Personal Papers of John La Rose

Collection Ref No.:

GB 2904 LRA

Date range:

1940s-2010s

Description

The following collection comprises the personal papers of John La Rose (1927-2006), late founding Chair of the George Padmore Institute and founder of New Beacon Books, Britain's first black publishing house, bookshop and international book service. John La Rose (JLR) is considered to have been one of the most important activists in Black British and Caribbean history. John La Rose died in 2006 and he bequeathed his personal papers to the George Padmore Institute.
For further biographical details about John La Rose, please see the John La Rose Collection (GB 2904 JLR) listed under the Collections menu.
For further information on New Beacon Books, see the essay 'New Beacon Books - the pioneering years' by Dr. Rush Bush, available on the George Padmore Institute's website.

The Personal Papers of John La Rose include personal correspondence files, notebooks, the majority of JLR's own manuscripts, family photos, audio and audio-visual material. This is supplemented by files of contextual material gathered by JLR, plus examples of posters and artwork of interest to him. The collection ends with tributes and tribute events surrounding JLR's funeral in 2006.

The catalogue has been divided into 10 areas or sub-fonds:
LRA/01: Personal Correspondence and Topic Files (1950s-2000s)
LRA/02: Notebooks (1966-2005)
LRA/03: Manuscripts (1950s-2010s)
LRA/04: Posters and Artwork (1960s-2000s)
LRA/05: Photographs (c.1940s-2000s. Plus small number of historic family photos from c.1900).
LRA/06: Contextual Material: Topics of Interest (1970s-2000s)
LRA/07: Contextual Material: Caribbean, South and North America (1950s-2000s)
LRA/08: Contextual Material: Africa, Asia and South Pacific (1970s-2000s)
LRA/09: Audio and Audio-Visual Material (1966-2009)
LRA/10: Funeral, Tributes, Tribute Events (1998-2007)

Each sub-fonds is described in more detail in the Administrative History.

Much of the material complements the other archives held at the George Padmore Institute as John himself was closely involved with the organisations and activities covered by collections such as the Caribbean Artists Movement (GB 2904 CAM); Black Parents Movement (GB 2904 BPM); and the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books (GB 2904 BFC).

Admin history:

The following collection comprises the personal papers of John La Rose (1927-2006), late founding Chair of the George Padmore Institute and founder of New Beacon Books, Britain's first black publishing house, bookshop and international book service. John La Rose (JLR) is considered to have been one of the most important activists in Black British and Caribbean history. John La Rose died in 2006 and he bequeathed his personal papers to the George Padmore Institute. 
For further biographical details about John La Rose, please see the John La Rose Collection (GB 2904 JLR) listed under the Collections menu.
For further information on New Beacon Books, see the essay 'New Beacon Books - the pioneering years' by Dr. Rush Bush, available on the George Padmore Institute's website. 
 
The Personal Papers of John La Rose include personal correspondence files, notebooks, the majority of JLR's own manuscripts, family photos, audio and audio-visual material. This is supplemented by files of contextual material gathered by JLR, plus examples of posters and artwork of interest to him. The collection ends with tributes and tribute events surrounding JLR's funeral in 2006. Further details are given below:
 
Personal correspondence and topic files (LRA/01): 
Arranged alphabetically, these 1114 files were created by John La Rose (1927-2006) and cover individuals, organisations and topics. They contain correspondence and some ephemeral material (newspaper cuttings, leaflets, booklets) from the 1950s to 2006, with a few items added between 2006-2007 covering tributes and tribute events for John La Rose following his death. The files reflect John La Rose's wide circle of friends, friendships and interests and provide many insights into the concerns of the time. 
The letters reflect John's slightly dilatory correspondence technique. When he wrote he often thought carefully about what he wanted to say and so this took time. These letters contain gems of ideas. However, John was also busy with his many interests - publishing, bookselling, political and cultural activities - so he did not always have time to respond as quickly as some people would want. There are often complaints from his correspondents that they have not had an answer to their letter(s).
A substantial amount of correspondence concerns John's interest in publishing, his decision to set up the New Beacon publishing house (or maisonette as he preferred to call it) with the assistance of Sarah White in 1966 and its later expansion into bookselling. There are files of correspondence with individual authors, artists and illustrators, and publishing companies.
John corresponded with people from the Caribbean, Africa, the USA, South America, France, India as well as in the UK. He was also interested in numerous organisations, both in the UK and abroad, and these are present in these files. There are also files for topics of interest. Some of the topics may cross-reference to the contextual material found under LRA/06 - LRA/08.
The files were found in a run of filing cabinets and we have decided to preseve the A-Z arrangement favoured by John La Rose.
 
Notebooks (LRA/02):
John La Rose never kept a regular diary. But he always had a notebook to hand (usually a spiral reporter style notebook), sometimes more than one on the go, and nearly always one close to the phone.
Many of these notebooks contain little sustained writing. Much writing is half-finished, fragmentary, and in note form. A substantial amount of the collection details only names and contact details of those involved in the events to which the notebooks refer. However, spanning much of La Rose's life in Britain, these notebooks hold details on most of the major activities, events and campaigns in which he was involved.
 
