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'Black was the colour of our

fight. 1Black Power in Britain,


1955-1976

13

Wild
Eleanor
Rosalind
PhD candidate
Departmentof History, University of Sheffield
August 2008

THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

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Abstmct

ABSTRACT
'Black was the colour of our fight. ' Black Power in Britain, 1955-1976

This thesis examinesin detail the rise and fall of the British Black Power
in
Britain
is
Black
Power
first
book-length
It
the
and the only
study
of
movement.
oneof anysizewritten by a historian.
It traces the roots of British Black Power in (1) the anti-colonialist
traditions of immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, India and Pakistar the last

threecategoriesof which cameto Britain in unprecedented


numbersafter 1955;(2)
black freedomstrugglein the United States;
the influenceof the contemporaneous
and (3) most importantlythe encounterwith white racismin the United Kingdom.
It arguesthat, althoughpolitically it was short-lived,the movementhad a longterm cultural impact on black protest.It createda unifying black political identity
and shifted the debateaboutdomesticracerelationsonto a considerationof white
immigration.
black
as
well
as
racism

The exaggeratedviolence of the Black Power movement's rhetoric,


however,gavethe statethe opportunityto harassactivistson the streetsand in the
Black
Power
infiltrated,
frequently
Police
raided
groups.
spied on and
courts.
Internally, cultural nationalism and increasingly dogmatic Marxist-Leninist
Most
fragmented
divisions
Black
the
that
movement.
agendascreatedpolitical
Power activistscamefrom the Caribbean:the movementfailed to directly engage
large numbers of Asians, who made up the majority of Britain's post-war
immigrants.

Nonetheless,Black Power's legacy was bome unintentionally in the


11

industrial militancy of Asian immigrants in the 1970s,and deliberatelyby the

Abstract
founders of numerous social welfare and educational projects in black
communities. The young black men who took direct action against police

harassmentand intimidation on the streetsof Notting Hill and Southall in 1976


reflectedboth Black Power's militant spirit and its failure to achieveits goal of a
built
society
on respectandequality.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I could not havewritten this thesiswithout the unstintinghelp, advice and moral
supportof my supervisorProfessorRobert Cook and the staff of the Institute of
RaceRelations.I would also like to thankDr Hugh Wilford andthe clericalstaff in
the historydepartmentat the Universityof Sheffield,the librariansandarchivistsat
the GeorgePadmoreInstitute,the Labour History Archive and Study Centre,the
Bodleian Library of Commonwealthand African Studiesand Birmingham City
Archives and all the people who kindly gave up their time to be interviewed.
Finally, I would like to thank the Arts and HumanitiesResearchCouncil for its
Morris.
Ben
is
financial
dedicated
This
to
thesis
the
memoryof
support.
generous

Contents
CONTENTS

Abstract

Acknowledgments
Introduction
.....................................................................................

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and


the American civil rights movement, 1955-1965

..........................

Chapter2: 'In the bellYof the beast':fi-omblack


disillusiomnentto Black Power
.............................................

25

65

Chapter I 'A revolutionary conspiracy'? Black


Power's strengthsand weaknesses
.........................................

116

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
funding:the stateresponse
...................................................

163

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian


militan6y,Black Powerandthe trade
union movement.............................................................

211

Conclusion
...................................................................................

256

Bibliography
................................................................................

261

Introduction
INTRODUCTION
'My biggest motivation for joining, the Pantherswas my experience growing up as

"
black
in
So says Linton Kwesi Johnson- poet, reggae
England.
youth
a
fact
Britain
former
The
boss
label
Black
Power
that
activist.
and
musician,record
had its own Black Powermovement,which ran concurrentlywith its morefamous
American namesake, is not widely known. British Black Power developed as a

reactionof the post-wargenerationof black immigrants,who camepredominantly


from the Caribbeanand SouthernAsia, to their experienceof white racism in
Britain.2 It was shapedby their traditionsof resistingBritish colonial exploitation
in their home countries and built on the foundationsof anti-colonialism and
laid
in
by
discrimination
Britain,
to
previous
generations
most
racial
resistance
in
influenced
heavily
1930s
1940s.
by,
It
African
the
and
wasalso
students
notably
Black
Power, which provided a blueprint for
American
of,
and often mimetic
industrial
in
West
In
however,
Britain,
the
the
urban
centres
of
members
rebellion
in
Power
Black
carried
groups
neither
guns
nor
violence,althoughtheir
engaged
of
fiery rhetoric suggestedotherwise. By the middle of the 1970s, the state's
it
from
Black Powerhadcombinedwith
to
the
threat
perceived
repressiveresponse
the movement'sinternal tensionsto undermineits coherence.Although a few
life
had
that
started aspart of the Black Powermovementcontinuedto exist
groups
into the 1980sand 1990s,after the mid-1970sthey no longerfound Black Powera
usefulconceptaroundwhich to organise.

1Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17September


2004.
2 The term 'black' is usedthroughoutthe thesisto denotepeoplefrom Affica, the Caribbeanand
southernAsia. Immigrantsof Caribbeandescentare referredto as 'West Indians' becausethis is
how they would have describedthemselvesat the time. The term 'Asian' refers to Pakistanis,
Indiansand, after December1971,Bangladeshis,as well as diasporanAsians from easternand
southernAfrica. Ile term 'black Briton' is usedto distinguishthe first generationof British-born
blackpeoplefrom their immigrantparents.
I

Introduction
BecauseBlack Power is notoriously difficult to dcfine and its American
form so dominatesthe public's perception,it is essentialto explain what Black
Powermeantin the British contextand what constitutedthe 'British Black Power
in
Power
itself.
Black
thesis
this
movements the
concerns
movement'with which
Caribbean,North Americaand Britain had different timeframesandtook different
forms in responseto the demographic,cultural and historical specificitiesof their
has
for
Meeks,
Brian
Caribbean
very specificallypinacademic
example,
region.
day
in
1968,
October
Caribbean
16
Black
Power
that
the
the
the
as
of
start
pointed
the Jamaicangovernmentrefusedto let radicalGuyaneseacademicWalter Rodney
into the countryto attendthe Black Scholarsconference,and saysthe movement
19
October
Minister
Bishop,
Prime
Maurice
killed,
on
alongside'Grenadian
was
1983.3In the United States,historiansgenerallytake the startingpoint of the Black
Powerphaseof the civil rights movementto be 16 June 1966,when StudentNonfrom
leader
(SNCC)
Carmichael
Committee
Stokely
Coordinating
emerged
violent
he
his
Mississippi
that
twenty-seventh
after
and
gaolhouse
arrest
proclaimed
a
freedom
his
for
but
demanding
In
Power!
longer
be
'Black
asking
would no
history of AmericanBlack Power,PenielJosepharguesthat the movementreached
the zenithof its unity andcohesionin 1972,but hadbegunto declineprecipitously
between
Pan-Africanism
by
the
advocates
and
of
socialismstruggle
power
split
by the time Carmichaeland otherstook part in the sixth Pan-AfricanCongressin
in 1974.And while Josephexplainsthat, 'For the men and women
Dar-es-Salaarn
ideal
inspiration
found
through
their
the
courage
and
acceptance
of
of racial
who

3 Speechby Brian Meeks at the Internationalising Black Power conferenceat the Institute for the
Study of the Americas, London, on 25 October 2007.
4 SeeP, Weisbrot, Freedom Bound- history
(New
York,
movement
civil
rights
a
ofAmerica's
1991), P. 199.

Introduction
Black
his
the
the
concludes
when
narrative
ended',
equality,
movementnever
PantherParty ceasedto function as a national organisation in 1975.5

In Britain, the birth of the Black Power movementcan be markedby the


founding of the Universal ColouredPeople'sAssociation(UCPA) in June 1967.
The London group's mild, slightly old-fashionedsoundingnamebelied its clear
for
Black
UCPA's
Power
the
newspaper,
organisation self-identification as a

formed
before
Newsletter.
UCPA
Black
Power
As
the
the
was
example,was called
the July 1967 London visit of Stokely Carmichael, which did a great deal to

in
look
Britain's
Power
Britain,
Black
to
the
own
message
one
must
promote
heritageof anti-colonialprotest,both at home and in its colonies,to explain the
here
in
'Too
England,
the
many
people
group.
and unfortunately
of
emergence
Black
Power
its
States
in
United
too
the
see
as
some
sort
and
advocates
people
...
black
from
depths
the
of
of portent,a suddenapparition,as someracist eruption
in
backwardness',
Trinidadian
intellectual
James
black
CLR
wrote
oppressionand
1967.'It is nothingof the kind. It representsthe high peakof thoughton the Negro
6
for
been
half
has
going on
over
a century.
questionswhich
7
definitions
Black
Power
Precise
of
am elusive. When Black Powerdoyen
Stokely Carmichaeland his co-author Charles Hamilton published their 1967
Power.
Politics
Liberation
it
bible,
Black
America,
in
the
of
contained
movement
no clear-cut definition!

During a speech dedicated to the subject, CLR James

3P. Joseph,Waiting'771TheMidnight Hour. a narrativehistoy ofBIack Powerin America(New


York, 2006),p. 304.The Black PantherPartyformally ceasedto exist in 1982.
6 CLR James,'Black Power its past,todayandthe way ahead',text of a speechgiven in Londonin
August1967,reprintedasa pamphletby FrankJohnin 1968,p. 7. Held in the Black Documents
file at the Instituteof RaceRelations(IRR).
7HistorianWilliam Lux wrote in 1972that, "Me difficulty in defininga phenomenon
like Black
It is this universalitythat so
Poweris that it hasdifferentmeaningsfor its variousadherents.
complicatedthe idea'. W. Lux, 'Black Powerin the Caribbean,Journal ofBIack Studies3:2
(December1972),p. 207.
8S. CarmichaelandC. Hamilton,Black Power:the Politics ofLiberation In America(New York,
1967).

Introduction
for
Black
Power
'banner
definition
than
people
a
of
managedno more precisea
9
with certainpolitical aims, needsand attitudes... aroundwhich they can rally'.
James did not intend the loosenessof his definition to undennine what he
its
followers
it
For
'banner'.
be
this
the
tremendous
to
significanceof
perceived
have
in
life
he
'the
they
tremendous
as
society
and
change
symbolof a
was, said,
10
it'.
Perhapsthe closestonecancometo a definition is to delineatea setof
known
identity
These
Power
Black
themes
are:
movementsengaged.
core
with which all
(that is culture, self-definition, pride, and dignity); community control (self-

determination,control of the institutionsof one'scommunityandits defence);antibetween


internationalism.
In
British
the
unity
people
movement,
colonialism;and
descent
Other
Asian
African
was
also
a
principal
aim.
political objectives
and
of
Power
in
different
different
by
Black
times:
groups
at
movements
were espoused
but such goals as the revolutionary overthrow of society, Pan-Africanism,
Marxism-Leninism,geographicalseparatismandthe needfor the black community
to accruepolitical power and financial wealth, are too specificto be includedin a
Power.
definition
Black
of
general
Britain was particularly fertile ground for the messageof Black Power
becauseits black subjectshad beenbusily engagingwith the movement'scentral
themesthroughoutthe twentieth century. Although British Black Power clearly
drew inspiration from its American counterpartin many ways, there is a strong
thread of continuity betweenthe demandsand actionsof -indigenousgroupslike
the UCPA and the Black PantherMovement(BPM) and those colonial subjects
inter-war
imperial
intention
in
the
the
to
the
period
with
metropolis
of
who came
freeing themselvesfrom British domination.To read the memoirs of Guyanese
9 CLR Jaines'Black Power', 4.
p.
10Ibid. p 4.

Introduction
found
in
1937,
helped
Britain
Ras
Makonnen,
the
to
came
student
who
International African Service Bureau with George Padmore in the same year, and
is
in
in
1945,
in
fifth
Congress
Manchester
Pan-African
the
pivotal
organising
was

to hear Black Power in action long before Stokely Carmichaelgave it a name.


'Ours was a strictly black organisation, wrote Makonnen of the Pan-African
Federationthat organisedthe 1945 Congress,'I was not going to take another
group of white peoplewho would want us to say later that if it had not beenfor
"
independence'.
have
In common with the
them, we wouId never
gained our
majority of the politically active Africans in Britain alongsidewhom Makonnen
had campaigned,he left Britain for Africa in the 1950sto continuethe strugglefor
decolonisationthere.However,in the 1950sand early 1960sa numberof people
and organisationsin Britain providedan intellectualbridge betweenthe struggles
againstimperialismand colonialismof the recentpast and the strugglesfor racial
the present.PeoplesuchasAmy AshwoodGarvey,CLR James,Walter
of
equality
X-Rodney(who studiedin London from 1963to 1966),ClaudiaJones,and groups
like the Committeeof African Organisations,promotedan internationalfocus that
situatedthe struggleagainstBritain's 'colour bar' widiin a global struggleof the
oppressed.
To understandBritish Black Power,one must explain what was meantby
the termsidentity, communitycontrol,anti-cOlOnialism
and internationalismin the
British context.Of all of these,identity is the most importantand Black Power"s
most significantand enduringachievementsin Britain lay in this sphere.The first
liberation,
black
to
accordingto the authorsof Black Power, was 'to reclaim
step
identity
from what must be called cultural terrorism': this was
history
and our
our

11R. Makonnen,Pan-AfticanismfromWithin(Oxford, 1973),p. 179,

Introduction
12 Self

in
America.
in
Britain
less
than
true
post-emancipation
no
post-imperial

definition - the ability to throw off the negative stereotypesof black people, black

imperialists
by
black
historically
to excuseand
created white
cultureand
countries,
lead,
behaviour,
their
andrecogniseone's own worth - would
exploitative
explain
it was hoped,to an empoweringpride, self-respectand dignity for Britain's blacks.
The adoptionin Britain in the late 1960sof the word 'black', in preferenceto, say,
West Indian, to describeoneselfsignified this processof self-definition,and the
term implied pride and self-respect precisely becauseit was independently chosen.

The reclamationof an independentblack culture was done in myriad ways in


Britain, but most stronglythrough a supplementaryeducationmovementfor both
in
learn
they
which
could
aboutthe historiesandachievements
childrenandadults,
Power
like
Black
British
Black
Power,
their
all
ancestorsand contemporaries.
of
movements,also madea point of assertingthat black peoplewerepart of a global
important
development
'black
Britain
In
this
the
was
an
of
a
part of
majority.
because
the recognitionof a sharedhistory of oppressionunderthe
consciousness',
British might help black people of Asian and African origin to unite againsta
common foe. This was a radical messageto people who had historically been
indentured
and colonisedand were still being treatedlike second-class
enslaved,
citizensin thlr homeandadoptedcountries.
Communitycontrol comprisedself-help,self-sufficiency,self-determination
among other things, a refusal to
and self-defence.In Britain this encompassed,
funding
and the proliferation of community-basedself-help
accept government
programmessuchas supplementaryschools,homelesshostelsand legal advocacy
independence
Geographical
black
services.
separatismand
economic
were not
12S. Carmichael and C. Hamilton, Black Power: the Politics oftiberation In America (New York,
1967), p. 34.

Introduction
viable goals in Britain thereforeself-determinationand self-sufficiencytook the
form of creatingthe independentsocial, welfare and recreationalfacilities listed
above.Self-determinationalso involved an attemptto establishpublic spaceslike
streetsand marketsas the domain of the 16calcommunity and to repudiatethe
it
police when was thought they were attemptingto watch, control or intimidate
black peoplein public. Self-defencedid not meanthat British Black Powergroups
armedthemselvesor engagedin violence,althoughthey did seekto protecttheir
communitiesby patrolling the streets,monitoring the actions of the police and
trying to providelegaladviceandrepresentation
whereverpossible.A commitment
to self-defencedid not necessitate
violent behaviour- aspoliticians,the police and
the mediaoften believed- but ratherwas a decisionon principle not to passively
individual
endure
racismandstaterepression.
If the developmentof a black consciousness
was regardedas a processof
interior decolonisation,British Black Power also explicitly promoted external
decolonisation,in the form of supportfor anti-colonialmovementsin Africa and
Asia. This was a causeespousedby most Black Powermovements,but especially
British Black Power, located in the heart of the greatestimperial power in the
world, peopledby former colonial subjectsand drawing on a strong tradition of
metropolitananti-colonialism.British groupsexpressedsolidarity with, publicised
the strugglesof, andfimdraisedfor, African liberationmovementsin Mozambique,
Rhodesia,Angola and Guind-Bissau,among others, and campaignedagainst
apartheidin SouthAfrica. They also supportedIrish Republicanismand regarded
the British army'spresencein NorthernIrelandasa colonial occupation.
It was perhapsnot surprisingthat a movementmadeup of peoplewho had
recentlyarrived from countriesin Africa, the Caribbeanand Asia should have a

Introduction
strong international focus, or that people who, until very recently, had been
colonial subjects, identified with the Irish, but there was also a theoretical
underpinning for Black Power's internationalism distinct from its anti-colonialism.
By taking a global perspective, black people could see themselves as part of a
world majority, rather than a national minority. This was particularly important in
Britain, where in the late 1960s black people constituted about two per cent of the
population. Paying attention to Third World liberation struggles also served to
reinforce the idea that black people were as important as white westerners and
boosted a senseof numerical strength and power.
The final defining characteristic of British Black Power was that in Britain,
unlike in the United States, Black Power had to bridge the racial divide between
Asian, West Indian and African immigrants and their differing experiences of
colonialism. This meant that interracial unity was a primary objective of the British
Black Power movement. 'Black Power is Black Unity', explained a leaflet
produced by the UCPA. 'Black People (that is, Africans, West Indians, Indians,
Pakistanis, Chinese, Arabs and all non-white peoples), united together can and will
gain their human rights. We, the black people, need the unity that gives us Black
Power.' 13It is the contention of this thesis that the irrevocable establishment of
blackness as a unifying political identity was one of the most important
achievements of British Black Power. '[W]e have got one more chance, i. e.
BLACK

POWER!

...

Therefore the truth is

"IN

UNITY

LIES OUR

LIBERATION"", explained the newsletter of Leicester's Black People's Liberation


14
Front in 1971. Ile move awayfrom this perspectiveto a moreethnically-defined
13UCPA, 'Black power is black unity',
undated leaflet held in the Black Organisations file at the
MR.
14Black Chat, issue 1,197 1, p. 1. Newsletter the Leicester-basedBlack People's Liberation
of
Party.

