacon Books, the first black publishers and bookshop in Britain. With Andrew Salkey he founded the Caribbean Artists Movement as well as being active in black educational campaigns which challenged the racism directed towards young black people in schools. In 1975 he founded the Black Parents Movement. In 1981 he chaired the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, established in the wake of a fire which killed 13 young black people and which organised a protest march attended by 20,000 marchers.
In 1982 he helped found the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books, which ran annually until 1995, and was joint director with Jessica Huntley. He wrote that it was "a meeting of the continents for writers, publishers, distributors, booksellers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and people who inspire and consume their creative productions".
He was also chair of the George Padmore Institute, a library and educational centre established in 1991. He wrote several books of poetry
Darcus Howe was born in Trinidad and Tobago and first arrived in London aged 18 to enter the legal profession at Middle Temple, but he became a journalist instead. He went back to Trinidad, where he worked for a time as assistant editor on the trade union paper The Vanguard. He returned to Britain and became involved in black community struggles, joining the British Black Panther Movement in August 1970. Howe was arrested after a protest and tried for rioting, affray and assault but was acquitted after a trial at the Old Bailey by an all-white jury. He became editor of Race Today in 1974. In the years since he has presented a number of TV shows and documentaries and writes regularly for the New Statesman and the Guardian.
Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica in 1952 and moved to London in 1963. He was briefly a member of the Black Panthers before joining RTC in 1974, who published his first book of poetry Voices of the Living and the Dead. His second Book Dread, Beat and Blood appeared the following year and he also produced an LP of the same name, working with reggae producer Dennis Bovell. His other records included Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980) and Making History (1984). These were very influential records at the time, drawing as they did on young black music culture and patois. This style became known as "dub poetry" although Linton felt that this was an inaccurate description of his work.
Leila Hassan. Unfortunately we have been unable to discover much about her beyond the fact that she was the partner of Darcus Howe. She co-authored a book The Black Explosion in British Schools, published by Race Today in 1982.