In remembrance of Olive Morris: #OliveMorrisDay

On Monday 26 June, we will remember the legacy of Olive Morris celebrating her birthday and her life’s work to advocate for social equality.

Join us on Twitter @bcaheritage for a special #OliveMorrisDay Twitter Hour between 7pm and 8pm. Find out more about the life of Olive Morris and her tenacity, boldness, and dedication to campaigning against inequalities in housing policies during the 1960s.

Olive Morris was a community leader and activist who tackled the oppression and exploitation of Black women in Britain by advocating to protect housing and education rights, to better standard of healthcare and immigration laws, as well as to fight against police harassment and brutality against black people. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1952, but moved to Brixton, London in the 1960s.

“Throughout the World the struggles against imperialism grow stronger and stronger. The Black Women’s Liberation Movement is part of the national liberation and the destruction of capitalism. Only when this is achieved can we ensure that our liberation as Black women is genuine, total and irreversible!”  Olive Morris

Morris was an early member of the British Black Panthers in the 1960s and an influential part of the Black Women’s Liberation Movement. She was a founding member of the Organisation for Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. She was instrumental in setting up ‘Sabaar Books’, the first black bookshop in Lambeth.

During her time at Manchester University, she challenged the male dominated nature of the university’s Pan-African Society, and was involved in the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative (later named the Abasindi Women’s Collective), which was formed in 1973.

Morris adopted grassroots activism in her opposition to imperialism and headed many protest demonstrations advocating for the rights of Black women. She was dedicated to the squatting movement and upholding the squatters and housing for black people living in sub-par housing conditions.

She died of leukaemia in 1979 at the young age of 27, and her large contribution to the liberation movement speaks volumes to how the influence young people have in pioneering change, and a testament to the efforts black female figures in Britain made in advocating for themselves.

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“I knew her for a short period of time but she made an incredible impact as I’m sure she must’ve done on so many people’s lives…she was a powerhouse.”
“she really championed causes and she…refused to accept any racism or…sexism.”

Elizabeth Anionwu, Black Cultural Archives Collection – The Heart of the Race: Oral Histories of the Black Women’s Movement. Transcribed by Charles Leddy-Owen.

“she was a great person, very political, very caring”

Elouise Edwards, Black Cultural Archives Collection – The Heart of the Race: Oral Histories of the Black Women’s Movement. Transcribed by Karen Lawrence.

“she knew that she had something to say and she wanted to say it”

Judith Lockhart, Black Cultural Archives Collection – The Heart of the Race: Oral Histories of the Black Women’s Movement. Transcribed by Leoncia Flynn.

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Olive Morris Fact Sheet
  • Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1952 on 26 June
  • Died of leukaemia at the age of 27, 1979
  • Moved to Brixton in the 1960s
  • Went to Manchester University for three years
  • Part of Manchester University’s Pan-African Society
  • Founded Organisation for Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group
  • Helped set up first black bookshop in Lambeth, Sabbar Books on Reighton Road
  • Involved in the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative (later named the Abasindi Women’s Collective), formed in 1973
  • Dedicated to the squatting movement
  • Early member of the British Black Panthers

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Black Cultural Archives’ Black Women’s Movement Collection holds extensive materials that document the lives and experiences of women from the Movement. Also, Lambeth Archives holds materials on Olive Morris and her life as a resident in Brixton. Search our catalogue, browse the subject guides or contact our Collection Team for access to materials, email archives@bcaheritage.org.uk or visit us.

Words by Kamara Simms.

Photo credit: MORRIS/2 — Part 1 and Part 5; DADZIE 1/1/14 — Portrait photo of Olive Morris

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One Response to “In remembrance of Olive Morris: #OliveMorrisDay”
  1. tony bowen says:

    One of the Lambeth council buildings is named after her

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