Introduction
identity politics in the late 1970sand early 1980sis one of the reasonsthis thesis
endsin 1976.
There are severalother reasonswhy this study draws to a close in 1976,
despite the fact that two of Britain's major Black Power groups, the Black
LiberationFront (BLF) andthe Black Unity andFreedomParty(BUFP),continued
to exist and produce newspapersuntil the 1990s.If CLR Jamesplaced Black
Powerat the 'high peak' of black protestpolitics in 1967,by 1976it wasno longer
built
in
Single-issue
that
the
on
and
experiences
politics
were rooted
cutting edge.
the strengths of black communities - for example legal defence and antideportationcampaigns;black feminism; Asian Youth Movements;and social and
disadvantaged
for
lodging
that
training
organisations
provided
skills
welfare
and
black youths - all owed a great debt to the Black Power movementbut also
it
Finally,
by
Power
1976,
Black
American
the
movement,
politically.
superseded
had
brutal
the
weight
ceasedto
of
sustained
repression,
under
and
state
collapsing
be a useful referencepoint for black peoplelooking for inspirationand a practical
templatefor resistingstateracism.
Beyondthe boundariesof the Black Powermovement,otherfactorsin British
factory
in
1976
Grunwick
In
1976,
August
the
a
watershed
made
year.
society
at
north London,a strike of black workers,led by an Asian woman,managedfor the
first time to inspire unequivocalsupportacrossthe tradeunion movement.It was
the apex of a sustainedcampaign of Asian-led strikes that (unintentionally)
fulfilled the vanguardrole of the black worker prescribedby many Black Power
groups.In Westminster,the successfulpassageof the 1976 Race RelationsAct
meantthat legal sanctionsagainstracial discriminationwere finally being applied
in a systematicand effective manner.At the other end of the spectrum,the street

Introduction
battle between.black youths and *thepolice that broke out at the Notting Hill
Carnival in August 1976 representeda new chapter in the history of black
resistanceto the aggressive,discriminatorybehaviour of the police, that was
undoubtedlyinformedby, but not part of, the Black Powermovement.

British Black Power groups, becauseof their fear of police persecution,


deliberatelyleft very little in the way of written evidence,and much of what was
kept has beenleft to rot in individual activists' cellars and attics. In the last five
yearsa numberof HeritageLottery Fund grantshavebeenawardedto enablethe
long-overdueprocess of locating, preserving and cataloguing some of these
documentcollections.The London MetropolitanArchives now housesthe papers
of activistsEric and JessicaHuntley; the online catalogueof the GeorgePadmore
Institute lists holdings of papersfrom severalorganisationsheadedby John La
Rose (see www.georgepadmoreinstitute.
org.uk); South London's Black Cultural
Archives and the Institute of Race Relations are also both in the processof
archiving their collections. At the time of writing, however, only the George
PadmoreInstitute's collection is fully open to the public and accessto that is
severely constrainedby the capacity of its very small staff to accommodate
visitors. Outsideof London theseproblemsare even more acuteand it is, at the
impossible
time,
to locate and accessthe meagre historical
virtually
present
Black
Power groups.The.thesismakesLondon its focus,
provincial
resourceson
therefore,by necessity.
This does not necessarilyrepresentan unforgivable distortion of the
historical record though. Although most towns the size of Huddersfield and
upwardsthar had a substantialnon-white populationwere likely to have a small

10

Introduction
that had the most members
Black Power group, it was the Londonorganisations,
just
1969
impact.
According
influence
far
by
to
survey,
the greatest
a
and
and
fewer than half the black people in Britain lived in London - therefore the
15
is
long
is
As
focus
as one
on the capital not entirely unwarranted.
predominant
it
in
towns
the
cities,
and
provincial
carefulto acknowledgethe existenceof groups
in
Britain
Power
the
Black
that
to
about
write
claim
not
undermine
one's
need
has
for
is
That
focus
London.
thesis
this
the
the
research
said,
on
majority of
thrown up virtually no information aboutwhetherthe relatively small numbersof
black people living in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland between1955 and
1976 had their own Celtic brandsof Black Power, and thus it is only fair and
Power
Black
light
British
this
that
to
on
study shedsno
accurate acknowledge
beyondthe bordersof England.However,until ftu-therresearchuncoversevidence
that there were distinctive Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Black Power
Black
Power,
British
Black
English
Power,
term
to
the
as opposed
movements,
will be used.

'A white personwho venturesto speakor write on any aspectof black historymust
first of all answerthe question:"'What has black history got to do with white
in
journalist
1993.16
The
Fryer
Peter
"',
answerof
and
author
people? wrote white
this thesisis - everything.The history of black immigration to and settlementin
Britain is as much 'British history' asthat of the economyit boosted.IWithout the
black element",Fryer concluded,'British history is seriously and misleadingly

15EJB Rose et al, Colour and Citizenship: a Report on British Race Relations (London, 1969). pp.
101-2, estimatesthat 47 per cent of non-white immigrants in Britain lived in London at the time of
both the 1961 and 1966 censuses.Rose also notes that in 1966 non-white people comprised more
than 5 per cent of the population of only six local authorities, all of which were London boroughs.
16P. Fryer, AspectsofBrItish Histopy (London, 1993), p. 5.

11

Introduction
17

incomplete'. The theoreticaland methodologicalapproachof the thesisreflects


this belief It is a critical assessmentof the growth of radical protest among the

black immigrantcommunitiesthat developedin Britain after the startof large-scale


immigration from Asia and the Caribbeanin 1955.That is not to say that black
peopledid not live in Britain andcontributeto its politics beforethe SecondWorld
War. There has been a continuousblack presencein Britain since the sixteenth
century,from which time black peoplehavebeenimportant,if overlooked,agents
in Britain's domestichistory.18 Although the black presencein Britain beforethe
SecondWorld War is a relatively under-researched
area of history, it is not the
focus of this thesisbecausethe story of Black Powerin Britain representsan even
lacuna.
is
just
It
but unresearched.
not
greater
under-researched,
African American historian Manning Marable has describedauthentic
black history as 'a historicalnarrativein which blacksthemselvesarethe principal
actors and that the story is told and explainedlargely from their own vantage
19
point'. Although written by a white historian,this thesisaspiresto 'authenticity'
in that it seeksto analyseblack agencyin the post-warperiod.As broada rangeof
has
been
sourcesas possible
consulted and, to give voice to black agency,
whereverpossible the thesis referencesindependentsourcesfrom within black
interpretative
in
favour
from
the white community and the
communities
of
ones
state.Hence,undergroundblack newspapersare usedmore liberally than articles

17

Ibid., p. 6.
'a See,for example,P. Fryer, Staying Power.,the History Black People in Britain (London,
of
19841GretchenGerzina,Black England. Life Before Emancipation(London, 1995),F. Shyllon,
Black Peoplein Britain. 1555-1833(London, 1977)and 1. Walvin, Black and "ite. the Negro
andEnglishSociety(London,1973).
'9 M. Marable,Vving Black Hlslory. How Reimaginingthe African-AmericanPast Can Remake

America'sRacialFuture(New York, 2006),p. 21.

12

introduction
20
like
black
the
Similarly,
the
from the mainstreamwhite press.
groups
recordsof
Indian Workers' Associationof GreatBritain arepreferredto the recordsof whitedominated organisations;like the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination
(CARD), eventhoughmanyblack peopleparticipatedin the latter. It privilegesthe
UCPA,
the
above organisations
as
the
such
radical grassrootsgroups,
actionsof
like the National Council of CommonwealthImmigrants (NCCI), which were
black
Unsurprisingly,
handpicked
had
by
given
the
members.
stateand
convened
be
leave
that
to
used againstthem,
might
their unwillingness
written evidence
Power
from
Black
documents
and other community groups are much
original
'race
by
the
information
the
the
state, mainstreammediaand
produced
scarcerthan
' However, often the best sourcesof empirical information
industry'!
relations
files,
Branch
Special
Power
Black
surveillance
groups' activities were
about
Black
them
prosecutioncasenotesandpolice records,which alsocontainedwithin
Power literature confiscatedduring raids. To augment this primary literature,
fifteen former activistshave beeninterviewed,most of whom claimedit was the
first time any historian- black or white - had askedabout their involvementin
Black Power. Their memoriesboth contextualisethe written sourcesand fill in
them,
that
the
althoughas with all
after
a
close
reading
remained
of
gaps
of
some
distorting
history
the
the
effect of
and
subjectivity of personalrecollection
oral
hindsightmustalwaysbe takeninto account.
'Me thesis quite deliberatelydoes not often engagewith the intellectual
Paul
Gilroy.
Hall
like
Stuart
black
and
cultural studiesscholars
pyrotechnicsof
This is becauseafter two early and important works, Policing The Crisis:
20The exceptions to this are the articles of white journalists Colin McGlashan (7he Observer) and
Derek Humphry (The Sunday I-Imes), who were respected by many black people for their
black
to
thus
radical
racism
groups.
white
and
allowed
unparalleled
access
about
perceptiveness
" For an explanation of the slightly pejorative term 'race relations industry' seepage 16.

13

Introduction
Mugging, the Stateand Law and Order and TheEmpire StrikesBack: Raceand
Racismin 70sBritain, Hall and his disciples' work descendedinto jargon-heavy,
daily
had
little
the
to
that
motivationsof
say about
abstruseness
post-structuralist.
22
black people. Furthermore,its hostility to empiricism and material analysis
has
little to tell us about the social and economic
that
cultural studies
means
This
1970s.
in
1960s
black
the
to
that
and
gaverise
political radicalism
conditions
?3
To
black
in
has
been
studies
cultural
made various commentarieson
criticism
this author, cultural studies' critique of traditional historical methodologyalso
if
it
defeatist,
little
assumesthat genuinelyassessingthe economic,
as
a
seems
black
people will not reveal a substantial
political and social activities of
contributionto British society.
As previously noted there is no historical account of the Black Power
few
histories
in
book-length
Britain.
There
of postare
also
surprisingly
movement
war British racerelations.A goodindicatorof how muchhistorianshaveneglected
the areais the fact that the most comprehensiveand usefut book on the subject,
PeterFryer's StayingPower. the History of Black Peoplein Britain, was written
?4
has
been
book,
journalist,
Fryer's
the
twenty
than
ago
of
a
years
work
more
justly criticisedby feminist CatherineHall for having "almostnothingto sayabout
for
Asian
by
Tariq
Modood.
the
of
contribution
neglecting
women' and academic

22S. Hall, C. Critcher, J. Clarke and B. Roberts, policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law
Strikes
for
The
Finpire
1978)
Centre
Contemporary
Cultural
Studies
(London,
Order
and
and
Back: Race andRacism In 70s Britain (London, 1992).
23See J. Bourne, 'Racism, Postmodernism and the Flight from Class', in D. Hill, P. McLaren, M.
Cole and G. Rikowski (eds), Postmodernism in Educational Theory. Education and the Politics of
Human Resistance(London, 1999), A. Sivanandan, 'All that melts into air is solid. the hokum of
New Times', Race & Class 31:3 (1990) and A. Sivanandan, 'Le trahison des clercs', Race & Class
37:3 (1996). Coming from a very different perspective, sociologist Tariq Modood has robustly
criticised Paul Gilroys work on the black experience in Britain for excluding the experiences of
Asian immigrants. See T. Modood, 'Political Blackness and British Asians', Sociology 28:4 (1994)
and P. Gilroy, Mere Ain't No Black in 7he Union Jack (London, 1992) and The Black Atlantic:
Madernity and Double Consciousness(London, 1993).
24Fryer, Skying Power.

14

Introduction
immigrants.25Indian journalist Dilip Hiro's Black British, "ite

British, strikes a

in
Indians
West
Africans
histories
Asians,
between
balance
the
and
of
more even
Britain, but comes to a close in the late 1960sjust as the Black Power movement
?6A former Communist, who had been expelled from the British
beginning
was
in
Fryer
1956,
invasion
Hungary
for
his
the
remained
of
critical reporting of
party
history
British
Sta)lng
Hence
Power
the
race
of
approaches
a committed socialist.
A.
fellow
Marxist
influence
firmly
from
left,
the
the
of
and clearly shows
relations
Sivanandan, whose polemical essay, 'From Resistance to Rebellion: Asian and
Afro-Caribbean Struggles in Britain', has remained highly influential since its
7
from
immigrant
in
Sivanandan's
1?
198
as
an
personal experiences
publication
Sri Lanka in the 1950sand a fellow traveller of the Black Power movement and his
from
1964
fa-st
library
head
Europe's
the
of
relations
race
professional career as
Institute
from
1972,
director
Race
Relations
the
then
gives
of
of a radicalised
and
him a unique insight into the history of race relations and black resistance in
Britain. His convincingly argued thesis on the economic fiinction of British racism
in 'From Resistanceto Rebellion' is a useful starting point for scholars of British
race relations.

The modemacademicdisciplineof racerelationswasfoundedin 1947with


the publicationof anthropologistKennethLittle's Negroesin Britain: a Study of

" C. Hall, "itA Afale and Mfda7eClass(Cambridge,1992),p. 19. In spiteof this criticism Hall
also describesShWingPower as 'vital'. Modood's criticism is that, 'Despite the usual prefatory
integral
less
black
devotes
am twenty
Britain
[Staying
Power]
Asians
part
of
an
about
as
remarks
of its six hundredpagesto them'. T. Modood, 'The limits of America!rethinkingequality in the
changingcontextof British racerelations' in B. Ward andA. Badger(eds),TheMaking ofMartin
LutherKing and the Civil RightsMovement(Basingstoke,1996),p. 182.
26D. Hiro, BlackBritish. Me British (London, 1971).
27A. Sivanandan,'From Resistance
to Rebellion:Asian and Aft-Caribbean Strugglesin Britain',
Race& Class,23:2 (1981).

15

Introduction
28
living
book
idea
the
The
Society.
English
about
Relations
in
Race
of writing a
field
during
Little
in
had
trip
Britain
black
to
a
the
come
community
conditions of
Until
large-scale
in
Cardiff.
black
head
children
to measure the
sizes of
began
1955
Caribbean
to
fromlAsia
Britain
the
make
after
to
and
mumgration
black faces more visible in British society, scholars continued to approach the
in
in
the
tribe
black
they
the
an
exotic
would
way
same
immigrants
study of
Amazon basin. However, Little nd his prot6gds' work was important to the future
helped
it
because
to overturn the widely acceptedtheory that
study of race relations
different,
the
biologically
thereby
eugenic claims of
repudiating
were
races
scientific racism.
The state's acknowledgement by the mid-1960s that Britain had become a
discipline
the
the
of
new
rising popularity of
multiracial society coincided with

black
immigrants
The
the
that
time
were
at
was
political consensus
social science.
by
housing,
disease,
Britain's
occupying
council
spreading
welfare
state
straining
living
These
paradoxically,
off
social
were
security.
and,
wages
undercutting
burgeoning
to
the
the
which
ranks of sociologists
sorts of researchareas
exactly
from
hence
the
the
themselves,
study of
to
mid-1960s
onwards
apply
wanted
British racerelationsbecametheir preserve.They were awardednumerouspostsin
bodies
Institute
large,
the
of
as
such
race
relations
well-funded
universitiesand
RaceRelationsand, from 1968,the RunnymedeTrust. The enormousvolume of
being
the
this
a race
they
reputationof
new areaof study
producedearned
work
relations'industry'.

7' Y, Little, Negroesin Britain: a Studyof RaceRelationsin EnglishSociety(London, 1947).For


referencesto Little as a founderof race relationsseeC. Waters,'"Dark Sti-angeis"in our midst:
discoursesof raceandnationin Britain, 1947-1963',Journal ofBrItIsh Studio,36:2 (1997),p. 209;
M. Banton,'Three current issuesin ethnic and racial studies'.British Journal of Sociology56:4
(2005),p. 623 and1.Duffield, 'History andthe historians',History Today31 (1981),p. 34.

16

Introduction
Although well-meaning,the majority of the output of the race relations
industry was predicatedon two racist assumptions:firstly, that 'white British
societywasthe civilised norm to which othersshouldboth aspireandconformand
integration
inassin-fflable
biggest
the
the
to
that
was
volume of
secondly,
obstacle
black immigrants.29 Until the publication in 1967 of the Race Relations Board-

commissionedReport on Racial Discrimination, many academicsquestioned


whether racial discrimination actually existed in Britain, viewing disharmony
between whites and blacks as merely cultural misunderstanding (usually on the

o
latter)?
As late as 1973,unwittingly racist assumptionssuchas, 'The
part of the
puritan influenceon the English outlook hasmeantthat many English peoplefeel
more guilty about wrongdoingthan many Asians', were still found in books by
leadingracerelationssociologists?' The statisticaldatacollectedin many of these
books,however,canbe very useful.Dubbed'a Myrdal for Britain, the Instituteof
RaceRelations"Colour & Citizenship:a Report on British RaceRelationsis an
invaluablecompendiumof facts and doescontainsomeprogressiveanalysis.32On
the whole,however,the bestapproachtowardsthe work of racerelationsexpertsin
the 1960sis that of historianChris Waters,who recommends'e-read[ing]the texts
their historical context, as texts, especiallyfor the ways in which they
within
...

29Leadingworksfrom this periodinclude:M. Banton,TheColouredQuarter.NegroImmigrantsin


an English City (London, 1955);S. Patterson,Dark Strangers:A studyof WestIndians in London
(Harmondsworth,1965) and C. Peach,WestIndian Migration to Britain: a Social Geography
(London,1969).
30Political andEconomicPlanning,Reporton Racial Discrimination(London,1967),publishedthe
following year as W. Daniel, Racial Discrimination in England. Based on the P.E.P. Report
(Harmondsworth,1968).
31M. Banton,PoliceCommunityRelations(London,1973), 122.
p.
32A Swedisheconomicsprofessor,GunnarMyrdal published
a pathbreakingand comprehensive
surveyof racerelationsin the United Statesin 1944.E.J.B. Roseet al, Colour and Citizenship:A
Reporton British RaceRelations(London, 1969). G. Myrdal, An AmericanDilemmmthe Negro
ProblemandModernDemocracy(New York, 1944).