Manuscripts (LRA/03):
As a publisher John La Rose was always interested in what people were writing and as a publisher he received numerous manuscripts and was asked to be a judge for various writing competitions. New Beacon Books received many more manuscripts than it could ever hope to publish itself either for financial or practical reasons. Even at the height of its activity as a publisher New Beacon never published more than eight new books in a year.  A number of the manuscripts it received did get published elsewhere. There are other manuscripts whose authors are difficult to trace. And then there are manuscripts of writings submitted for various competitions where John was one of the judges.
There are also manuscripts of John's own writing. He did not write large books but he did write numerous essays, articles and tributes; he gave interviews and speeches. These all reflected his wide interests, serious analysis, original thinking, imagination and hope. Many of these were published during his lifetime - mainly in magazines, newspapers, journals and anthologies. John often sent out such pieces to people he knew and clearly had in mind the possibility of publishing them in an anthology. Unfortunately, this never got done in his lifetime but a small anthology was produced by New Beacon Books and the George Padmore Institute in 2014 titled 'Unending Journey: selected writings'. The title was one chosen by John himself as it was on the front of one of several files in which he had begun to put together a number of articles he was interested in publishing. Other similar writings are catalogued and digitised but have not as yet been republished.  
Finally, but not included in the catalogue as yet, are numerous drafts, notes, poems. These will form part of the accruing collection in the future.
Please note that New Beacon Books' own publication files are held separately in the New Beacon archives and are not yet available for research.
 
Posters and Artwork (LRA/04):
John La Rose appreciated and enjoyed the creativity of painters and sculptors. He used his friend from Trinidad, Art Derry, to design the logo for New Beacon Books as well as the cover designs for many of New Beacon's first titles. Original art work for later titles included paintings by Errol Lloyd and John Hendrickse. John visited exhibitions and artists' studios, he bought their work when he could and had many original pieces in his house. He was also interested in the increasing public use of black images from the 1960s onwards. Each Christmas he would collect any cards or calendars that had black images and file them as part of his archive and to show how things were changing (see also LRA/01/0169).
The posters he collected represented his cultural and political interests, both activities that he had been involved in himself or ones that he was interested in or supported from a distance.
 
Photographs (LRA/05):
The materials in this section are by no means all the photos in John La Rose's collection. A selection was made to represent different aspects of his life and interests - his family, friends, the people he met, activities - and there are also more formal photos of John taken for particular occasions.
 
Contextual Material (LRA/06 - LRA/08):
John La Rose did not always have the time (or space) to file material of interest to him, especially topic related material, so it would be put into a box with a general subject heading - French West Indies; Police; Education etc, the idea being that it could be then sorted more carefully at a later date. For this reason the documents contained in the contextual material sections can cross reference with those in the run of correspondence and topic files catalogued under LRA/01.
Where possible, the original box titles have been preserved in the catalogue structure. The majority of the boxes related to specific countries or regions.
 
Audio and Audio Visual (LRA/09):
John La Rose was very aware how important it was to record contemporary activities for the information of future generations. Starting with the Caribbean Artists Movement in the 1960s through to the GPI in the 2000s, he always tried to make sure that these organisations with which he was involved made as full an audio record as possible of their activities. He was also always interested in receiving any audio or audio visual records from other activities and events. When he was interviewed or gave a speech, John always wanted to receive a copy of the taped interview or speech for his own archives. Because of his interest in music and poetry he also collected numerous vinyl records, cds, videos and dvds over the years. The current Music and Poety series (LRA/09/14) contains material produced primarily by friends and/or people he knew and respected. 
 
Funeral, Tributes and Tribute Events (LRA/10):
John La Rose died from a heart attack on 28 February 2006. His funeral was held on 13 March at the New Testament Church of God, Wood Green, attended by over 1000 people. It was followed by his burial at the St Pancras and Islington Cemetery.  
Many written tributes were sent to the family, the George Padmore Institute and New Beacon Books in the days and months following John's death. These were both by letter and by email, both from people and institutions in the UK and those abroad, some published in newspapers and journals, others personal.
Numerous tribute events were organised to John, both big and small, in the immediate years following his death. They reflected his wide range of friends and contacts and the international spread of his ideas and influence. The tributes ranged from a commemoration in Trinidad held at the Oilfields Workers Trade Union just a few weeks after he died, through to a one day programme at the South Bank marking the first anniversary of his death and the 40th anniversary of New Beacon Books, a concert in the Camden Centre, a tribute in Glasgow, a BBC4 radio programme celebrating his discussions round the kitchen table, as well as numerous smaller meetings, film shows, discussions and events.
 

Custodial History:

Personal papers bequeathed to the George Padmore Institute by John La Rose, with the exception of the following: material relating to a) John La Rose's funeral, tributes and tribute events gifted by the La Rose family; b) the publication of 'Unending Journey: selected writings' (New Beacon Books/George Padmore Institute 2014) gifted by John La Rose Trust.
The LRA collection is accruing.