Old stories, new histories


Peter Stanford and Dhani Prem are amongst two Birmingham figures honoured in the new release of Birmingham entries of the Dictionary of National Biography now available in the Library of Birmingham and from elsewhere using a Birmingham Library card (http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/elibrary) .

Peter Stanford (1860-1909) was born into slavery in the American state of Virginia and came to England in 1883, originally to raise funds for his church in Canada.  However he stayed in England, eventually moving to Small Heath, Birmingham in 1888 and following his marriage to a Smethwick woman,  settled as minister of Hope Street Chapel in Highgate, Birmingham.  His book “From Bondage To Liberty”, published in 1889,  gives an account of his journey from slavery to freedom and is available on request in Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography (ref L78.1).

Dhani Prem (1904-1979) was an Indian-born Birmingham GP and political campaigner.  After qualifying at Edinburgh University and Kings College Hospital in London, Prem moved with his family to Birmingham in 1939 experiencing the growth of Indian and other ethnic communities in the war and post war period.  Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s Prem campaigned tirelessly to support new communities, fight racism and combat discrimination.  Into the 1970’s he continued to campaign for boycotting tours of South Africa in sport, supporting Ugandan Asians and many other organisations, working tirelessly for equality for all.

Other stories will be highlighted in today’s launch event (Monday 28th October) in the Library of Birmingham Studio Theatre at 6.30pm – free and no need to book. Speakers include Dr. Lawrence Goldman from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Dr Chris Upton, Professor Peter Marsh and Dr Sian Roberts.


One response to “Old stories, new histories

  1. Two men who epitomize what a welcoming and radical city Birmingham is……John Bright MP was a Birmingham man who was a great friend of President Abraham Lincoln although they never met. Bright wrote to Lincoln when he was considering not having the abolition of slavery as one of his key war aims in the America Civil War. Lincoln was persuaded by John Bright’s plea not to forsake thousands of Black Americans that he should keep abolition as one of the key outcomes of his war policy. Over 100 years later Hillary Clinton during her husband’s second term came across the story of John Bright and his influence on Lincoln having discovered a bust of John Bright MP in a dusty White House store room. The Clintons put this bust of Bright on display in The Oval Office……I am not sure whether President Obama continues to be watched over by this famous figure from Birmingham’s abolitionist movement from over 150 years ago? Fascinating Birmingham history…………….

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