The first Indian Workers Association (IWA) was probably established in Coventry in 1938 followed by London. Their main aim before the Second World War was to further the cause of Indian Independence, and membership was made up of itinerant tradesmen, students, businessmen and professionals. After independence was gained in 1947, the IWAs went into decline but were reactivated in the 1950s in areas with a concentration of newly arrived Indian migrants. The Coventry and London IWAs were revived in 1953 and 1955 respectively, and associations were formed in Wolverhampton in 1956, Birmingham in 1958 and Southall in 1956 or 1958. In 1958 the local associations came together to form the IWA (Great Britain).
The Birmingham IWA was heavily involved in improving its members’ lives through social and welfare work and opened the Shaheed Udham Singh Welfare Centre on Soho Road, Handsworth in the late 1970s. They were also closely connected with the trade union movement and campaigned against racial inequality in employment and for better working conditions. Active in challenging racism locally and nationally IWA members campaigned against the immigration laws of the 1960s and 1970s and worked on a local level to fight discrimination in housing, education and leisure activities. One particular campaign was against the ‘colour bar’ that operated in many leisure and entertainment establishments in the West Midlands.
The archive includes correspondence, press cuttings, minutes, reports, pamphlets and flyers from 1960 onwards of the national association and the Birmingham branch. There is also a small amount of material relating to other branches including Leamington Spa, Bradford, Huddersfield, Leicester and London. The papers are a valuable resource for the study of the organisation and activities of a radical campaigning group organising opposition to all forms of racism and to the oppression of working people regionally, nationally and internationally. The archive also reflects their collaboration with black campaign groups and radical white groups including the Co-ordinating Committee against Racial Discrimination (CCARD), the West Indian Standing Conference, the Movement for Colonial Freedom, the Black Peoples Alliance, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) and the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL).
A detailed catalogue of this collection is available in Birmingham City Archives, collection reference MS 2141.
You can also download pdf versions of the catalogue to the collection below:
Papers of the Indian Workers Association - MS 2141
Papers of Avtar Jouhl and the Indian Workers Association - MS 2142