17

Introduction
to
"experience"
transparently
they
the
and
unproblematically,
claimed,
constituted
33

document'.

Finding secondarysourceswritten from a black perspectivein the 1970sis


Relations
Institute
Race
in
least
because
1972
the
the
voted
of
staff of
easier,not
felt
did
they
to
not
their
and refused undertakeany moreresearch
management
out
from
leaflet
June
1974
black
A
the
the
advertising
community.
of
concerns
reflect
the first issue of the Institute's newly renamedacademicjournal Race & Class
imperative
its
be,
'The
that,
thenceforth,
would
people we are
editorial
explained

34
&
by
Race
fighting
for.
Edited
Sivanandan,
for
the
are
peoplewe are
writing
Class'scommitmentto publishingpolitically engagedand plainly-written articles,
often by non-academicsand activists,has meantthat it remainsthe pre-eminent
from
black
learn
black
history
for
to
a
seeking
about
scholars
publication
35

perspective.

In the highly politically polarised. 1980s, most academic work on race

its
its
ideology
on
sleeve.Much of the discourseon racismbecame
relationswore
the preserveof postmodemists,critical theorists and culturalists, who explored
themessuchas ethnic identity and the transmissionof culture.Hard politics drove
the work of others.The flourishing anti-fascistmovement,which grew in response
to a resurgenceof support for the National Front, inspired some academicsto
constructmorestraight-forward,political analysesof racerelations.They primarily
black
however,
history
dealt
the
with
racism,
responses
of
white
and
only
charted

33Waters, 'Dark Strangere', p. 2 10. Italics original.


34Advertising leaflet, June 1974, held, unfded at the UM
35'In considering the overall ten-ain of black political organization and ideology, the most fruitful
source will be the material produced from within these groups themselves,such as the joumals (e.g.
Race and Class [sic].... G. Bcn-Tovim and J. Gabriel, 'The politics of race in Britain, 1962-79: a
review of the major trends and of recent debates', in C. Husband (ed), Race in Britain: Continuity
and Change (London, 1982), p. 166.

18

Introduction
6
by
in
1985
broke
house
Virago
Feminist
it
in
new ground
to
publishing
pasSing?
37
As
development.
independent
black
first
history
political
women's
of
printing the
black women only began to organise as women in the late 1970s, however, only
its
found
Marxism
Black
in
feminism
black
thesis.
this
the seedsof
are considered
broad,
Sivanandan
Raindin's
in
Ron
the
synthetic survey of
and
work
of
apotheosis
Black
in
The
Making
interplay
the
twentieth
the
of
the
century,
of race and class
Wor ki ng ClaSSrin B it an
i 38
.
Work on British race relations in the last twenty years has, perhaps
focus
the
the
to
tended
of
causes
and
consequences
on
examining
understandably,
is
1980s
discussion
1985.
Although
the
1981
the
well
of
riots
of
a
and
riots of

beyond the scope of this thesis, it does suggestthat the state's successful
in
1970s
Black
Power
the
the
contributed to the
movement
suppressionof
intolerablefrustrationof the communitiesthat revoltedin the 1980s.Writing about
the 1980s,Paul Gilroy described'The protractedresistanceof black youth against
the lowly racial fate that had beenprescribedfor them', arguingthat, 'A special
daring, shaped above all by hopelessness,was what generatedthe tides of
9
it
failed
Black
Power,
This
to avert the
that
thesis
while
contends
protest'?
fate',
did
future
'lowly
a
equip
generationswith the ability to
racial
prescriptionof
Gilroy
it,
What
fate
andrebel against constructivelyor otherwise.
recognisesucha
in
despair'
black
1980s
'ieckless
the
to
the
can
youth
of
rioting
as
refers
36IL Thurlow, Fascismin Britain (London and New York, 1987) and C. Holmes,John Bull's
Island. lmmiration and British Society 1871-1971 (Basingstoke,1988) both contain short but
far-right
in
British
discussions
the
the
racerelations.
of
post-war
of
role
useful
37B. Bryan,S. Dadzieand S. Scafe,TheHeart ofRace: Black Women'sLives In Britain (London,
1985). In 1978 Virago had publishedFinding A Voice, Amrit Wilson's equally path-breaking
polemic on Asian women's dual oppressionby white society and their own communities.A.
Wilson,Finding a Voice:Asian WomenIn Britain (London,1978).
38SeeA. Sivanandan'scollectionof essays,A Different Hunger (London, 1982)and PLRamdin,
71e Making of the Black WorkingClass in Britain (Aldershot, 1987).Ramdin'scoverageof the
post-war period is largely a synthesisof the historical narrativesof Fryer and Hiro and the
dialecticalmaterialistanalysisof Sivanandan.
39P. Gilroy, BlackBritain.,a PhotographicHistory (London,2007),p. 218.

19

Introduction
is
This
interpreted
be
the
targeted
an
as a
responseagainst policeo
alternatively
argumentfor anothertime, but it is worth pointing out that historianswho analyse
the riots in termsof the policies of the Thatchergovernmentand the pathologyof
the black community,would benefit from consideringthe history of Black Power,
decade
a
earlier representeda more constructive responseto similar
which
inequality
injustice,
police
of
social
and
economic
and
andwasquashed
conditions
by the state.

This thesistracesthe rise and fall of the Black Powermovementand is therefore


organisedchronologically.However,as it is also concernedwith the intellectual
developmentof Black Power as a theory, the chaptershave different, analytical,
themes.The origins and evolution of the Black Power movementin Britain were
inherently transnational.The British movementdrew inspiration from both its
American namesakeand the strugglesagainstimperialism, both in the countries
from which its membershad emigrated,and in Britain earlier in the twentieth
in
influenced
by
The
to
the
movementwas also
events
century.
state'sresponse
its
in
African
American
nations,
particularly
unease
about
other
riots the United
Statesand the fear that CaribbeanBlack Power would stand in the way of neoin
the Commonwealth. Throughout its evolution, though, the
colonialism
movementwas nourishedby white British racism, expressedthrough the statein
the form of racially discriminatoryimmigrationlaws andthe inability of police and
policy-makersto understandthat militant black politics was a reactiveratherthan
an aggressivephenomenon.

40

lbidL,p. 218.

20

Introduction
Chapterone startswith a brief look at the intellectualroots and evolutionof
the British Black Power movement,focusing on the anti-colonial politics of
African andWestIndianstudentsin Britain in the inter-waryears.It then considers
the impact of the American civil rights movementon the newly arrived black
immigrants to Britain between 1955 and 1965. By examining why mimetic
activities like the Bristol bus boycott of 1963 and the foundation of the Campaign
Against Racial Discrimination in 1965 fared so badly, it shows how different the
societal and race relations contexts were in Britain and the United States during

this period. The secondhalf of the chaptertracesthe developmentof a genuine


black
immigrantsafter 1955,arguingthat it was the
among
political consciousness
experienceof white British racism, particularly in the form of discriminatory
unmigration legislation, which both politicised and united them. Abandoning
support for the Labour Party in 1965, they began to realise the necessityof
independent
political organisationto campaignfor equalrights.
Chaptertwo contraststhe widespreadindifferenceof black immigrantsto
the non-violent phase of the American civil rights movement with the
identificationof a numberof British black activistswith American Black Power.
Showinghow British societybecameincreasinglyracially POlarisedin the second
half of the 1960s,it arguesthat it was the widespreadpresscoveragesurrounding
the London visit of charismaticAfrican American radical Stokely Carmichaelin
July 1967that transformedthe fledgling Black Powermovementin the capital into
a national phenomenon.The second half of the chapter uses interviews and
primary evidence to elucidate the composition and activities of Britain's four most
important Black Power organisations as well as Michael Xs Racial Adjustment

21

Introduction
Action Society,which prc-datedthe Black Powermovementby two years,but was
regrdedby many as part of it.

Chapterthree assesses
thesegroups' achievementsand failings during the
life of the Black Power movement.It arguesthat the influence of Black Power
spreadfar beyondits tiny official membership,that it fundamentallychangedthe
way black peoplethoughtof themselves,createda black political identity capable
of uniting West Indians, Africans and Asians, and radicalisedthe study of race
The
movement'stenetsof education,self-help and community work
relations.
enriched its members' lives and strengthenedthe communities in which they
operated.However,weakleadershipanda lack of ideologicalcoherencemeantthat
the movementwas unfocusedin its early years.This was rectified in the 1970sby
heavydiscipline and doctrinal rigidities that splinteredthe groupsand eventually
led to a divide betweencultural nationalistorganisationslike the BLF andMarxistLeninist groups like the BUFP and BPM, which changed their focus from race to

declining
during
few
Although
Black
Power
the
movement's
years.
class
a
continuedto exist after the mid- I 970s,by then mostpolitically active
organisations;
black people,while not hostile to Black Power, found it too blunt a conceptual
tool. What had beenreferredto as the Black Power struggle,becamesimply the
black struggle.

Chapter four assessesthe relationship between black radicals and the


British state.It looks at how black peoplewere discriminatedagainstby the police
in
detail
threepivotal trials of Black Poweractivists.
the
examines
and
courtsand
It showsthat the goverment had an unwritten policy of harassingBlack Power
activistsandtheir organisationsthroughthe law and usedsuspended
sentencesas a
form of social control. The British government kept a close eye on how the

22

Introduction
American governmentwas dealing with radical African American dissent and
borrowed from President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society initiatives. The

British government'sUrban Programmebrought many former Black Power


activists into the orbit of the state by funding their social welfare projects,
divorcing them from their political objectives in the process.It also passeda wide-

in
in
1976
Race
Relations
Act
an attemptto removesomeof
rangingandeffective
the black community's grievances. The government's successin destabilising the

Black Power movementand its attemptsto prove its good faith to the black
did
legislation
funding
through
ultimately
programmesand equality
community
not diminish black disaffectionwith the statebecauseof its failure to addressthe
crucialissueof racismin the police force.
The thesisconcludesby assessing
the history of Asian political activity in
the 1960sand its links to Black Power, and explains why the latter held little
for
Indians
Pakistanis.
it
most
and
points out that Asians' strong senseof
ath-action

community and their commitmentto maintaining their traditions, customsand


default.
further
in
by
It
Britain
them
made
cultural nationalists
religious practices
arguesthat, in the 1970s,the remainingBlack Powergroups' belief in the primacy
of classoppressionand the vanguardrole of the black worker was realisedon the
shop floor by Asians, who provided the backboneof black industrial militancy.
Although the overthrow of capitalism was not their objective, their successin
overturning entrenchedtrade union racism provided an important step towards
uniting the black and white working classesand ensuring the more equitable
treatment of black workers.

23

Introduction
'The Black Pantherswere sayingthe sort of things I wantedto hearand doing the
41
do',
Linton
Kwesi
I
Johnson.
remembers
sort of things thought necessaryto

Within this statementlies the essenceof Black Power'sappealin Britain. Far more
thanjust a facsimileof the Americanmovement,British Black Powerwasperhaps
the fu-st independent attempt to addressthe concerns of black people in Britain in
an uncompromising way. The epicentre of British Black Power was London, but it
was a national movement, however numerically small, disjointed-and short-lived.
Black Power developed in relation to black people's lived experiences,both under

lowest
in
home
the
their
rung of the British
countries and as
colonial rule
international
domestic
to
their
spoke
and
and
concerns.Its messageof
underclass,
black pride was transformative,both for its membersand British society. Its
historyneedsto be told.

41Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17 September


2004.

24

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

CHAPTER 1Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement, 19551965

Introduction
Between 1955, when the main thrust of post-war immigration from the Caribbean and
southern Asia began,and I July 1962, when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act closed
the country's open door to its colonial and Commonwealth subjects, Britain gained a
substantial black population. But even after the passageof its fust Race Relations Act in
1965, Britain still had a long way to travel before it fully adjusted to the idea of being a

multiracial society.Moreover,during this period most immigrants from Asia, Africa


andthe Caribbeanintendedonly to be a migrantpopulationwho would work hard,save
moneyand return home.Initially, therefore,they were lessinterestedin British politics
than in eventsback home. Having experiencedBritish race relations as its colonial
subjects,they had no idea what racism in the metropolewould be like and in many
casesdid not immediatelyidentify it. A 1967survey,jointly commissionedby statutory
bodies the Race Relations Board and the National Council for Commonwealth
Immigrants(NCCI) concludedthat, on the whole, black immigrantsthoughtthat racial
discriminationaffectedtheir lives lessthan it actuallydid. The politicisation of black immigrantsthat took place between1955and 1965
was primarily driven by their experiencesof white British racism.The 1958White-onblack riots in Notting Hill and Nottingham delivered a sharp messageto the
predominantlyWest Indian, but also African and Asian, immigrantsliving there that
manywhite Britons were far from happyaboutthe arrival of their fellow citizensfrom
the New Commonwealth.The immigrants, whose colonial educationshad prepared
them to find Britain a benevolent,tolerant country that would make no distinction
25

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rigtits movement,
1955-1965

betweenthemandits indigenouspopulation,beganto recalibratetheir expectations.Yet


they continuedto believe that the Labour Party, becauseof its egalitarianviews on
immigration,would representtheir interestsin parliament,and thereforekept faith in
British electoralpolitics. By the mid-1960s,this faith had beenseverelyunderminedby
a series of legislative measurespassed under Labour, beginning with the 1962
CommonwealthImmigrantsAct and culminatingin a 1965%ite Paper,Immigration
from the Commonwealth,that reversed the party's commitment to unregulated
Commonwealthimmigration.In reactionto a growingimpressionthat it wasnotjust the
British peoplebut the British

statethat was racist, and the realisationthat economic

factorsmeanttheir stay in Britain


was unlikely to be brief, black immigrantsbeganto
look for waysto cometogetherto fight for their political rights. In developing
a group
they drew on the various anti-colonialtraditionsof their home
political consciousness
countriesandthe political strugglesof earliergenerationsof black peoplein Britain, but
alsobeganto listento the radicalvoicesemergingfrom the United States.
Black peoplehad beena continuous,if small, presencein Britain for
over 500
level
black
but
immigration after 1955 representeda new
the
of
years,
phenomenon.
'Me Labourgovernmenthad notedwith a distinct lack of enthusiasmthe
arrival of 492
mainly Jamaicanex-servicemen
on the SSEmpire Windrushin June1948- sevenyears
later, more than 20,000immigrantsfrom the Caribbeanarrived in Britain! Hence,in
1955 the British governmentdecidedto start collecting immigration statisticsfor the

' Although historians' estimatesdiffer, they all show a marked increasein immigration from the
Caribbeanbetween1952 and 1954. DWp Hiro estimatedthat the number of Caribbeanimmigrants
enteringBritain increasedfrom approximately1,ooo per year between1948 and 1952 to just under
11,000in 1954andmorethan22,000in 1955.SeeD. Hiro, Black Britis& "Ite British (London,1971),
pp. 8-9. PeterFryermadehigherestimatesbut followedthe samepattern,writing thatyearly immigration
fi-omthe Caribbeanjumped from a plateauof 2,000 in 1952and 1953to 24,000in 1954.SeeP. Fryer
&aying Power. 7he History of Black Peoplein Britain (London, 1984),p. 372. For a discussionof the
government'sreactionto the arrival of the SS Windrush,seeS. JoshiandB. Carter,'The role of Labour
in the creationof a racistBritain', Race& Class25:3 (1984),pp. 57-61.

26

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

2
from
increased
immigration
Britain
Commonwealth.
The
New
the
to
the
countriesof
Caribbeanin 1955 was partly causedby the fact that, after 1952,the United States,
WestIndians' preferredmigrationdestination,no longerlet them into the country. The
McCarran-WalterAct endedthe practiceof allowing West Indiansto enterthe United
Statesunder the category of British citizens and set a new Caribbean immigration quota
longer
for
just
Britain
800
As
took
to
saving up
considerably
of
per year?
a passage
than it had for nearby America, the impact of the McCan-an-Walter Act took a few
years to be felt in the UK, but from the mid-1950s immigration from the Caribbean
increasedconsiderably.
Immigration from southern Asia was slight during the 1950s. This was partly
because until 1960, when the Indian Supreme Court ruled the practice illegal, the
Pakistani and Indian governments had a gentlemen's agreementwith Britain to reduce
emigration by restricting the issue of passports. From 1960 onwards the British

for
economy'sneed
more workers, the encouragement
and financial assistancefi-om
ffiends
alreadyin Britain, and the fear of pending hinmigrationcontrol,
relativesand
in
immigration
from India and Pakistanrising dramaticallyThe majority of
resulted
the Asian iinunigrantswere young single men. Indianswere predominantlySikhs from
the Punjab*or, in far fewer.numbers,Hindus from Gujarat. Pakistanistravelled from
Sylhetin EastPakistanor Mirpur in West Pakistanand were Muslim. Ironically, it was
the threat of controls that proved to be the biggest stimulus to immigration from

' Ile New Commonwealthcomprisedcountriesin the Caribbean,Asia, East and West Africa and the
Mediterranean.What differentiatedthesenationsfrom Old Commonwealthcountrieslike Australiaand
Canadawasthattheir populationswerepredominantlynon-white.
3Hiro, BlackBritish, p. S.
4 Hiro estimatedthat the combinedimmigrationfrom the two countriesalmostquadrupledfrom 7,500to
48,000between1960and 1961.Seeibid., p. 108.

