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Last updated:21 October 2015

Photograph of a 1920 National League of the Blind march

Every month someone from the Library chooses an interesting object, book or document from the Library collection, which is displayed in the hall of the Library.

This photograph was donated to the Library by Tony Baldwinson in August 2015. It is the only surviving print from a now-lost negative.

National League of Blind and Disabled march April 1920The National League of the Blind of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1894, and joined the TUC in 1902.

As well as collective bargaining for workers in charitable foundation workshops, the League campaigned for the state to take over responsibility for employing blind people and for a decent pension for those who could not work.  MP Ben Tillett introduced a Private Member’s Bill in February 1920 which met all their aims.  However the government announced it would be making changes to the bill or bring forward its own.

In order to put pressure on the government, the League took the then novel approach of a march from three locations to converge for a mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square. There had been many protest marches but this was the first to choreograph different contingents to raise awareness, with rallies in towns along their route as well as on their arrival in London. The Jarrow March 16 years later was based on their model.

74 blind workers from Scotland and north east England travelled to Leeds to set off on 5 April 1920. On the same day 60 workers from Ireland and the north west left Manchester, and 37 from around the south west departed from Newport. They marched behind a banner reading Justice not charity. The marchers reached Trafalgar Square on 25 April, supported by London trade union branches. They then waited five days to see Prime Minister Lloyd George.

The Blind Persons Act became law in September 1920. Despite the huge propaganda success of the march, it was still less prescriptive than the League had wanted.

The Library holds two banners and 31 boxes of material relating to the League, dating back as far as 1905. The material includes conference reports and National Executive Committee minutes, as well as a run of the journal The Blind Advocate from 1899 to 1993.  More information about the League and about the Library material here. We are delighted to add this photograph to that collection.

Information above is taken from the PCS Web page about the history of the League.

There is further context to the photograph in a case study of the League’s photographic archive -  https://tonybaldwinson.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/unacknowledged-traces-tony-baldwinson-2012.pdf


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