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From the archives: Jacari in the 1960s

The 1960s were a particularly active time in Jacari’s history when members took part in a wide range of activities to tackle racial inequality and discrimination.

Jacari’s main activity during the 1960s was organising speaker events, which ranged from small student discussion groups and weekly lunchtime meetings to grand-scale debates in the Oxford Union main chamber.

Posters for speaker events organised by Jacari in the 1960s

Jacari Conference poster 1960

Speakers included Sir Leslie Plummer, M.P. on “Should Racial Insults be Illegal?"; Ambrose Reeves, Bishop of Johannesburg, on “Apartheid and its Consequences” (1960); Mervyn Jones, novelist and Observer journalist, on “Apartheid at Home” (1962); Frank Parker, an American law student who fled Alabama to escape arrest and was Vice-President of Jacari in 1964 on “The Civil Rights Bill”; The Prime Minister of British Guiana, Forbes Burnham, on “Independence” in 1965; Anti-apartheid activist Lionel Bernstein on “South Africa after Rivonia” in 1964; American activist Selma James on “Civil Rights - Prospects for 1965”; John Beavan, Political Editor of the Daily Mirror on “The Rhodesian Crisis” in 1966; South African politician Joe Slovo on "Racial Attitudes in South Africa" in 1968. Jacari also organised a one day conference in November 1960 with the theme of “The Economic of Nationalism in the New Africa”.

Poster for a 1964 debate at the Oxford Union featuring Malcolm X

One significant, high-profile event that Jacari members were reported to be involved in was a televised debate held at the Oxford Union in 1964 at which Malcolm X spoke. The motion of the debate was "Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice, moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue". Prof Stephen Tuck has written about this event in his book "The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union" and presented a documentary on BBC Radio 4 on the debate which also focuses on the wider issues of racial discrimination in Britain during the 1960s and features an interview with a former Jacari Chair, Hannan Rose. We are lucky to have a poster for this event in our archives.

Petitions, boycotts and campaigns

Jacari members were also active campaigners, organising petitions, and boycotts and attending marches in response to apartheid in South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, as well as anti-immigration acts in the UK.

March 1963 saw a petition organised on the basis that a proposed tour of South Africa by a joint Oxford-Cambridge rugby team would entail playing only all-white teams before segregated audiences. Jacari encouraged signatures from those who "believe that the tour will appear, particularly in South Africa, to imply approval by the University of the South African Government’s Apartheid policies, and therefore urge Oxford University Rugby Football Club to cancel its plan to visit South Africa”.

Jacari campaigning posters from the 1960s

Jacari also helped to coordinate boycotts of South African goods in the University. The Trinity 1966 termcard reveals that Jacari organised ‘campaigns to boycott the sale and use of South African goods in all colleges’.

Jacari actively campaigned against inequality in Britain, calling for members to write to their MPs against an impending government bill designed to curb immigration in 1961. In 1965, Jacari also arranged a trip to London to lobby against the Commonwealth Immigration Bill outside the House of Commons.

A focus on discrimination in Oxford

During the second half of the 1960s, Jacari appeared to turn its focus on the situation in Oxford. Jacari was involved in the founding of the Oxford Committee on Racial Integration (OCRI) in 1965 and worked closely with OCRI throughout the latter part of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Jacari OCRI poster 1965

One of the main activities that Jacari members supported OCRI with was conducting surveys of immigrants in Oxford. The Michaelmas 1965 term card asked for volunteers as Jacari was organising a survey of West Indians, Pakistani and Indians in Oxford this term - vital to the work of OCRI and “the first complete survey of its kind in this country”. The Hilary 1967 term card stated that Jacari would be working with OCRI on discrimination testing in Oxford on problems of housing, lodging, employment and insurance, stating that it was particularly important to collect cases to support the Race Relations Act Amendment Bill.

Jacari also organised a survey about discrimination in student housing with OCRI in 1967. This issue had actually been raised in Jacari meetings as far back as Michaelmas 1958 and Jacari had been investigating it on a less formal basis for years.

Members were asked to report cases of racial discrimination by student landladies. The survey found two thirds of University approved landladies in Oxford wouldn’t accept non-white students. This resulted in a petition to the University signed by 2000 people. The survey reached a climax in Trinity 1968 when a delegacy formally demanded rules for landlords and landladies to be changed.


Jacari members organised various fundraising events in the 1960s. They continued to fundraise for the William Brogden Memorial scholarship to bring a black South African scholar to study at Oxford in 1961/62, following the successful arrival of a scholar in 1959. Sadly we don’t have any information confirming whether another scholar was able to come to Oxford in the 1960s.

Jacari fundraising posters in the 1960s

Jacari also fundraised for other causes including in 1960 running a Christmas Appeal to raise funds for “Defence and Aid for Treason Trial and Sharpeville Victims” and in 1964 organising the Pete Seeger Freedom Concert to raise funds for SNCC and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Jacari also organised a folk concert at the Oxford Union in 1965 in aid of the Waterford School Swaziland. Also in 1965, Jacari ran a fundraising appeal for civil rights workers in Mississippi trying to fight racial segregation and increase the number of black people registered to vote. The Trinity 1968 term card mentions an Education Appeal to raise funds for secondary education for African children in South Africa.

In 1968, Jacari ran a collection for The Cherwell Housing Trust, OCRI's housing association, which promised to allocate accommodation based on need not race. It had bought a large house on Iffley Road and needed £1,000 to finish converting it into 9 flats.

Jacari's Trinity 1968 term card

Birth of the tutoring scheme

The earliest record of Jacari members tutoring immigrant children is in 1965, when a newsletter included a line about many volunteers being needed to help in English classes for immigrants. The Hilary 1966 term card stated that Jacari "is helping with classes to teach Pakistani children English".

The Trinity 1967 term card gives the first more specific explanation of the teaching project: “Many members help immigrant school children, of different ages, to learn English. Many of them can't get on at school as they have not mastered the language and without extra help can never really overcome their handicap. An hour or so sometimes makes all the difference.” This is the first really clear link with Jacari's work today.

The scheme seems to have expanded rapidly and was seen as a thriving activity for Jacari - the Hilary 1968 term card states that “the scope of the Jacari scheme to teach immigrant children . . . increased enormously.” David Halle became the first Teaching Scheme Secretary, a new role on the Jacari committee. The Trinity 1968 term card (pictured above) calls the programme "probably Jacari's most useful practical work". The first real indication of the size of the scheme comes in Trinity 1969 when we are told that nearly 100 Jacari members were actively involved.

Vacation projects

Newspaper clipping about Jacari volunteers helping children in Balsall Heath (kindly provided by Shirley Vinall)

During the late 1960s, Jacari volunteers took part in vacation projects across the country tackling discrimination in deprived areas with high immigrant populations. In Trinity 1966 and 1967, members were asked to join 2-4 week community summer projects run by the Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) in Southall, Notting Hill, Leeds and Manchester, the aim being to collect cases of discrimination for the aforementioned Race Relations Act Amendment Bill. Also in 1967, Jacari members volunteered to go to Reading at weekends to support a multi-racial playgroup run by local mothers and expose discrimination in employment.

From 1968, groups of Jacari volunteers started going every vacation to Balsall Heath, a very deprived district of Birmingham, to help run a multi-racial day nursery that an initial group had established. Projects were set up in other areas as well, first in Halifax, then in East Oxford (1970-1) and finally in Swindon (1971). All were based around parties of volunteers running playgroups or children's holiday centres and doing research through home visits and housing surveys. The projects can only have been a testimony to students' dedication to Jacari in this era.

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