27

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

by
from
Caribbean
time
the
had
the
Asia,
that
the
which
outstripped
southern
CommonwealthImmigrantsAct cameinto effect in 1962
Immigrants from Africa were far fewer and their stays much shorter, although,
in
'Accurate
1955,
T.
Carey
A.
statistics are not yet available, as
warned
as sociologist
by
kept
Coloureds
Negroes
the authorities'.
are
and
other
no separaterecords of

6 Home

Office estimateson the entry and exit of African immigrants from East and West Africa
between 1955 and I July 1962 show a small, transient population. According to these
figures, slightly more Africans (240) left Britain than entered in 1960, and most years

inward
migrationof
saw a net

7
lessthan 2,500Africans. Data from the 1951

1961
and

living
in
immigrants
West
African
increase
in
fourfold
the
numberof
censusesshow a
Britain - from 5,600 to 19,800.8(The censusdefmedWest Africa as Gambia,Ghana,
Nigeria and SierraLeone;the countriesfrom which the majority of African immigrants
to Britain hailed.) By way of comparison,the 1951 and 1961 censusesestimatedthe
9
Compared
be
30,800
81,400
in
living
Britain
to
Indians
to
respectively.
and
numberof
few
from
Caribbean
Asia,
immigrants
therefore,
the
and
southern
the numbers of
Africans cameto Britain. It was perhapsthis paucityof numbersthat led the authorsof
Colour and Citizenshipto almost completely disregardAfrican immigrants in their
by
followed
British
trend
setting
race
relations,
a
of
survey
supposedlycomprehensive
if
Africans,
The
of
political contribution
not their numbers,
many subsequentstudies.
from
New
Commonwealth
immigration
(including Cyprusand
the
By
the
own
account,
-5
government's
Malta), which had only risen above50,000oncebetween1955and 1960andhad beenas low as 21,600
in 1959,shotup to 136,400in 1961and94,900in the six monthsbeforethe CommonwealthImmigrants
(London:IIMSO, 1965),p.
Act becamelaw on I July 1962.SeeImmigrationFrom TheCommonwealth
2.
6A. T. Carey,ColonialStudents(London,1955),p. 10.Careyestimatedthe total populationof non-white
in
in
1955at 50,000.
Britain
people
R. B. Davison,Black British Immigrantsto England(London,1966).p. 3. Net inwardmigration,rather
than the total numberof immigrantsfrom Africa arriving each year, has been used becausea large
numberalsoemigratedeachyear,The sametable of figuresshowsthat this wasalsotrue of immigration
from India until 1961,althoughthe overallvolumeof immigrationwasfar higher.
8Censusstatisticsquotedin E. J. B. Roseet al, Colour and Citizenship(London,1969),p. 72.
9 lbid., p. 72. Davisonestimatesthe inwardmigrationof WestAfricansin 1961as 6,960. Davison,Black
British, p. 3.

28

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
madetheir presencein Britain significant,though,and studiesof British racerelations
that do not reflectthis makean importantomission.
The first half of this chapter explores the British roots of the political
that had begunto emergeamongblack immigrantsby 1965,evaluating
consciousness
the impactof black political activity in the first half of the twentiethcentury,aswell as
in the post-warperiod. For the newly arrived immigrants,their fast years in Britain
were spent establishingthemselvesfinancially and adapting to their new, usually
hostile, surroundings.Their heterogeneitymilitated against group political action,
fascist
for
although cross-communitycampaigns,
example against
violence and
impendinghinnuigrationlegislation,were sometimesorganised.Occasionally,different
communities also took action on issues that affected them specifically: Sikhs in
Birminghamand Manchester,for example,mountedconcertedcampaignsfor the right
of Sikh bus conductorsto wear their turbans at work. The chapterthen traces the
progressof white British racism from the streetsto the statutebooksand explainswhy
black people's profound disillusionment with the Labour Party was so crucial in
shapingtheir political activity after 1965.Black peoplehadneverseenthe Conservative
Party as their naturalally and eventsin the first half of the 1960sprovedthem right. In
1962 a Conservativegovernment introduced a racially-discriminatory system of
immigration control in the form of the CommonwealthImmigrantsAct. During the
generalelection of 1964 the Conservativecandidatefor Smethwick beat his Labour
rival after a campaign that cynically played on the local community's fears about black
immigration and flided with racism. In this context, when the Labour Party abandoned
its pledge to oppose immigration restriction in 1964 and then actually tightened controls
in 1965, black people viewed this as a betrayal that signalled the failure of their last
hope for representationin mainstream Politics.

29

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

Although one might haveexpectedthe Americancivil rights movementto have


had a major impact on British race relations,its influencewas decidedlylimited. The
secondhalf of the chapterexaminestwo attemptsto replicatea US-stylecivil rights
bus
British
boycott and the creation of the
1963
Bristol
the
movement on
soil Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) in 1965 - in order to demonstrate

why non-violentdirect action tactics and strategiesfailed to garnersignificant support


among black immigrants in the early 1960s.Both campaignswere ill-suited to the
British context, where, in 1965, Asian, African and West Indian immigrants constituted

approximately2 per cent of the population,ratherthan the established,homogenousII


in
African
Americans
the United States.Although both the Bristol boycott
cent
per
of
and CARD were started by black people, both failed to gain grassroots black support

journalists,
by
liberals.
British
championed
and were mainly
white
politicians and race
monitoredthe progressof the civil rights movementin the United
relationsresearchers
States and from time to time drew parallels with Britain. Their motivations for
comparingBritish andAmericanracerelationsarealsobriefly surveyedin the fmal half
of the chapter.

The roots of black protest in Britain

There was a substantialpre-history of black himmigrants


campaigningagainstracial
oppressionin Britain in the twentiethcenturyupon which Black Power activistscould
and did build. Although the African and West Indian studentswho led the anti-colonial
struggles in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s usually came from more privileged
backgroundsdm the younger, working-classWest Indians who campaignedagainst
domesticracism in the 1960sand 1970s,one cannotanalyse,the strugglesof the latter

30

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

10
West
like
former.
Organisations
influence
the
the
of
without acknowledgingthe
African StudentsUnion (WASU), foundedby Ladipo Solankein 1925,the International
African ServiceBureau (IASB), founded by GeorgePadmorcin 1937 and the PanAfrican Federation(PAF), founded in 1944, representedthe interestsof people of
African descentin Britain, althoughtheir main focus was campaigningagainstBritish
founded
(LCP),
Peoples
Moody's
Coloured
League
in
Harold
Dr
Africa.
of
colonialism
in 1931 and active until the end of the 1940s,had more of a domesticfocus and
Britain's
In
October
1945,
West
Indian
African
Asian
members.
and
aswell as
accepted
hosted
Manchester
in
Pan-African
the
the
movementwas confirmedwhen
centralrole
fifth Pan-AfricanCongress- the previous four of which had been organisedby the
NationalAssociationfor the Advancementof ColoredPeople(NAACP) andheld in the
United States.The fifth, however, was convenedby the British-basedPan-African
Federation.Attendedby future independentAfrican leadersKwameNkrumahandiomo
Kenyatta, as well as Du Bois, Ashwood Garvey and Padmore,among others, the
Congressserved as a point of crossoverbetweeninternationalanti-colonialismand
domesticanti-racism.Hence,althoughits aim was to coordinatethe struggleto make
for the
the imperial powers honour their wartime commitmentsto self-deten-nination
by
in
Britain'.
Chaired
its
'The
coloured
problem
colonies, opening sessionwas on
Marcus Garvey'sfirst wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey,the sessionheardtestimonyfrom
British groupsabout the employmentand social discriminationfacing black working
like
Cardiff,
Edinburgh
in
London.
the
of
cities
and
areas
port
class communities
Speakersremarkedthat the more affluent black studentsin Britain should show more
10In his study, WestAfticans in Britain. 1900 to 1960, historianHakim Adi notesthat, of the West
African studentswho cameto Britain beforethe SecondWorld War andjoined groupslike WASU, 'The
vast majority were... until the mid-1940s,male and from wealthy,evenRoyal families'. This standsin
contrastto the lower middle, working and peasantclass immigrantsfrom the Caribbeanand southern
Asia, who constitutedthe bulk of the immigrationin the 1950sandearly 1960s.H. Adi, West.4fricansin
Britain: 1900to 1960(London,1998),p. 3.

31

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965
"
imperialism
the
affected them all.
as
workers
with
solidarity

It is worth noting that

internationalism, Pan-Africanism, anti-colonialism and the importance of solidarity with


Power
Black
British
the
that
the working class - all themes
would characterise
in
Britain
by
black
twenty
discussed
than
being
more
organisations
movement - were
years earlier.

By the end of the 1940s,however,the majority of the activistsand groupsthat


bad attended the 1945 Congress had either declined or relocated to Africa to continue
the fight for independencethere. During the 1950sand early 1960s,though, associations
like the Committee of African Organisations (CAO), founded in 1958, and individuals
between
direct
Garvey
Ashwood
the antithe
crossovers
provided
redoubtable
such as
for
1930s
1940s
Pan-Africanist
the
and
campaigns
and
post-war
of
politics
colonial and
CAO
including
Black
Power
in
Britain,
the
movement.
was an umbrella
racial equality
including
WASU.
It
African
thirteen
shared premises with
organisations,
group of
future CARD leader David Pitt, who also attended its meetings, and counted among its
in
leading
leader
Egbuna.
CAO
Power
Obi
Black
future
British
took
role
a
members
in
Kelso
Cochrane
Indian
West
1959
the
carpenter
murder of
political activity after
Notting Hill, according to a Special Branch report. Describing the organisation as 'at
first a co-ordinating body representativeof all coloured student unions", the report noted
in
London,
had
'since
CAO
organisations
that
embracedrepresentativesof all coloured
body
become
'the
co-ordinating
of the coloured
principal
political and otherwise' and
12 When Malcolm X spoke in London in Fcbruary 1965, inspiring
organisations'.

his
Michael
X
de
Freitas
Michael
to
to
change
name
and set up
audiencemember

Seethe reproducedreportof the first sessionin H. Adi andM. Sherwood,The1945ManchesterPan#Icef CongressRevisited(LondonandPort-of-Spain,1995),pp. 75-7.
, ReportNo. 4,10* November1959,SpecialBranch,ScotlandYard', p. 1. Documentcontainedin HO
1
deputationof MPs to seethe
325/9:'Racial disturbance:Notting Hill activitiesof extremistorganisations,
Secretaryof State',held at theNationalArchives(NA).

32

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

Britain's prototype Black Power organisation,the Racial AwarenessAction Society


(RAAS) it wasat CAO's invitation.13
,
A remarkable woman, Amy Ashwood Garvey was a tireless political
campaigner.Having lived in Africa, the United States,the Caribbeanand Britain, she
was a one-womanembodimentof what Paul Gilroy would later term 'the Black
Atlantic'. 14 Combining and cross-fertilising the politics and outlooks of three
continents,Ashwood Garvey'simpressiveorganisationalexperienceand groundingin
Pan-Africanismand anti-colonialismmadeher 'part of the old politics' in the wordsof
15But her activismin Londonin the 1950s
Colin Prescod.
and early 1960s,especiallyin
conjunctionwith her good friend Claudia Jones,whose WestIndian Gazettewas the
pre-eminentblack newspaperin Britain between1958and 1965,meantthat Ashwood
Garveyalso playedan importantrole in shapingthe new politics being forgedby black
immigrantsin the post-warera. As well as being on the editorial boardof the Gazette,
Garveyco-founded,with'Jones,the Committeeof Afro-Asian CaribbeanAssociations
(CAACO), while Jonessat on the boardof Garvey'sAssociationfor the Advancement
of Coloured People(AACP). The combinationof Garvey's Pan-Africanpolitics and
Jones' rigorous political training in the American CommunistParty (CPUSA) meant
that their political perspectivewas internationalistandemphasised
the interplayof class
and race.Suchthinking foreshadowedthe ideologyof British Black Powergroupslike
the Black Unity andFreedomParty(BUFP) in the 1970s.
The majority of the new wave of black immigrants who arrived in Britain
between1955and 1962were,however,simply too busystrugglingto find a job, a place

13Unlessotherwisenoted4the information
about CAO in this paragraphis taken from H. AdL The
Committeeof African Organisations',paper presentedto the Post Imperial Britain conferenceat the
Instituteof HistoricalResearch,
LondonUniversity,in 2002.
4p. Gilroy,,TheBlackAtlantic, Modernity
DoubleConsciousness
(London,1993).
and
5Colin Prescod,interviewedby the
author,23 January2008.

33

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

to live anda way to makeendsmeetto devotemorethan a tiny fractionof their time to


Marxist
became
later
Even
A.
Sivanandan,
radical
a
who
overt political activities.
intellectualandthe directorof the Instituteof RaceRelations,wasnot activelyinvolved
in politics for severalyears after his arrival in Britain in 1958. His experiencewas
immigrants.
Formerly
the
a comfortable,
of
post-war
new
of
many
representative
in
Sri
Lanka,
did
bank
Columbo,
Sivanandan
many temporary,
manager
middle-class
boy
in
job
he
jobs
in
Finally
Britain.
tea
a
as
a
was
permanent
given a
poorly paid
library in Wembleyand beganto study librarianshipat eveningclassesto advancehis
Sri
because
bear
Lanka
his
When
the privationsof
to
could
she
not
wife
returned
career.
British life any more, Sivanandanalso becamea single parentof thme. 'I had to work
in
Saturdays',
he
the
evening
and
six
o'clock
on
remembers:
until eighto'clock
So did I becomepolitical? No. I had all these personalproblems- eve ig
but
buses
Wembley
from
Finchley
librarianship,
travelling
to
two
on
classes,
...
hardship
becomes
that
the
experience
of
political:
gave
me
a
visceral
personal
...
fights
because
kinds
I had. I had no time to
the
those
were
of
and official racisni,
do 'political things' [until] 1964 [when] the children were growing up, I'd
finishedmy library examsandIjoined the Instituteof RaceRelationslibrary.16
Sivanandan's distinction between doing 'political things' and becoming
imn-dgrant
in
black
is
key
to
the period
the
understanding
politics
personallypoliticised
between 1955 and 1965. The same mundanedaily strugglesthat preventedmany
from
in
immigrants
interests
black
their
organising
own
provided the
arrived
recently
issues
for
later
The
basis
their
that stirredBritain's ethnic
political
activity.
experiential
in
for
1970s
the
to
the
political
activity
example
sustained
stigmatisationof
minorities
their children as educationallysubnormalat school,their economicexploitation in the
lowest-paid,most insecurejobs, and the discriminatorytreatmentof young black men

16A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.

34

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
by the police - were groundedin their everydayexperiencesfrom the momentof their
arrival in Britain.
Asian immigrantorganisationswere,on the whole, definedby the nationalityor
issues.
their
membersand were primarily concernedwith socialandwelfare
religion of
The events that had the biggest impact on these organisations were often nothing to do

for
The
Indian
Workers'
life
(IWA),
British
Association
example,
or politics.
with
defmeditself both by its members'nationalityandby their statusas labourersandmany
its
branches
Communist
India
Party
(CPI). As well as
to
the
allied
were
closely
of
of

like
Indians,
IWA
the
to
chance
socialise
with
other
offered
services
giving membersa
translationand advice, for exampleon how to join a union, fill in benefit forms or
registerwith a doctor.In 1962the organisationfaceda major crisis whenChinainvaded
India and the CPI sidedwith Mao ratherthan its own country.The repercussions
were
felt very stronglyin the IWA in Britain, which split into pro-Mao andanti-CPIfactions
17
from
its
lost
branches.
Further
most pro-CPI
a substantialnumber of members
and
divisions in the IWA were causedby the split of the CPI into two opposingfactionsin
1964.
Attempts at unified action by Asian and West Indian immigrants were
by
heterogeneity
in
the
their communities.
competing
and
nationalisms
undermined
Although most Asian migrantscame from India or Pakistan(which was divided into
East and West territories, over a thousandmiles apart), both countries containeda
languages,
Indians
had
competing
religions
and
cultures.
variety of
more in common

with Pakistanisthan with Christian,AnglophoneWest Indians,but a history of violent


territorial and religious disputesin the Indian subcontinent,long predatingthe partition
of India in 1947, meant that Indians and Pakistaniswere by no meansallies. West
17SeeD. John,Indian Workers'AssociallonsIn Britain (London,1969),pp. 67-89.

35

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

Indian immigrants, hailing from a large number of islands with very different
characters,were also a diversegroup. They were divided by strongtraditionsof island
nationalismaccompaniedby a colonially-imposedidentificationwith and loyalty to the
interestsof Britain. This meantthat they definedtheir identity as,for example,Jamaican
West
Indian. Colin Prescod,who movedfrom Trinidad to
British,
thari
then
rather
and
Londonas a schoolboyin 1958to join his motherPearl,identified the lack of a shared
identity asa major obstaclefor first generationimmigrants.'Thereis a sense',he writes,
'in which the newly arrivedCaribbeanAVest
Indianmigrantshad first to forge a cultural
in
face
instilled
island
the
the
of
colonially
and colour
group consciousness
18
that they arrivedwith and which separatedthem'. Experiencingracial
consciousness
discrimination in the metropolis was the processthrough which this happenedin
Britain, as Guyananimmigrant Eric Huntley explains.'There was, of course,racism',
he remembers.'Living in Guianain the 1950s,the fact that you were black was not a
but
here
brought
home
that
to
very significantpart of your consciousness
coming
was
19
you very clearly'.
Ile Notting Hill and Nottingham riots of August-September1958 were a
turning point in the New Commonwealthinunigrants' developingconsciousnessof
being black in a country that did not welcome black people. Over the August bank
holiday weekendof 1958groupsof youngwhite men took to the streetsof Notting Hill
and the poor St Ann's district of Nottingham,to indiscriminatelyattackthe two areas'
black residents.The troublebeganin Nottinghamon Saturday23 August.A rumourthat
had
West
Indian
man
attackeda white womanoutsidea local pub resultedin several
a
hundred angry white people converging on St Ann's, where the majority of
Nottingham's black population lived. Many local West Indian, African and Indian
111
Colin Presco4
e-mailto the author,30 July 2004.
19Eric andJessicaHuntley,interviewedby the
author,19November2004.

36

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rightsmovement,


1955-1965
in
Daily
before
disperse
A
the
the
the
crowd. report
residentswereattacked
police could
F,xpresspainteda horrifying picture.Underthe headline'Raceriots tefforisea city' the
newspaperreported that 'Hundreds of Englishmen, West Indians, Pakistanis and
Africans fought a bloody, 90-minutepitched battle

Dozensof
men
and
women
...
...

