Manchester-Lewis

LEGACY OF ECONOMICS NOBEL LAUREATE HELPS MANCHESTER’S AFRO-CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY

The legacy of Nobel prize-winning economist Arthur Lewis (1915-91) – the first black Afro-Caribbean professor in the UK – continues to help the Afro-Caribbean community in Manchester grow out of poverty and acts as an example for policy activists to follow. That is the conclusion of research by Paul Mosley and Barbara Ingham, presented at the Royal Economic Society annual conference 2013.

Their study looks at the work of Professor Lewis while at the University of Manchester in the 1950s. Noticing the discrimination and poverty in the nearby suburbs of Hulme and Moss Side, he set about correcting what he saw as the root causes: a lack of bargaining power and knowledge.

In 1953, together with anthropologist Max Gluckman and members of the local community, he set up two social centres to provide technical education and contacts to help find jobs, housing and legal advice – things he felt could enable Afro-Caribbeans to bargain more effectively for fair wages and bring an end to discrimination. One of the centres survives to this day as the West Indian Sports and Social Club.

The authors model the factors that led people from the community to improve their lives and also those that kept them from doing so – like the ‘snakes and ladders’ from the board game. They find that the centres had an overwhelmingly positive impact:

‘We find that through their adept institutional design, the centres were able to improve significantly the livelihoods of Manchester’s Afro-Caribbeans.

‘We argue that the way they were designed has lessons for policy activists everywhere. Despite generations of campaigning and legislation, racial discrimination still exists throughout the UK and continues to be a major cause of injustice and deprivation around the world.’

More…

What is an effective strategy against inner-city racial discrimination? In spite of more than a hundred years of campaigning and legislation to put an end to racial discrimination, it has still not gone away, and continues to be a major cause of injustice and deprivation around the world.

This study shows that the Nobel laureate Arthur Lewis (1915-91), the first black Afro-Caribbean to be appointed to a professorship in this country, in 1948, made notable contributions to answering this question. In the middle of his famous writings on the causes of economic growth in the 1950s, he discovered the extent of discrimination and poverty in Moss Side, the suburb right next to his own University of Manchester, and set out, in partnership with the famous anthropologist Max Gluckman and members of the local Afro-Caribbean communities, to put an end to this discrimination.

His diagnosis was that what Manchester Afro-Caribbeans lacked was first, bargaining power and second, knowledge. So with the help of local churches and the Manchester Education Committee, he established in 1953, in Moss Side and neighbouring Hulme, two social centres, the South Hulme Evening Centre and Community House, which would provide the necessary knowledge – consisting not only of technical education, but even more of contacts in the labour market, the housing market and the legal profession that could enable Afro-Caribbeans to bargain more effectively for fair wages and an end to discrimination.

Of these two centres, the South Hulme Evening Centre soon fell by the wayside, but Community House survived, and eventually merged with a Caribbean sports club to form the West Indian Sports and Social Club, combining educational and recreational functions, which we know today. Lewis was thus able, through his understanding as a West Indian of the snakes they were at risk of falling down, to create a sustainable institution – a ladder out of poverty that has survived to this day.

In the final part of the study, the researchers model these snakes and ladders to make an assessment of the effectiveness of the South Hulme Evening Centre and Community House at achieving an increase in Afro-Caribbean incomes and a reduction in their poverty, taking note of their own self-help institutions, such as the savings clubs, which they themselves established.

The study finds that through their adept institutional design, the centres were able to improve significantly the livelihoods of Manchester Afro-Caribbeans. The researchers argue that the way they were designed has lessons for policy activists everywhere.

ENDS


Contact:

Paul Mosley: 0114-222-3397, 07709-650759 (p.mosley@sheffield.ac.uk)

Barbara Ingham: 01200-426922 (bi2@soas.ac.uk)

RES media consultant Romesh Vaitilingam:
+44 (0) 7768 661095
romesh@vaitilingam.com
@econromesh

Page Options