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BBC-News
Nottinghamshire black miners' history project launched

12 September 2016

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A project to record the little known history of black miners has been launched.

Gedling Colliery, in Nottinghamshire, was known as the Pit of Nations, with hundreds of workers drawn from 15 different countries in the 1950s.

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While race riots made Nottingham streets dangerous for black people the miners said they were treated as family down the pit.

Historian Norma Gregory is now collating their experiences.

Many of the miners came to the region in the late 1940s and 50s when West Indians were promised work.

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Not everywhere was welcoming to the new arrivals - former personnel manager Gilbert Hopkinson said mines with pit villages tended to be a closed community.

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But, Ms Gregory said that during Gedling's heyday between the 1950s and 1970s, about 10% of the workforce was black, leading to its moniker The Pit of Nations.

And while racism was rife on the surface, with riots in Nottingham making international headlines in 1958, it was too dangerous down the pit not to trust colleagues.

Garrey Mitchell, pictured above on a visit to a mining museum, worked for eleven years from 1975 and they were not treated any differently to their white colleagues.

"We were like a family down there, we had to look after each other. But when we went back on the surface it was a different story altogether," he said.

Calvin Wallace, above, said: "Everybody got to unite. You can't go down there with anything in your heart about Tom, Dick or Harry. You all have to get together."

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Ms Gregory, the daughter of Jamaican migrants, said she hopes to expand the National Lottery-funded project.

"Since I started to collate and record the work experiences of former Nottinghamshire black miners, I found all the ex-miners, black and white, were willing to share their memories and mining memorabilia.

"They believe that sharing their experiences, somehow keeps coal mining alive."

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