20
injured
by
bottles,
knives,
razorsand sticks'. Even largercrowdsof youngwhite
were
Monday
25
knives,
Saturday
30
August,
to
the
area
on
and
with
armed
men returned
bottles and coshesand looking for black peopleto attack.Having beenforewarnedby
the police, the majority of the local black residentsstayedindoors and most of the
fighting took place between the fiustrated whites and the police. On Saturday6
September,around200 youngwhite men againreturnedto St Ann's but weredispersed
beforeany moreassaultstook place.21
The violencein Notting Hill, which involved morepeopleand engulfeda larger
area,took place between30 August and 3 September.Recountingthe first night of
rioting, a Daily Expressnews article titled 'New Riot Terror' reportedthat 'A Negrobaiting mob of 5,000 stormed through London streets shouting for lynchings and
blood'.2'2The London riots were partly fomented by the local activities of Oswald
Mosley's Union Movementand otherneo-fascistgroups3The immediatecauseof the
disturbanceswas a groupof nine armedwhite youthswho hadbeentrawling the streets
in a car looking for black peopleto beatup. After they haddispatchedfive black mento
hospital, streetbattles developedbetweenother gangsof young white men and local
WestIndianresidentswho werequick to defendthemselveswith force.Arguing that the
sceneswhich followed were 'race riots and cannotproperly be describedotherwise',

20'Raceriots terrorisea city', Daily Express,25 August195S.


21'Racewar flaresagainin Nottingham',ne Sund4 &press, 7 September1958.
22'New Riot Terroe, TheDaily Herald, I September1958.
2'See'Riot mobs out again.Now the Yard
asks:is it a plot', News Chronicle,2 September1958,and
'Mosley's Man OpensFire', TheObserver,7 September1958.

37

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
eye-witnessEdward Scobie described'an uninterrupted,chaotic, senseless,repetitive
sequenceof rioting and arson, day and night. [A]lthough most of the more. realistic

black people remainedindoors, he continued, "the more militant and indignant


collectedempty milk bottles, rocks, and somehand-madebombs and ... shelledthe
baying,jeering white mobsin the streets'?4
Scobie'saccountmakesit clear that even during the early stagesof post-war
black migration to Britain, West Indianswere willing to use violence in self-defence,
feisty
Caribbean traditions of protest and resistance.Although the
their
reflecting
own

variouscommunitygroupsfoundedin the riots' wake disavowedviolencein favour of


inter-racial
understanding, the instinctual response of West
good neighbourliness and
Indians during the riot had been to fight back. No stranger to violence himself, Michael
de Freitas, commenting on the Notting Hill riots in his autobiography, wrote that, 'It
was a sad scene but inevitable. We were finally standing up for ourselves against a
hostile white world. '2s Black immigrants to Britain in the 1950s did not live under the
kind
same
of apartheid-like racial oppressionthat operated in the southern United States
and thus could expresstheir resistancemore openly, with less fear of reprisal, and with
faith
that they might receive a sympathetic hearing in court if their actions
some
resulted in police charges. Although local blacks seriously criticised the Metropolitan
Police's behaviour during the riots, claiming that they only intervened in the fighting
once black people started retaliating, the nine white youths whose self-professed 'nigger
hunting' trips precipitated the riots received substantial custodial sentences, as had
26
in
Nottingham.
Their actions had 'filled the whole
several of the white aggressors
nation with horror, indignation and disgust', declared Justice Salmon in his pre24EdwardScobie,BlackBritannia.a Historyoftlacks in Britain (Chicago,1972), 219.
p.
"

M. Malik, From Michael deFreitasto MichaelX (London,1968),p. 75.


26See'Facesof Six Young Tbugs',NewsChronicle, 16 September1958,
for five
and 'Prison sentences
Nottingham"rowdies"', TheTimes,2 September1958.

38

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
27
his
Calling
by
the
media coverage.
sentencing summation, a conclusion supported
Salmon
'The
Justice
liberty',
described
Daily
Express
'Declaration
the
as
verdict a
of
judgment
yesterday
man whose

the rights of us
reaffirms
...

s
all'?

The Notting Hill riots had a profound effect on black people in Britain and
important
Six
to
their
activity.
months afier the riots, a
catalyst
political
an
provided
Special Branch report on 'racial tension' noted that, 'As far as the coloured population
Hill
in
Notting
the
there
area
no
organisation
was
political
or
activity
was concerned
disturbances,
1958,
September,
towards
the
the
many
when
end
of
racial
until
mushroom organisations,sprang up'.

29 Ilese

intended
to unite the
were
organisations

local immigrant communities and promote better relations between them and their white
included:
CAACO;
Progressive
They
AACP;
Coloured
Peoples'
the
the
neighbours.
Association (CPPA); the Defence Committee, of which Michael de Freitas was a
leading member, the Inter-Racial Friendship Coordinating Council; and the West Indian
Standing Conference (WISC), which was set up on the recommendation of Jamaican
Chief Minister Norman Manley after he visited Notting Hill in the immediate aftermath
of the riots.
In Nottingham, the fact that the white mob had not differentiated between West
Indians and Sikhs as targets led to the rapid foundation of a branch of the IWA in the
however,
Asians
1958
On
the
to
the
the
attitude
of
whole,
riots was ambivalent.
city.
The violence was directed mainly at West Indians, who constituted the overwhelming
majority of Britain's non-white population in 1958, and most Asian immigrants felt that
it had nothing to do with them. Even Ajoy Ghose, who in the 1960sbecamea founding

27JusticeSalmonis quotedin Scobie,BlackBrUmmia,p. 228.


2"'A Declarationof Liberty', TheDaily Express,16September1958.

29 'Metropolitan Police, Special Branch Report on Racial Tension'. 28 May 1959, p. 5. Document
contained in HO 325/9: 'Racial disturbance: Notting Hill activities of extremist organisations', held in the
NA.

39

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

his
in
1958
first
Power
Black
Britain's
that
recalled
political
group,
member of
foreign
in
London
but
Hill
Notting
had
'I
was a
consciousness not yet evolved. was
30

Sivanandan,
days
didn't
black'.
I
he
for
'Those
think
of myself as
says.
country me',
in
had
living
in
Hill
1958,
Notting
a slightly more thoughtful attitudeto the
who was
in
Sri
friends
having
drinks
Lankan
'I
a
pub
with
some
and somebodysaid
was
riots.
"there's trouble in Notting Hill Gate"', he remembers,'and my Sri Lankanfriends said
"It's nothing to do with us, it's to do with the blacks." That was anothermomentof
truth. I had to ask myself-what am I? What doesblack mean?Is it the colour of one's
01
is
it
the colour of one'saffiliations?
complexionor
The 1958Notting Hill riot was a watershedmomentbecauseit awakenedmany
black immigrantsto the fact that at leastsomewhite peopledid not welcomethem and
be
British.
had
been
by
They
the partiality
them
to
consider
shocked
never
also
would
during the riot. WhenAntiguan
of the MetropolitanPolicetowardsthe white aggressors
Kelso
Cochrane
by
death
Hill
Notting
to
was
stabbed
on
street
a gangof
a
carpenter
in
May
1959,
local
black
his
death
blamed
some
youths
on the
white
residents
MetropolitanPolice's lack of interestin complaintsaboutfascistactivity in laiearea.32
Cochrane'sfuneralwas attendedby at leastsix hundredblack peoplewho cameto show
their solidarity againstthe white fasciststhey believed had killed him and that his
3
forgotten
immigrants
had
been
by
black
For
from
the
not
many
community?
murder
the Caribbeanthe cumulativeimpact of the 1958riots and Cochrane'smurder was to
extinguishtheir belief in a benevolentmother country or that they were British in any

30Ajoy Ghose,interviewedby the author,20 August2004.


31A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby theauthor,28 June20(g.
32Seethe SpecialBranchreport on Cochrane'sfuneral in HO 325/9: 'Racial disturbance:Notting Hill
activitiesof extremistorganisations',held in theNA. .
33The police estimate,in ibid., is 600, but Marika Sherwoodputs the number more than 1,000in
at
ClaudiaJones:a Life in Exile (London,1999),p.97.

40

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

Caribbean.
decided
Some
Othersbeganto evolve a
to
the
to
return
meaningfidway.
new political identificationwith eachotherasblack peoplein a racistwhite society.
In doing this they could draw on a variety of indigenoustraditions of radical
dissent.Although most of Britain's black immigrantscamefrom poor rural areasthere
weremanyprecedentsfor political mobilisationin the historiesof their homecountries.
For all West Indians' oft-invokedidentificationwith and loyalty to the mothercountry,
anti-colonialism, self-determinationand labour militancy were central themes of
Caribbeanhistory, as well as current political concerns for several of the newly
independentCaribbeanstates.Eric and JessicaHuntley, for example,who arrivedfrom
British Guianain 1956 and 1957respectively,had beenheavily involved in the anticolonial strugglesof their homeland.Eric Huntley had spenttime in prison for his anticolonial activism and had come to Britain to avoid further political persecution.
Although he and Jessicadid not intend to stay in Britain for long, they immediately
threw themselvesinto political organising.The Huntleys' anti-colonialismevolvedinto
in
broader
politics
reactionto their experiencesin Britain. 'We camewith a
anti-racist
a
certainperceptionof the world: we were part of the anti-colonialstruggleand we were
fighting for independence,Eric Huntley remembers.It was their self-imposedexile in
'the belly of the beast',as he describesliving in Londonin the 1950sand 1960s,which
gavethe Huntleys,a new political perspective.'We were isolatedfrom the rest of the
Caribbean',explainsEric 'and one thing that helpedto inform our consciousness
and
broadenit wasmixing with otherCaribbeanpeoplehere'.34
If the 1958riots had convincedmany black immigrantsthat Britain was fidl of
racist people, the legislation passedby both Conservativeand Labour governments
34Eric andJessicaHuntley,interviewedby the author,19November2004.In 1969the Huntleysjoined
a
long British tradition of political dissentthroughradicalpublishingby settingup the Bogle L'Ouverture-A
5\c )
publishingcompany,namedafterCaribbeanslaverevolt leadersPaulBogleandToussaintL'Ouv
V
41

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
between 1962 and 1965 convinced them that racism was not just a problem of
35
into
individuals but somethingthat was being knitted
the structure of the state.
Although successivegovernmentshad beenprivately discussinghow to control black
it
1958
Empire
Windrush,
before
the
the
the arrival of
riots
after
immigration since
becamepublicly acceptableto discussimmigration restriction. In 1961 Conservative
Party membersattendingtheir annualconference,voted overwhelminglyin favour of
introducing Hinn1ligration
controls. The subsequentCommonwealthImmigrants Act,
introducedby the Conservativegovernmentin October1961and passedin June 1962,
Act
by
Nationality
1948
the
the
and
rights
conferred
citizenship
equal
overturned
introduceda strict quota systemon immigration from New Commonwealthcountries
like India, PakistanandJamaica,but not on old Commonwealthnationslike Canadaand
Australia,or Ireland,a foreign countrythat consistentlyprovidedthe greatestnuraberof
36
It was clearly designedto shut black immigrantsout, while
Britain.
immigrantsto
leavingthe door opento whites.
Immigration restrictionwas the issuethat inspiredthe most organisedpolitical
bill
introduction
immigrants
before
black
1965.
'Me
of
a
rumoured
activity among
inspiration
for
first
in
1961
the
the
was
campaignof the newly
restrictingIMMI'gration
in
Discrimination
(CCARD)
Racial
Committee
Against
Coordinating
created

Birmingham,while in London CAACO and WISC organisedmarchesand petitioned


the high commissionersof various Caribbeanislands to pressurethe governmentto
black
immigrant
in
bill.
Despite
the
political
constitutinga notableupsurge
withdraw
in
historian
Paul
the
that
these
also
words
of
showed,
piecemeal
were
protests
activity,

35For two convincingmonographson this transformationseeA. Sivanandan,'Race,classand the state:


the black experiencein Britain', Race & Class 17:4 (1976) and S. Joshi and B. Carter, 61berole of
Labourin the creationof a racistBritain', Race& Class15:3 (1984).
36SeeC. Holmes,John Bull's Island.,Immigrationand British Society,1871-1971(Basingstoke,1988),
p. 216.

42

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
Rich, that 'black political thinking was still governedmore by the idea of asserting
British
Commonwealth
than
the
society.
as
permanent
members
of
of
rights as citizens
No overall black organisationexisted politically at this stage to mount a strong
Bill,
Immigrants
Commonwealth'
1962
to
the
opposition

7 The
he concludes?

Committee of African Organisations,having taken a leading role in the political


its
in
Cochrane's
Kelso
1959,
have
to
murder
refocused
seems
organising around
it
in
1961,
Nknimah's
Ghana.
That
particularly
on
abroad
said, contributedto
attention
CAACO's campaignagainstthe 1961 bill by making available for meetingsits new
38
House,
WestLondonpremises,Africa Unity
a gift from Nkrumahthe previousyear.
It was hardly surprising that Asian immigrants, most of whom had been in
Britain for lessthan two yearswhen the immigrationbill was introduced,did not think
it
introduction
Ironically,
the
themselves
was
as settlers.
of
of immigration restriction
that forced many of them to make the decision to stay in Britain. 'The Asian
communitiesin Britain were much more heavily mobilised in fighting the plans to
introducerestrictionsto immigration than we were', remembersWest Indian activist
39
This was becauseit was Asian immigrantswhosefutureswerelikely to
Carter
Trevor
.
be most affectedby the immigration act. While the overwhelmingmajority of Asian
immigrantswereyoungsinglemen in the,early 1960s,WestIndians,who had emigrated
had
bring
had
time
to
their partnersand children to Britain. Asian
already
earlier,
immigrantsworried that the proposedrestrictions'Wouldmean they had to settle in
Britain permanentlyor risk not being allowed back into the countryif they went home
to visit their families.It wasthis that provokedthe rushto movetheir relativesto Britain
beforethe act cameinto force on I July 1962.
37P. Rich, Race and'Empire in British Politics (Cambridge, 1986), 199.
p.
38SeeH. Adi, 'The Committee African ftanisations',
of
pp. 18-19.
39T. CarW, Shattering Illusions: WestIndians in British Politics (London, 1986), 67.
p.

43

Chapter1: hmnigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
Even after the CommonwealthImmigrantsAct was passed,black immigrants
because
in
doubt,
benefit
democracy
British
the
the
part
of
were still preparedto give
had,
It
fight
Party
Labour
their
believed
comer.
after all, vigorously
the
that
would
they
its
1964
Act
the
Immigrants
Commonwealth
of
publication
and up until
opposedthe
it
it
'For
to
to
possible
was
a
while
once
elected.
repeal
electionmanifesto,promised
based
host
in
benevolence
the
the
on
theory
community
of
constructan alternative
LabourParty's resistanceto the CommonwealthImmigrantsBill', notedthe authorsof
o
Colour and Cidzenship! Black immigrantscontinuedto remain loyal to-the Labour
Party throughout1963 and 1964,when supportingthe ConservativeParty becamean
for
During
to
the
the
less
them.
generalelection of
run-up
option
attractive
even
October1964,PeterGriffiths, the Conservativecandidatefor the West Midlands town
6.7
black
had
Smethwick,
per cent, ran a. virulently antipopulation
of
a
which
of
41
immigrationcampaign. Griffiths playedupon the fearsof local residentsaboutblack
immigrants in order to win votes and tacitly encouragedhis supporters'use of the
The
Times
Labour,
that
'If
telling
newspaper
neighbour,
vote
a
nigger
want
you
slogan,
'I would not condemnanyonewho said that, I regardit as a manifestationof popular
feeling'! 2 He was rewardedwith a surprisevictory over the incumbentLabour MP
Patrick GordonWalker, the Conservatives'first electoralwin in Smethwicksincethe
SecondWorld War. After visiting the town on 12 February1965,the African American
black
local
have
X
to
Malcolm
to
the
start
community
was
reported
advised
radical
!3
local
fascists
began
building
before
the
gasovens
organising

40E. J. B. Roseet al, Colour and Citizenship:A Reporton British RaceRelations(London,1969),p. 501.
41SeeJ. Street,'Malcohn X, Smethwick,andthe Muence of the AfiricanAmericanFreedomStruggleon
British RaceRelationsin the 1960s'unpublishedpaper,Schoolof History,Universityof Kent,2006,p. 4.
42Griffiths' commentsin The Timesreproducedin Paul Foot, Immigrationand Racein British Politics
armondsworth,1965)p. 44.
3HIbid.,
p. 9.

44

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
The Labour Party took quite a different lessonfrom the Conservatives'success
in Smethwick.Realisingthat Griffiths' negativeemphasison immigration had beena
it
decided
benefits
in
his
factor
that,
the
of being seenas
victory, quickly
significant
tough on immigration outweighedits former objections to control. Having already
its
Commonwealth
Immigrants
in
1962
August
Act,
the
to
on
promise
repeal
reneged
1965 the Labour governmentpublisheda White Paperon immigration which finther
intensiPAng
from
New
Commonwealth
the
the 1962act's bias
countries,
reduced quotas
immigrants.
Commenting
black
on the repercussionsof Labour's U-turn on
against
immigration policy, black journalist Edward Scobie wrote that 'Blacks have, in
faith
in
in
fact,
Labour
blacks
in
losing
lost
Britain
trust
their
and,
are
consequence
...
in whites'.44Not even the fact that the same Labour governmentwas concurrently
first
Race
Relations
black
Britain's
Act
through
tempered
parliament
shepherding
45
1966
disillusion.
A
March
editorial in the moderate,respectableBritishpeople's
Caribbean4ssociationNewsletterreviewedthe eventsof the previousyearthat hadhad
the most impact on its members.It failed to evenmentionthe RaceRelationsAct, but
highlightedthe White Paper'and its effectson race relationsin the United Kingdom',
has'
been
'there
that,
widespread and serious firustration and bitter
commenting
disappointment especiallyfrom immigrant communities,that the Governmenthave
...
introduction
by
to
their
to
concession
racial prejudice
of the White
appeared makesome
Paper'!6
Anxious to offset the tighteningof immigration restriction with a measurethat
would promoteintegration,the White Paper'sdraftersincludeda provision to createa
larger, better-fundedversion of the extant National Council for Commonwealth
44Scobie, Black Britannia; P. 265.
4-The Race Relations Act was passedin November 1965.
46Felicity Bolton, 'Editorial', British-Caribbean Association Newsletter 9 (March 1966), 2.
p.

