In Haunt

From learning more about Len Johnson – a 1902 Manchester-born mid-weight boxer of outstanding ability who was disallowed from fighting for British titles due to the colour of his skin –  to a talk on the historic theft of land, there are plenty of fascinating subjects of focus as part of an Autumn programme of live-streamed talks from the Working Class Movement Library (WCML), Salford.

Working Class Movement Library Salford

This is an innovative way of engaging with WCML’s popular Wednesday 2pm Invisible Histories talks, whilst the Library is not yet in a position to welcome drop-in visitors. However, appointments to use the reading room can be booked in advance (details here) and have been available since the 15 September.

Exploring Invisible Histories has long been a significant feature of WCML; considering the stories, experiences and contributions of working people and communities that may have been under-represented, undocumented or unheard. Fascinating social histories will come to the fore, as this autumn’s series considers a range of topics including radical poetry, strike action, dissent, gender and class.

One of the talks is a Being Human Festival event considering the WCML’s collaboration with Walk the Plank on the ‘Begin the World Over Again - radical thoughts & actions for radical times’ project and the influence of radical Thomas Paine, as previously covered by Haunt here. There will also be a talk for Black History Month in October, with University of Manchester Student Union Campaigns and Citizenship Officer Deej Malik-Johnson discussing Len Johnson. Born and raised in Manchester, Len’s mother Margaret Maher came from the city, whilst his father was William Johnson, an African seaman from Sierra Leone, who went to work on fairground boxing booths after the Navy. It seemed that his son Len followed in his footsteps, becoming a notable middle-weight boxer of his day, capable of defeating a number of champions and his professional career spanned from 1922 to 1933. Yet despite his ability, Len faced the cruel obstacle of not being able to fight for British titles, as The British Board of Boxing Control banned black boxers at the time. This talk will consider Len’s life, influence and also his political activism, as he went on to join the Communist Party and even stood for the CPGB six times in the Moss Side ward of Manchester over the period 1947-1962.

Below: Image of Len Johnson, credit: Working Class Movement Library, Salford.

Working Class Movement Library Salford

The first talk of the series will be streamed on Wednesday 30 September at 2pm, featuring sociologist Lisa McKenzie discussing Working class women: the ritual monstering of women through the British class system.  Lisa is assistant professor at the Department of Sociology at Durham University and author of Getting by: estates, class and culture in austerity Britain. In her talk she will explore themes including social justice, class inequality and working class culture, especially in terms of women’s experiences. Further details about the live-streaming will be posted on the WCML event page here on the day of the talk.

The rest of the autumn series of Invisible Histories live-streamed talks is as follows:

Wed 7 October, 2pm: Dave Wetzel, The historic theft of land - and attempts over the centuries to redress this injustice.

Wed 14 October, 2pm: Ralph Darlington, Strikers versus scabs: violence in the 1910-14 labour unrest.

Wed 21 October, 2pm: Andy Croft on radical poet Randall Swingler.

Wed 28 October, 2pm: Black History Month - Deej Malik-Johnson on Len Johnson.

Wed 4 November, 2pm: Cyril Pearce, Conscience and dissent in Britain during the First World War.

Wed 11 November, 2pm: Matthew Kidd, The renewal of radicalism 1867-1924.

THURS 19 November, 2pm: Being Human Festival event: Begin the World Over Again - radical thoughts & actions for radical times.

Wed 25 November, 2.30pm: Carole O'Reilly, The greening of the city [note later start time]

Wed 2 December, 2pm: Clara Jones and Natasha Periyan, Labour women: Ellen Wilkinson and Vera Brittain.

Wed 9 December, 2pm: A double bill of talks on cartoonists, one from the mid-1800s and one the 1980s – details tbc.

Full details of all the above talks are available at, with details about how to join each talk online available on the day on the relevant event Web page. The talks will also be online for viewing later on the Library’s YouTube channel.

Image of Len Johnson, credit: Working Class Movement Library, Salford




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