45

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
Immigrants.Although the beefed-upNCCI remainedindependentof governmentin
theory,in practiceit very rarely criticised governmentactionsand pursueda moderate,
integrationistline that servedthe interestsof the statefar better than it did Britain's
black immigrants.Moreover,its strategyof co-opting onto its national committeethe
leadersof existing immigrant organisationsoften causedbitter divisions in the groups
from which they came.By setting up a network of local liaison committees,it also
underminedblack people's attemptsto organiseindependentlocal equality campaign
it
Nfichael
Dummett
believed
CARD
member
groups.
was not coincidence that th6

had
impact
had
CARD.
NCCI
'The government's
a
negative
on
creation of a new
fundamentalaim is to keep the black minority under control, he wrote in 1968, 'In
C.
its
N.
C.
I.,
hand-picked
its
black
this
the
policy,
with
and
pursuing
members

47
has
local
liaison
been
instrument'.
committees,
on
anessential
concentration
According to Sivanandan,Labour's conversionto immigration control had a
in
significant ripple effect the race relations industry. He saysthat it was only after the

Labourgovermment
publishedits White Paperthat the IRR cameout publicly in favour
of immigrationcontrol, 'At first it said nothing', he explains,'but when the [ 1962] act
was endorsedby the Labour goverment in the White Paperof 1965, the Institute's
director declaredthat there had to be immigration controls becausethe newcomers
couldn't be easily assimilated."We have to take them a mouthful at a time", was
8
it
he
in
how
Guardian
put
a
essentially
article'! On I July 1962 the National Socialists

of GreatBritain held a rally in TmfWgarSquareto celebratethe enforcementof the new


CommonwealthImmigrantsAc09 By the end of 1965,manyblack unnuigrantsfelt that

47M. Dtunmett,'The travailsof a British civil right movement',PatternsofPrejudice2:5 (1968), 10.


p.
48L. Kushnickand P. Grant, 'CatchingHistory on the Wing: A. Sivanandanas Activist, Teacherand
Rebel', in B. Bowser,L Kushnick (eds) with P. Grant,Against 7he Odds.
- Scholars no Challenged
Racismin the TwentiethCentury(AmherstandBoston,2002),p. 230.
49Hiro, Black British, p. 5 1.

46

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

the LabourPartyhad metaphoricallyjoined their platform. Believing that they had been
formerly
both
by
that
parties
and
sympatheticwhite
mainstreampolitical
abandoned
liberal opinion hadhardenedagainstimmigration,they becamemorereceptiveto voices
proposingmilitan4 independentblack action.

The impact of the American civil rights movement on Britain

The civil rights movementwas an obvious protest model for non-white people in
Britain: it provideda potentexampleof the powerof non-violent,direct actionto affect
in
by
Campaigns
for
black
that
a
racist
state.
such
as
oppressed
people
positive change
Birmingham,Alabama,in 1963,which saw hundredsof African Americanprotestors,
many of them children, withstand water cannonsand police dogs and enduremass
in
led
destruction
to
to
the
the
their
to
right vote,
of
racial castesystem
arrests protest
the southern states.By 1965 African Americans' right to vote and receive equal
treatmentwasenshrinedin federallaw. In spite of this, andpoliticians, andthe media's
in
for
the United States as a warning vision of
race
riots
portraying
predilection
Britain's future, in the early 1960sthe civil rights movementhad a very limited impact
in
Britain,
Historian
has
black
Mike
Sewell
organising
arguedthat 'British
people
on
freedom
be
from
African
American
to
the
the
could
viewed
struggle
not
apart
responses
issuesof racerelations[in Britain] that were demandingmore and more attention', but
his essayon those responsescontains more than one caveat that 'we should not
50
impact
in
It wasonly in the late
Britain'.
of the civil rights movement
overestimatethe
1960s,when the civil rights movementmovedinto its Black Powerphasethat it began
to exert a stronginfluence.Nevertheless,therewere attemptsto emulatethe eventsand
tactics of the African American freedom struggle, most notably the Bristol bus boycott
50M. Sewell,'British responses
to Martin LutherKing Jr andthe Civil RightsMovement,1954-1968, in
WardandBadger(eds),TheMaking ofthe Civil RightsMovement(London,19961p. 207.

47

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
in
both
Racial
1965,
Campaign
Against
Discrimination
1963
the
the
creation
of
of
and
both,
in
detail
below.
discussed
Despite
the
the
efforts
of
of
organisers
of which are
however,non-violentdirect action, the most importantand effective tactic of the civil
from
in
Britain.
This
black
failed
to
significant
support
attract
people
rights movement,
independent
have
because
did
black organisationsin
Britain
a
strong
not
networkof
was
the 1960s,nor a large established,homogenousblack population. Also, the state's
attemptsto combatracial discrimination,althoughnot initially very effective, had the
independent
inhibiting
disrupting
black
its
or
of
protest
side-effect
or redirecting focus
lobbying
influence
from
direct
(for
towards
to
the
parliament
action
example,
away
draftingof the 1965RaceRelationsAct).
Commentingon the March on Washingtonin August 1963,when a quarterof a
million black andwhite Americanscongregatedon the capital to showtheir supportfor
hear
leaders
like
legislation
Martin Luther King speak,the editor of The
and
civil rights
Timesdeclaredthat 'No country, in fact, can wholly afford to ignore the events in
Washington.The colour problem is virtually universal in one form or another,even
51
Curtain'.
This sentimentwould have found favour with Birmingham
Iron
behindthe
IWA (GB) and CCARD leaderJagmohanJoshi, who kept a close eye on the African
American the civil rights movement,especiallywhen it concernedhis adoptedcity's
Alabama namesake.A handbill advertising a CCARD fund-raising concert on 5
February 1964 declared, for example, that it was, 'in honour of the people of
Birmingham,Alabama

...

[whose] courageousstruggleagainstracialism has been an

52
'people
throughoutthe world'. Joshi also wrote letters of solidarity to
exampleto

Mie Light in the Darkness',TheTimes,30 August1963,p. 9.


52Unnameddocumentheld in the CCARD file at the IM

48

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

PresidentJohn F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King on behalf of the people of


53
Birminghampraisingadvancesin the civil rights movement.
Africans in Britain, although more likely to be influenced by the political
African
American
in
campaigners
civil
rights
their
regarded
continent,
native
struggles
for
however,
They
their
greatestenthusiasm,
reserved
as part of the same struggle.
Du
Bois
WEB
Pan-Afticanist
had
and
such
as
perspective,
a strong
activists who
Malcolm Y, irrespectiveof their position in the civil rights movement.The Committee
X.
Malcolm
both
Luther
from
Martin
King
hosted
Organisations
African
and
visits
of
'Undoubtedly'the 'most importantspeaker'at the first congressof the renamedCouncil
Hakim
Adi,
in
historian
1965,
in
February
Organisations
the
African
opinion of
of
Malcolm X gavea speechlinking the Americancivil rights movementwith the national
liberationstrugglesin Africa andemphasised,'the importanceof the African revolution
54
later,
just
days
he
When
for
Americans'.
African
inspiration
was assassinated
all
asan
CAO 'stageda protestmarchfrom Hyde Parkto the US embassy... anddenouncedthe
55
Malcolm
X'.
United Statesfor the "racialist murdee,of
In his essayon the British responseto the Amrican civil rights movement,
historianMike Sewellcontendsthat 'Little British commentarytreatedthe raceissuein
56
however,
News
American
United
States
usually
articles,
concern'.
the
as a uniquely
foreign
domestic
American
the
of
affhirs
a
the
civil rights movement as
reported
Relations
Race
in-house
journal,
Institute
The
IRWs
Even
the
of
monthly
country.
Newsletter,did not judge the United Statesimportantenoughto merit its own dedicated
53Draftsof theselettersareheld in the CCARD file at the IRR.
m H. Ad4 'The Committeeof African Organisations',pp. 254.
53Ibid., p. 26.
to Martin LutherKing Jr andthe Civil RightsMovement,1954-1968',in
-" M. SewelL'British responses
Ward and Badger (eds), The Making (19961 p. 195. Sewell's essaydeals exclusively with print
journalism.Although television ownershipin Britam had almost caughtup with the United Statesby
1961, until 1962mostsetscould only receiveonechannelandbroadcastinghourswerelimited, therefore
in
their
news
print.
got
mostpeoplestill

49

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

important
black
West
The
Indian
Gazette,
Britain's
1964.
newspaper
most
until
section
published monthly between 1958 and 1965, devoted roughly the same proportion of

inches
to the Americancivil rights movementas the mainstreamwhite press,
column
giving the majority of spaceon its newspagesto eventsin Africa, Asia, the Caribbean
fact
in
founding
had
its
Britain.
This
Claudia
Jones,
the
that
was
of
and
spite
editor,

in
her
life
the United States.
spentmostof
The episodesfrom the civil rights movementthat attractedthe most mainstream
press coverage were those which had an impact on the Cold War or foreign policy

implicationsfor Britain. PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower'sdecisionin September1957


to send federal troops to protect African American schoolchildrentrying to attend a
segregatedschool in Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, elicited a great deal of
in
because
in
Britain
the depthsof the Cold War the Little Rock
newspapercoverage
"
into
hands
Communist
the
crisis was consideredto play
of
propagandists. Both the
Guardian and the Daily Mirror reportedthat Arkansasgovernor Orval Faubushad
comparedEisenhower'suse of the National Guardto enforcea federalcourt order in
Arkansaswith the brutal Soviet repressionof the Hungarianuprising of 1956.By way
of comparison,neitherthe startof the studentsit-in movementin February1960,nor the
FreedomRidesof May 1961,receivedanythinglike as much coveragein The Timesor
the Daily Mirror.
Despite the lack of popular interest, British politicians regularly found it

expedientto compareracerelationsin Britain andthe United States.Whenrioting broke


Notting
in
Hill
far-right
in
August
1958,
Nottingham
ConservativeMP Cyril
and
out
Osbornewasquick to comparethe disturbanceswith the Little Rock crisis, eventhough

'" SeeThe Times,24 September1957,p. 8; 25 September1957,p. 8; 26 September1957,p. 10 (with


picture);27 September1957,p. 10and28 September1957,p. 9.

50

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965
58
States
United
In
the
have
in
did
the
parliamentary context,
the two
common.
not
much
if
in
Britain
happen
the
dystopian
might
what
vision of
was most often used as a
black
them
heed
did
the
repatriate
people
or
of
grievances
not
government either
59
hue.
The 'could it happen hereT approach
immediately, depending on one's political
became more common as the 1960s progressed, with earlier complacency giving way to
in
both
Britain
as
race
relations
more nervous appraisals,
The
outbreak of rioting
worsened.

and the United States

in Watts, a very poor, predominantly

African

American district of Los Angeles, in August 1965, was reported widely in the British
debating
in
for
MPs,
British
the
then
of
timely
process
reminder
press and served as a
the government's
discrimination
Second

race relations

bill,

of the potential

dangers of letting

racial

in Britain fester. 'It was the sudden awareness of the danger that the

Generation

might

become

coloured

underclass,

given

heightened

States,
United
in
by
the
which
the
the
of
northern cities
racial crisis
consciousness
Geoffrey
Lester
for
lawyers
Anthony
legislation',
the
and
case
new
noted
strengthened
Bindman. 60

In the late 1950s and early 1.960sa small but politically significant community
in
States
United
brought
had
been
West
Indians
Americans
the
African
up
who
and
of
in
London
like
House
Africa
to exchange views
north
at
places
congregatedregularly

" Osborne'scommentswere reportedin The Timeson 28 August 1958.SeeE. Pilkington,Beyondthe


Mother Country(London,1988),p. 128.
" Ws who regularly raised the issueof immigrants' rights includedReg Sorenson,Labour MP for
Leyton, Anthony WedgewoodBenn, Labour MP for Bristol South-East,Tom Driberg, Labour MP for
Barking and FennerBrockway,Labour MP for Eton and Slough.Brockway,who was madea peer in
1964,introducednine anti-discriminationprivate membersbills between1954and 1965.On the other
for
MP
Osborne,
Conservative
for
Norman
Pannell,
Conservative
house,
Cyril
Louth,
MP
the
side of
Kirkdale, Harold Gurden,ConservativeMP for Selly Oak and Enoch Powell, ConservativeMP for
WolverhamptonSouthWest,regularlyarguedthat black immigrantswereputting an unbearablestrainon
Britain's housing,employmentand healthservicesand urgedstricter immigrationcontrol and assistance
for voluntaryrepatriation.
6()A. LesterandG. Bindman,Raceand Law (Harmondsworth,1971), p. 17.
51

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
61
Ashwood
Jones,
Amy
Claudia
included
Most
this
of
group, which
and talk politics.
Garvey and Paul and Eslanda Robeson, had been deported from the United States, or
had chosen to leave, becauseof their left-wing beliefs. Claudia Jones, for example, a
Trinidadian raised in Harlem, had been deported from the United States to Britain in
December 1955, after spending 366 days in a federal penitentiary under the Smith Act
62
in
1958,
London
The
Robesons
CPUSA.
her
to
becauseof
moved
membership of the
Paul
United
States
to
the
return
government
after eight years of wrangling with
Robeson's confiscated passport. They stayed for five years and were active members of
CAACO. Although Jones's political focus took in Africa and her native Caribbeanjust
CAACO
it
her
in
that
the
organisation
country which she grew up, was clear
as much as
drew inspiration and encouragement from the American civil rights movement. The
AACP,
for
be
Jamaican
Pan-Africanist
Ashwood
Garvey's
Amy
which
said
same could

Colored
National
for
Association
Advancement
the
the
of
was clearly patternedafter
People(NAACP) in the United States.On 31 August 1963,CAACO organiseda march
to the Americanembassyin London,to show solidarity with the March on Washington
discrimination,
during
domestic
against
which the marcherssangthe civil
protest
and
hosted
forum
Shall
Overcome'.
In
July
CAACO
'We
1964,
on the
a
rights anthem
63
by
The
Eslanda
Robeson.
Mississippi
Freedom
Summer,
tactics of the
addressed
Robesons,Jones,Ashwood Garvey and other black political emigris also had close
links with Americancivil rights leaders,activists and intellectualslike BayardRustin,
WEB Du Bois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Picturesfrom the December1961
61Affica Housein Camdenwas a hostel,restaurantand meetingspacerun by the WestAffican Students
Union.
62A documentconcerningClaudia Jones in the archivesof the CommunistParty of Great Britain,
held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, reports that she was
CPICENT/ORG/01110,
deportedstraightto Londonratherthan Port-of-Spain,Trinidad, at the requestof the British Consulate
becauseof her seriousill health.Upon arrival sheimmediatelyappliedfor a British passportso that she
couldleaveto convalescesomewhere
warmer,but wasnot grantedoneuntil 1962.
63See'LondonSolidarityMarch', TheWestIndian Gazette,September1963,p. 1.

52

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
edition of the WestIndian Gazetteshow King at a social function at Africa Housewith
Jone and Eslanda.Robeson,as well as other prominent politically active black
immigrantslike David Pitt, CommunistParty memberand WestIndian Gazettedeputy
editor AbhimanyuManchanda,
andthe WestIndiannovelistGeorgeLamming.
It was not just American expatriateswho took an interest in the civil rights
movementin the United Statesthough.In May 1963,Paul Stephenson,
a youth worker
of African and white British parentage,called a boycott againstthe Bristol Omnibus
Company(BOC) that deliberatelymimicked the Montgomerybus boycott of 19551956.In December1964,moreover,a hastily organisedmeetingbetweenMartin Luther
King and black community leadersresultedin the creation of Britain's most serious
attempt at a 'civil rights' organisation,the CampaignAgainst Racial Discrimination.
CARD saw itself as a British versionof the NAACP andwasalso influencedby King's
SouthernChristianLeadershipConference(SCLC) andthe Congressof RacialEquality
(CORE). CARD and the Bristol bus boycott generateda greatdeal of mediaattention,
despitetheir significant failings, becausethey gave the impressionthat Britain was
developingits own civil rights movementandtappedinto the sympathyBritons felt for
the African Americanstrugglebeforethe emergence
of Black Power.
The Bristol bus boycott of 1963was conceivedas a protestagainstthe Bristol
OmnibusCompany'srefusalto hire non-whiteconductorsand drivers. By deliberately
evoking the Montgomerybus boycott- at the start of his campaignStephensonposed
for local newspaperphotographers
in
at the backof a bus,eventhoughblack passengers
Bristol could sit whereverthey liked - Stephenson
framedhis protestasan extensionof
the American civil rights movement.This was a successfulway of attracting media
attention- the boycott receivedplenty of coveragein the pagesof the local, national
and even foreign press.Stephenson'sfailure to recognisethe fundamentaldifferences
53

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

between1950sMontgomeryand 1960sBristol, however,meantthat the boycott itself


waspoorly supportedby black or white Bristolians,andwas,tactically,a fOure.
Bristol's demographicswere completely different Erom.Montgomery's: the
in Bristol were white and its black populationwas diverse
majority of bus passengers
and divided, with newly arrived Indian, Pakistaniand West Indian immigrantsjoiriffig
establishedWest Indian communitiesfrom beforethe SecondWorld War. The Bristol
colour bar had beenimposedon hiring bus staff, not seatingpassengers,
and it was the
result of a union ballot by the Transportand GeneralWorkersUnion (TGWU), rather
than a legal ordinancethat could be challengedin court.As Britain hadneithera written
constitution against which to test its laws, nor legislation prohibiting, racial
discriminationprior to 1965,the Bristol colour bar could not have beenoverturnedin
court, as Montgomery'shad been by the NAACP's successfullegal challengeto the
constitutionalityof Alabama'stransportsegregationlaws in the 1956test caseBrowder
v Gayle. Furthermore,the Bristol boycotthad very little grassrootssupport,a defming
feature of the Montgomeryboycott. 'Me demise of the Bristol colour bar was the
cumulative result of negative publicity and pressure from journalists, MPs and
Commonwealthdiplomatsand left Bristol's black communitygroupssquabblingover
whethera gradualistapproachwould haveworkedbetter.
The Bristol Omnibus Companyhad operateda colour bar againstemploying
non-whitc bus drivers and conductorsfor severalyears,mainly to appeasethe white
conductorsanddrivers(passenger
staff), who, throughthe TGWU, hadballotedin 1955
not to work alongsideblacks.The BOC had acquiescedand no black peoplehad been
employedon Bristol's busessince.(In contrast,the BOC's garagestaff, membersof a
different sectionof the TGWU, had voted againsta colour bar and so Asiansand West
Indians were employedas mechanicsby the company.) The fact that the BOC was
54

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
by
disapproval
had
been
bar
a
occasionson
several
with
noted
a
colour
operating
ChurchMission in the mid-1950s;'by the Bristol EveningPost, which ran a seriesof
local
fortned
by
in
1961;
discrimination
a newly
and
articles alleging colour
in
(WIDC),
Council
the
Development
West
Indian
sameyear.
up
the
set
organisation,
Whenpressedon the matter,however,the buscompanyhadsaidthat its handsweretied
by the union and the TGWU claimedthat the (entirely legal) colour bar wasthe policy
bus
the
company.
of
Stephenson had joined the WIDC in 1962 and, under its auspices, called a

boycott of the BOC the following year. Local historian Madge Dressernoted that
64
'Stephensonwas very much inspired by the example of Martin Luther King'.
Stephenson'sadmiration for King meant that he tried to emulatehis tactics without
enoughconsiderationof whetherthey were appropriateto Bristol. One exampleof this
for
black
the
Stephenson's
to
churchesas a sourceof support
attempt canvas
was
Bristol boycott. 'I knew it was the black churchesthat had given Luther King in the
...
South that power', he told one interviewer, 'and so I was working on the black
Indians
had
West
however,
Britain,
tradition
no
organisingthrough
of
churches'5
faith
but
devout
West
Christians,
Many
Indians
their
was otherwere
churchnetworks.
having
discovered
that
to
they
their
were
struggling
up
set
own churches,
wordly and
they were not welcomein white congregations.In 1963,most Asians also had not yet
in
home
their
places
or
each others'
own
of
worship
at
and so prayed
established
houses.'It wasn't that they weren't in sympathywith what I was doing', Stephenson

64M. Dresser,Black and Whiteon the Buses:the 1963Colour Bar Disputein Bristol (Bristol, 1986),
15.
63lbid, p. 32.

55

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

later conceded,'but they weren't ready to get that involved on that


social
and
...
66
level'.
political
By choosingto call an economicboycot4 Stephensonhad made his protest's
successdependenton the supportand participationof white Bristolians,who madeup
the great majority of bus passengers.This reliance on whites was compoundedby
Stephenson'smiscalculationof how willing black people in Bristol would be to
confront racism head on. The reticenceof many black Bristolians to risk a white
backlashby making too many demandswas encapsulatedby the local West Indian
Associationwhen it assertedthat, 'Negotiationsgot colouredmen into the garagesand
67
have
buses'.
Bristol's pre-war black communitieshad
would
got them onto the
6y
for
in
boat
themselves
the city and were reluctantto rock the
establisheda niche
demandingequality.The post-warimmigrantsfrom Asia and the Caribbeanwere too
fragmentedandtoo preoccupiedwith establishingthemselvesto raisemuch enthusiasm
for civil rights campaigning.'In truth therewere no groupsor leaderswho could claim
the loyalty, bust and allegiance of what was a politically unorganisedmigrant
68
Dresser.
population',concluded
The local whites who supportedthe boycott did not usually participatein it
either.A May Day marchpastthe main bus stationandthe headquarters
of the TGWU,
organisedby Stephenson,attractedabout a hundredparticipants,most of whom were
Local
students.
white religiousorganisationsthat hadpreviouslycampaignedagainstthe
colour bar thought the boycott was unnecessarilyantagonistic.'The Bishop of Bristol
issueda statementtodaywith the ChurchCouncil', notedthe MP for Bristol South-East,
Tony Benn,in his diary for 5 May 1963,'It blamedthe troubleon "an unrepresentative"
66

Ibid., p. 32.
67'Bus bar Bristol fashion',TheInstitute
ofRaceRelationsNewsletter(June1963),p. 6.
" Dresser,Black and nite, p. 32.

56

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
for
[white]
busmen
West
deplored
Indians,
the
a
the
then
and
called
attitudeof
groupof
Christianapproach.But nowheredid it sayexplicitly that the bus colour bar was wrong
69
boycott,
fellow
Bristol
MP
Stan
Awberry
Benn
the
with
supported
and
andshouldgo'.
Bem particularly active, a further illustration of the fact that the campaignwas being
foughtfor black people,ratherthan by them.
The high media profile of the boycott and its occurrenceat a time of shifting
its
former
between
'New
Commonwealth'
Britain
coloniesmeantthat
and
relationships
Stephensonwas significantly more successfidin attracting support from influential
Freedom-founder,
both
black
for
figures,
Colonial
Movement
and white.
national
LabourMP andcivil rights campaignerFennerBrockwayshowedhis supportby asking
illegal.
bars
in
law
to
there
wasnot a
makesuchcolour
a question parliamentaboutwhy
Prime Minister Harold Wilson comparedthe colour bar in Bristol to apartheidSouth
Africa during a public speech,attracting'good publicity in the local papers',according
70
diary.
The offices of the High Commissionersof Trinidad and Tobagoand
Benn's
to
Jamaica also joined in the fray, couching their objections in terms of Britain's
fact,
its
dignity.
In
Commonwealth
treat
to
so
citizens with equality and
obligation
involved wasthe High Commissionerfor Trinidad and Tobago,Sir LearieConstantine,
that shortly after the boycott's end he resignedhis post, having beencensuredby his
for
diplomatic
in
disharmony
by
intervening
creating
a domestic
government
publicly
71
British matter. It was, therefore,at the level of national politics and international
diplomatic relations,as well as local and nationalnews coverage,that the campaignto
revokethe colourbar waswon.

69T. Benn, Out of The Wilderness.Diaries 1963-67 (1,ondon, 1987), p. 14.


70Wilson's speech is reported in 'Bus bar Bristol fashion', The Institute
Race
Relations Newsletter
of
(June 1963), pp. 4-7. Benn, Wilderness,p. 13.
71See 'Sir Learie Constantine makes it plain in that Bristol colour bar, WestIndian Gazette, June 1963,
p. I and 'Did migrants issue lead Sir Learie to quit?', WestIndian Gazette,October 1963, p. 1.

57

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

After much wranglingbetweenthe BOC and the TGWU, the end of the colour
bar was finally announcedon 23 August 1963.By the middle of 1965,however,only
72
been
hired.
Althoughblack Bristolians;
four bus driversandthirty-nineconductorshad
little
been
had
bar,
because
back
there
grassroots
to
the
the
so
of
colour
were glad see
supportfor the boycott the local black communitieswere neithermore politicised nor
boycott
limited
impact
Given
the
the
and slow
the
of
campaign.
united as a result of
West
Indian
it
is
bar's
the
that
the
colour
end,
possible
pace of progress after
Association'sgradualistapproachmay have achievedthe sameresults, as it angrily
inclined
I
in
Paul
bom
Britain,
But
Stephenson,
to negotiate
was ess
and raised
claimed.
for somethinghe thoughtshouldhavebeenhis automaticright asan Englishman.It was
blacks
in
between
immigrants
difference
British-bom
that
outlook
non-white
and
a
would becomemoremarkedover the following decade.

According to founding member Marion Glean, the idea for CARD was hatched at a
King's
during
between
Luther
King
immigrant
leaders
Martin
and a group of
meeting
73
10
January
Started
London.
1964
December
to
temporary
on
visit
as a
organisation
1965, CARD becamea permanentbody at a two-day founding convention in London on
24-25 July 1965.74 Initially conceived as an umbrella organisation, it began by
immigrant
later
but
the
of
set up a network of
membership
existing
groups
soliciting
local branchesthat individuals could join directly. A genuinely multiracial organisation
from the beginning, CARD borrowed many of its tactics from the American civil rights
direct
it
have
discounted
SCLC's
to
the
activity,
appears
main
movement although
action. It did, however, hold voter registration drives, lobbied the government for anti72Dresser,
BlackandWhite,P.48.
73

M. Glean, "Whatever happened to CARD? ', Race Today 5: 1 (January 1973), p. 14.
74Tlhe founding date of CARD is
often disputed. This date is taken from the 'CARD National Committee
Secretary's Report' of 23 July 1965 contained in the CARD file at the IRR.

58

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
discrimination legislation and even sent studentsinto immigrant areasduring their
summerholidaysto collectevidenceof discrknination.
By far the most successfulattempt thus far to form a national 'civil rights'
Race
in
Britain,
CARD
initially
influence
the
to
the
of
shape
organisation
sought
RelationsBill that was passingthroughparliamentin early 1965.Its successin doing
this was limited, but by the autumn of 1965 CARD had establisheditself as an
75
had
least,
This was
Labour
that
the ear, at
organisation
of the ruling
government
.
demonstratedwhen two membersof CARD's executivecommitteewere askedto join
NCCI in September1965. By the time of its third annual conventionin July 1967,
however, CARD was bitterly divided. In the tense and hostile atmosphereof a
November1967extraordinarygeneralmeeting,full of new delegates,virtually all the
existing executiveand national committeememberswere voted out and replacedby
radical West Indian officials. Although the chairman,David Pitt, remainedin his post
and continuedto describehimself as the leaderof CARD until at leastthe end of the
decade, it was a discredited and powerless organisation after 1967. A full-time
in
volunteer CARD's centralLondonoffice, Diane Langfordhadhelpedto organisethe
1967coup but left the organisationshortly afterwards.JI]n the end I just droppedout
76
becausetherewasnothinghappeningandit wasn't developing',sheremembers.
In his 1972studyof the rise and fall of CARD, sociologistBenjaminHeineman
madethe bold statementthat, 'CARD was founded... to speakfor a socialandpolitical
77
did
movementthat
not exist'. Heineman's assessmentwas correct, but it was a
challengeof which the leadersof CARD were aware. Their goal in founding the

75Ibis wasno doubt helpedby the fact that


much of CARD's leadershiphad closeties with the Labour
Party.LeadingCARD membersDavid Pit4 JocelynBarrow andAnthonyLesterall later becameLabour
peers.
76DianeLangford,interviewedby the author,I September
2004.
77Dummett,"CARDReconsidered', 42.
p.

59

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965

their
that
strengthen
to
would
support
of
create a national network
organisation was
lobbying attempts in the corridors of Westminster. By the end of 1965, however, the
idea of basing a campaign around lobbying the government seemedfar less credible to
black people, both because the new immigration legislation suggested that the
legislation
suggested
them
the
turning
relations
against
and
new race
government was
that its goodwill did not translate into meaningfid protection. In fact, it was precisely the
fi-amework
that thwarted
to
create an anti-discrimination
government's attempts
development of the independentnetwork CARD activists were trying to create. Writing
CARD,
impact
for
hmnigrants'
Committee
Commonwealth
National
on
the
about
Michael Dummett concluded that, 'Merely by coming into existence, the NCCI had
78

deliveredoneof the mostdamagingblows to the embryocivil rights movement'.

Dummettbelievedit was the decisionof CARD's chairmanDavid Pitt and its


be
invitation,
Hamza
Alavi
1965,
to
to
the
the
co-opted
accept
at
end of
vice-chairman
highly
decline
in
invitation
fortunes.
CARD's
The
NCCI
the
the
was
which started
onto
join
NCCI
Pitt
discussed
but
Alavi
decision
the
to
their
with
nor
neither
controversial,
it
depth
before
The
of the angerthis causedwas
announcing
as
afait
accompli.
anyone
loss
in
letter
from
Pitt.
'We
Secretary
WISC
David
to
the
to
a
are at
of
clearly shown a
is
how
CARD
on record as being militantly opposedto that nauseating
understand
documentcalled "The White Paperon Immigration from the Commonwealth"and at
the sametime serve[sic] on a committee,which has beenset up to implementthe sois
laid
down
Secretary.
'It
in
Paper',
White
Integration
the
the
wrote
proposals
called
is
job
do
blind
National
Committee
to
the
that
to
the
unsuited
a
man,
also obvious,even
it is supposedto do and will likely do more harm than good.Indeedthereis a growing
feeling that someprominentmembersof this Committeeare directly responsiblefor the
78Durrmett,'Tmvails', p. 11.

60

Chapter 1: Immigration, British race relations and the American civil rights movement,
1955-1965
79
hostile
feelings.
When several of CARD's key member
present climate of
racial
groups, most notably WISC and the National Federation of Pakistani Associations
(NFPA), disaffiliated in protest, Pitt and Alavi still refused to resign from NCCI saying
that they had been asked to join as private individuals, not representativesof CARD,
and therefore there was no conflict of interest. In Michael Dummett's opinion, 'This
helped greatly to bring about the reduction of the National Council [of CARD] to
complete ineffectiveness.

CARD never again looked like obtaining the support en

80
immigrant
masseof the
organisations'.
At the end of 1965, CARD's leadershipcould point to the Race Relations Act to

justify its methodsof political lobbyingand sitting on governmentcommittees.But the


RaceRelationsAct, passedin November 1965was only a faltering first step to curb
racial discrimination. It bannedpubs, restaurants,hotels and other places of public
from
refusing serviceon groundsof colour, while leaving the crucial areasof
resort
housing and employmentuntouched.This did not belie the genuinedesire of some
sectionswithin the LabourParty to tackle what they saw as the moral wrong of racism,
but the contrastbetweenthe Party's ability to legislate strongly and swiftly against
immigration and their softly-softly approach to curbing racial discrimination was
difficult to ignore.It was of little useto most black peopleto havethe right to stayin a
hotel when they could not afford to do so. Furthermore,the enforcementprovisionsof
the act were so weak that it was virtually unworkable.ResearcherBob Hepple neatly
summedup the flaws in the act, describingit as 'unnecessarilycomplicatedwhile, at the
81
being
toothless. Complaintshad to be reportedby the aggrievedparty
sametime,
within a limited period to the newly created Race'Relations Board, which then
79Letter from the Secretaryof WISC to David Pitt, 22 October 1965, held in
the CARD file at the IRR.
soDummett, 'CARD Reconsidered', 43.
p.
11B. Hepple, R=4 Jobs
and the Law (London, 1968), p. 136.

61

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
investigatedvery slowly, had no powersof subpoena,and could neither compel the
for
the
mjured
discriminatory
reparations
their
to
seek
nor
practices
stop
offendingparty
Attorney-General,
brought
the
be
the
Prosecutions
permissionof
with
could only
party.
hencevery few were instigated.From the momentthe RaceRelationsAct enteredthe
journalists
by
but
by
black
books
it
also
people
was widely criticiscd, not only
statute
82
Secretary
Home
1966,
In
June
Party.
a
Labour
the
received
the
of
even
members
and
letter signed by eighty-sevenclergymen urging him to extend the act to cover
83
Race
the
fmancial
CARD's
housing
with
association
services.
and
employment,
its
lay
in
its
little
did
the
Act,
of
Relations
to enhance reputation
eyesof many
therefore,
members.
The reasonthat CARD's leadersdiffered so greatly in perspectivefrom the
largely
because
white
they
middle-class
well-meaning,
were
was
membership
general
Indians,
West
Asians
Lester
Gaitskell
Anthony
like
Julia
and
or middle-class
and
people
like David Pitt, Haniza Alavi, RanianaAsh and JocelynBarrow. 'The leadership,the
living
CARD
[to
they
the
were
were people who
office] and
chair, they never came
'It
Langford.
Diane
former
lives',
different
kinds
volunteer
of
remembers
completely
had
Pitt
by
David
basically
there
they
as a sort of a
white
posh
people
and
run
was
figurehead'." The leadersbelievedthat the bestapproachto racerelationswas to 'open
had
Langford,
from
door
the convenientside
that
to
the
a strategy
within, according
1966
By
their
white
own personalprestigeand political power.
effect of enhancing
CARD
in
lower
Dummett
like
Michael
the
echelonsof
were as over-represented
people
branches
local
CARD
the
'Many
in
leadership:
the
the
on
the
of
representatives
of
as
National Council werewhite', he wrote in 1973.'West Indian membersof CARD quite
12,Sectionsfrom Hansardand articlesin the TimesandSundayTimescriticisingthe act werereprintedin
CARD's ownjoumal Campaign.SeeCampaign,I (undated),p. 5, held in the CARD file at the IRR.
13SeeLesterandB indman,Raceand Law, P. 123.
" DianeLangford,interviewedby the author,I September
2004.

62

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
85

American
longer
Although
CARD
them'.
the
thought
that
civil
no
represented
rightly
Congress
inspirational
NAACP
CARD,
the
the
to
that
of
suchas
and
were
rights groups
Racial Equality, had white members,neither organisationwould have dreamt of
allowing its leadershipto be dominatedby white people. Certainly it was not what
Marion Gleanhad envisionedwhen shedescribedCARD as an organisationthat would
Gensurethat immigrants, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians and Africans could
themselvesdecidetheir own strategies,decideon their own priorities, build their own
86
felt
in
dependency'.
doing
break
She
those
things
that on
the
circle of
organisationand
thosetermsit hadalreadyfailed by the time of the foundingconventionin July 1965.

Conclusion
A turning point in the British political approachto immigration, 1965alsorepresented
a
in
immigrants'
black
The
between
1955and
perception
ofthe
state.
period
watershed
1965 had been a time of settlementand orientation for black immigrantsto Britain.
Their unavoidable encounterswith white racism, however, forced them to start
find
defend
to
to
their personalsafety and political
with
each
other
ways
engaging
interests.The continuingindividual racism,expresseddaily in subtleways and during
criseslike the 1958Nottinghamand Notting Hill riots, divestedthem of any romantic
benevolence
the
of the mother country. The political consensuson the
notions about
for
first
immigration
that
control
emergedin the run up to the generalelectionof
need
October1964,showedthemthat individual prejudicewasjust the surfacemanifestation
inhered
in the structures of the state. Political
that
racism
an
underlying
of
representationwould thereforehave to be createdindependently,as it had by African

15Dummett, 'CARD Reconsidered, p. 44.


86Glean, TARDT, p. 14.

63

Chapter1: Immigration,British racerelationsandthe Americancivil rights movement,


1955-1965
imperialism
in
British
1930s
West
Indian
the
and
against
campaigning
students
and
1940s.
In spite of interestfrom politicians,journalists and the race relationsindustry,
for
inspiration.
look
States
immigrants
did
United
Mimetic
black
to
the
not
most
.huitiativessuchasthe Bristol busboycottof 1963andthe creationof CARD floundered
in
black
direct
tactic
was
action
non-violent
not
widely
adopted
as
protest
and
a
communities.The mainstreampolitical discourseon race relations before 1965 was
bound up with a specificafly British debate on immigration. Britain's first Race

RelationsAct was not the result of an American-stylecivil rights campaign,but the


formula,
by
1965 agreedon both by politicians and the race
the
positive elementof
relationsindustry,that less immigration plus more integrationwould equal good race
immigrants
black
Britain
By
to
the
time
relations.
realisedthat they could not rely on
interests,
to
their
the American civil rights
political
processes
represent
mainstream
its
had
already started transition from non-violent direct action to Black
movement
Powermilitancy.

64

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
CHAPTER2
'In the belly of the beast': from black disillusionment to Black Power
Introduction

BetweenFebnjary 1965,when Malcolm X's visit to Britain attracteda moderate


amountof mediaattention,and July 1967,when the arrival of Black Power'sprehysterical
Carmichael,
Stokely
prompted
a
slew
of
articles
eminent spokesperson,

became
increasingly
ban
him
British
society
on
returning,
a
and government
issue
The
Labour
Party competed with the
the
of
race.
polarised around
Conservativesto be seen as toughest on immigration, alienating its black
immigrants
from
in
Asia and the
At
time,
the
the
same
process.
supporters
Caribbean,havingrealisedthat their original intentionto work in Britain for a few
yearsbeforereturninghomewith a nest-eggwas unrealistic,and that they had, in
fact7becomesettled in Britain, beganto pay more attentionto domesticevents.
Immigration as a political issuewas less prominent in the election year of 1966
becausethe 'increasingconsensusof stringencybetweenthe two major parties'
'
By
it
however,
topic.
the possibility that several
mid-1967,
campaign
a
poor
made
thousandBritish passport-holdingAsians from Kenyamight exercisetheir right to
live in Britain hadmadeit an urgentconcernonceagain.The Labourgoverment's
hasty legislativeresponse,the CommonwealthImmigrantsAct of I March 1968,
0
be
debated
just
to
took
a
week
and approved by parliament, became
which
popularlyknown asthe KenyanAsiansAct The most racially discriminatorypiece
of legislationto enterthe statutebooksthus far, it was later ruled unlawfid by the
EuropeanCourt of HumanRights.

I TheInstituteofRaceRelationsNewsletter(January1967),p. 2.

65

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
The governmenthad announcedin July 1967that it plannedto fortify the
1965RaceRelationsAct, but had not yet done so by the time the KenyanAsians
Act was passed.Britain's secondRaceRelationsAct was draftedin responseto a
major study of racial discriminationin Britain, jointly commissionedby the Race
RelationsBoard and National Council for CommonwealthImmigrants (NCCI),
in
discrimination
British
had
that
virtually
all
areas
society
of
racial
revealed
which
2
Political
But
the
thriving.
and Economic Planning (PEP) report
was
although
Racial Discrimination in Britain was published in April 1967, it took several
monthsof debatebeforethe 1968RaceRelationsAct enteredthe statutebooksthe
following November.The 1968act was an improvementon its predecessorin as
far as it extendedits anti-discriminationprovisions to cover the vital areasof
employmentand housing.Comparedwith the swift decisivenesswith which MPs
had deprivedthe KenyanAsians of their legal rights as British citizens earlier in
the year,however,it appeareda half-heartedandineffectualsop.
The hard line takenby the Labourgovernmentover the KenyanAsiansdid
not, as might have beenexpected,steal the thunderof the political far right, but
actually encouragedits demands.Enoch Powell's notorious 'Rivers of Blood'
speech,delivered in Birmingham on 20 April 1968, was but the first of many
full
perorations,
of apocryphal stories of outrageous immigrant
apocalyptic
behaviour, which journalists reported as fact. Despite being sacked from the
Conservativeshadowcabinetand censuredby party leaderEdwardHeath,Powell
set the paceand tone of political discussionon immigration for the next decade.
Applaudedor deplored,but never overlooked,the media reportedPowell's every
word: 'For the mass media Powell was race relations, rememberedone
2 Political and Economic Planning (PEP), Racial Discrimination in Britain (London, 1967).

66

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiorunentto Black Power
3
importantly,
Powell's
Most
the
of
extremism
views
contemporary observer.
dragged the discourse on immigration to the right and made liberalism an
untenable political position. 'The tone of his [Rivers of Blood] speech', explained
historian Richard Thurlow, 'brought the languageand argumentsof the neo-fascist
4
Evidence
heart
fdnge
into
the
the
of this was
of
establishment'.
political

inadvertentlyacknowledgedby Powell himself in 1971,when he commentedthat


the Conservative government's recently introduced immigration bill, which
is,
holders
British
(that
to
passport
with a UKproposed allow only patrial citizens
born parentor grandparent)the automaticright to live in Britain, remindedhim of
5
Jewish
Jewish
Nazi Germany'scategorisationas
anyonewith a
grandmother.The
1971 Immigration Act did not go far enough,however, for the National Front,
founded in February 1967. Finding itself suddenlysharing respectablepolitical
groundwith the extremeright wing of the ConservativeParty and encouragedby
public displaysof supportfor EnochPowell, such as the marchesof hundredsof
dock workersand Smithfield meatportersto the Housesof Parliamentin the week
it
its
his
Blood'
'Rivers
of
speech,
redoubled
campaignto rid Britain of black
after
by
people constitutionalor other meansand printed the slogan'Enoch was right'
6
badges,
flyers
and placards. RichardThurlow believesthat 'There canbe little
on

3J. Bourne,The PowellEffecV,Race& Class,39:4 (1998),p. 60.


4 IL Thurlow,Fascismin Britain (New York, 1987),p. 246.
sPowell's commentswere reported in P. Evans, 'Immigration: British-Style', Transftlo,
% 40
P)(Zember1971),p. 40.
' -era thousanddock workersfrom the EastEnd of Londonmarchedto the Houseof Commons
on 23 April 1968,bearingplacardsreading'Don't Knock Enoch. The following day, around400
portersfrom London'sSmithfieldmeatmarketalso marchedto parliament,bearinga petition with
over 2,000 signaturesurging Heath to reinstatePowell. A Gallup poll at the end of April 1968
purportedto show that 74 per cent of respondentsagreedwith Powell's views on immigration,
while a write-in poll undertakenby the Wolverhampton&press and Star produced 35,000
postcardsexpressingsupportfor Powell andhardly anyagainsthim. For moredetailson all of these
eventsseeD. Sandbrook,"ite Heat: a History of Britain in the SwingingSixties(London,2006),
pp. 642-5.

67

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
doubt that the National Front would not have survived if Enoch Powell had not
7
its
infancy'.
hand
in
it
helping
unwittingly given sucha
In such a racially polarised and hostile atmosphere, the American Black

Power movement gained credibility as an organisationalblueprint for black


been
had
British
in
1967,
Britain.
In
June
a small groupof
activistswho
resistance
discuss
in
Comer
Sundays
Speaker's
Britain, set
to
on
racism
meeting
at
regularly

Universal
Coloured
People's
first
Black
Association
Britain's
Power
the
group,
up
(UCPA). When radical African AmericanleaderStokely Carmichael,headof the
StudentNon-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and co-author of Black
Power. the Politics ofLiberation in America,visited Britain the following month,
he was introducedto the UCPA, alongwith otherimmigrantgroupsin Londonand
8
including
Nfichael
X.
Cannichael's short visit gave Britain's nascent
activists
Black Power movementa tremendousboost. A sensationalisingmedia broadcast
his words to black people around the country, but also provoked fear in many
journalists
andjudges, who worried that the new spirit of
politicians, policemen,
black militancy in Britain might leadto American-styleraceriots.
The phrase'Black Power' had beenfirst popularisedas a rallying call for
African Americansby Carmichaelin the summerof 1966.A highly flexible term
that could be used as a justification for both black capitalism and revolutionary
pan-African socialism, -Black Powees appeal among disillusioned African
Americansstemmedfrom its militant assertionof pride in being black. Groups
such as Ron Karenga'sUS, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale'sBlack Panther
Party and Carmichael's a-black

SNCC often disagreed vehemently, even

7 Thurlow, Fascism, p. 249.


3 S. Carmichael and C. Hamilton, Black Power. Me Politics
of Liberation in America (New York,
1967).

68

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
liberation,
have
disagreed
black
but
to
the
none
would
path
correct
violently, on
for
black
lead
is
beautiful'
dictum
'Black
to
the
the
and
people
unite
or
need
with
their own organisations. Having evolved from the southern-based,non-violent

by
in
decline
the end of
terminal
the
civil rights movement,which was
phaseof
1966,Black Power spoketo the disillusionedAfrican American residentsof the
improvement
in
had
dire
These
their
no
people
seen
economicand social
ghettoes.
in
benefit
for
during
'King
the
years'
voting
and
perceived
no
a
circumstances
determined
that
to 'keep them down.
seemed
white-dominatedpolitical system
Although not a movementborn of desperation,Black Power did speak to the
desperatelypoor and disillusionedand,by 1967,black immigrantsin Britain were
beginningto identify with them.
The overwhelmingmajority of Black Power activists in Britain camefrom
tile Caribbean,although there were also African and southernAsian members,
some of whom, for exampleNigerian Obi Egbuna,presidentof the UCPA and
founderof the Black PantherMovement(BPM), and Indian Ajoy Ghose,UCPA
founder
of the Malcolm X MontessoriSchooland editor of Black Power
member,
newspaperthe TrIcontinentalOutpost,held significant leadershippositions.Black
infiltrated
Susan
Craig,
who
student
sociology
severalLondonBlack Powergroups
in 1969to researchher final year thesis,found that 'For the purposesof the Black
Power organisations,the two significant immigrant groups in Britain are the
Asians and the West Indians', althoughqualified the remarkwith the observation
9
in
have
is
'the
Asians
I
that,
most groups that
number of
seen negligible'. A
UCPA membershiplist from 1967, though, contained seventeenimmediately
recognisable Asian surnames (for example Krishna, Mohamed, Khan and
9 S. Craig, 'Black Power groups in London, 1967-1969', unpublished BSc thesis, University
of
Edinburgh, 1970, pp. 15,7 1.

69

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
10
Chowdhury)out of a total of seventy-six. Anecdotalevidencethe former Black
Poweractivistsinterviewedby the authorindicatesthat Africansrepresented
a very
London
the
the
groupssurveyed,and as
membership
of
overall
small minority of
the highestconcentrationof Africans in Britain was in London,it is unlikely that
Black Power groups outside the capital had a higher percentageof African
in
interested
Power
their
Black
classifying
racially
groups
were
not
members.
leaflet
UCPA
A
however,
long
they
made no
as
were not white.
as
members,
distinctionbetweenAfricans, West Indiansand Indians,seeingthe only opposition
history
'The
between
the
of the oppressedpeoples of
and
oppressed:
oppressors
as
Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas over the last four hundred years has
"'
demonstratedthat the world has been divided into two irreconcilable camps. The
idea of blackness as a political colour crystallised,and was most clearly articulated
during the Black Power movement, but it had deep historical roots in three
continents.

Black Britain between1965and 1967:disillusionment with liberalism


After

1965, being associated with the Labour Party became increasingly

black
for
interests
to
the
the
claiming
community.
anyone
represent
of
problematic
The Labour government's authorship of the 1965 Race Relations Act did little to
its
inception
liberal
Criticised
from
by
MPs,
the
this
whites
press,
position.
change
immediately.
its
inadequacies
began
display
At
black
to
the
act
most
people,
and
the end of 1965 the Birmingham branch of the Indian Workers' Association (GB)
'The
Victims
Speak',
booklet,
'The
the
act.
which
quietly
condemned
a
published
Race Relations Act was in many ways a disappointment to us, it declared, 'as we
10UCPAmembership
list fromTonySoares'privatecollection.

II UCPA, 6U.C. P. A. Black Power',undatedtwo pageleaflet,held uncatalogued


at the EM

70

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
had hopedto seeit asan effectiveweaponagainstracial discrimination'.12In More
radical quartersthe act's ineffectivenesswas interpretedas quite deliberate.'[T]he
Labour governm

in
Race
Relations
Act
1965,and set up the Race
the
passed

RelationsBoard in 1966, to fiustrate black people and prevent us from taking


effective organisedaction', contendeda Black PantherMovement(BPM) leaflet.
'Under the RaceRelationsAct, severalblack peoplehavebeenprosecutedandsent
to prison for speakingup for the rights of black people,but white fascistsare
allowedto refuseblack peoplejobs, homesand insult andhumiliateus, andarenot
13
Act'.
One of severalblack oratorsat Speaker's
prosecutedunder this so-called
Comerto feel the sharpend of the 1965act, when he was prosecutedfor inciting
racial hatred in 1967, Ajoy Ghose echoed the BPM's cynicism. 'The 'race
relationsact7wasa carefidschemewhich was well engineeredby the white liberal
racistsand their sympathisers,which will continueto show its vicious and subtle
14
in
Black
U.
Y,
',
he
people the
oppressionof the
predicted.
By November 1966,a full year after the act's passage,only three of the
new RaceRelationsBoard'sregionalconciliation committeeshadbeensetup. The
London,Manchesterand Birminghamcommitteeshad few opportunitiesto try out
their conciliatorypowersbecausemost of the complaintsthey receivedconcerned
discriminationby employers,landlordsor estateagents,noneof whom fell within
the act's purview. In January1967,the editor of The Institute of RaceRelations
Newsletter noted that, 'of the two hundred or so complaints sent in' to the
Birmingham office, 'about three-quarterswere outside the committee's field of

12IWA (GB), 'The Victims Speak',November1965,p. 9, held uncatalogucd the IRR.


at
13BPK 'Black PeopleDon't Vote', June1970,p. 3. Leafletheld in Black
groupsfile at the MIL
14'Attackson Black Activists, Tri-ContinentalOutpost19(January1972), 2.
p.

71

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast: from black disillusionmentto Black Power
15Ile Attorney-General also seemedreticent to use the new powers of
reference".
Act,
Race
Relations
that
by
in
him
made
the
section
six
of
vested
prosecution
incitement to racial hatred illegal. In May 1966, six MPs were so fiustrated by the
Attorney-General's repeated refusals to initiate proceedings against various farthe
to
the
allow
tabled
act
that
they
amending
motion
all-party
an
right groups
16
Race
first
the
instigate
The
trial
of
to
six
under section
prosecutions.
police
Relations Act eventually took place in October 1966, but although British National
Socialist Christopher Britton was found guilty (for pinning racist material to his
local MP's door and throwing a bottle wrapped in racist propagandathrough his
it
decided
the
his
was
appeal,
as
on
quashed
conviction was promptly
window),
17
MP's family did not constitute a section of the public.
In 1966 the most visible body campaigning for racial equality was the

CampaignAgainstRacialDiscrimination(CARD) and its demise,seeminglyat the


hands of a Black Power cabal, the following year was the subject of many
headlines.
CARD
1966
most
of
spent
collecting evidence of
newspaper
discriminationin order both to test the effectivenessof the previousyear's Race
RelationsAct andto persuadethe governmentof the needto extendits provisions.
Having damagedits reputationin someblack communitiesby getting involved in
1965act, CARD neededto
the processof drawingup the less-than-comprehensive
's
losing
beneficial
impact
it
having
to
that
avoid
evenmorecredibility.
a
was
prove
In April 1967, however, the inadequacy of the Race Relations Act was
by
Discrimination
in
hard-hitting
PEP
Racial
the
report,
confirmed
unequivocally
S. Patterson,'Reviewof 1966', Me InstituteofRace RelationsNewsletter(January1967),p.1.
11iiswasreportedin TheInstituteofRaceRelationsNewsletter(June1966),p. 9.
17SeeA. LesterandG. Bindman,RaceandLaw (Harmondsworth,1972),pp. 367-8.
'a Seepreviouschapterfor an accountof the disaffiliation of the National Federationof Pakistani
Associationsand the WestIndian StandingConferencefrom CARD following leadersDavid Pitt's
andfundedNCCI.
andHamzaAlavi's decisionto acceptpositionson the government-created

72

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
England.Reprintedas a best-sellingpaperbackthe following year,the reportmade
the damningfinding that '[A]ll but thosewith totally closedmindsmustacceptthe
fact that in Britain today discrimination against coloured members of the
population operatesin fields not coveredby the existing legislation and that it
19
operateson a substantialscale'. Therehad alwaysbeencompetingviews on the
political courseCARD should steer, and many black CARD membersbecame
increasinglysuspiciousof those white liberal memberswho continuedadvocate
usingthe machineryof the stateto secureracial equalityafter it had beenshownto
be ineffective.
The previous chapter outlined how the chair and vice-chair of CARD
alienateda considerablesectionof the organisation'sblack membershipat the end
of 1965 by agreeingto sit on the statutory body, the National-Committee for
CommonwealthImmigrants. Other black groups, such as the IWA (GB), had
join
CARD becauseof its tactical focus on lobbying the
to
reffised even
inability
'Me
government.
of progressive white CARD members like the
legal
adviser,Anthony Lester,to empathisewith the fiustration and
organisation's
impatiencefor equality of black members,was exemplified in a December1967
newspaperarticle giving reasonsfor Lester and others' resignationfrom CARD.
'Those moving in, [Lester] said, were losing sight of the true purposesof the
organisationand trying to turn it into a political movementinsteadof a socialand
democraticone'! O
The politics of many of thosewho hadjoined CARD in anticipationof its
annualgeneralmeetingin 1967was Black Power,but this was not the reasonfor

19W. Daniel, Racial Discrhnination in England- Based


on the P.EP. Report (Harmondsworth,
1968)p. 13.
20'Six quit executive of anti-racialist body', Daily Telegraph, 4 December 1967.

73

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
the organisation's demise. Benjamin Heineman, an American sociology
postgraduatein London during the mid to late-1960s,wrote that 'Becausethere
wereno clear guidepostsfor British activistspromotingthe immigrants'cause,the
Americanexperiencehada distortingeffect sinceit wasoften assumedthat British
21
book
1972
Heineman's
through
on
similar stages'.
race relations would go
CARD also fell foul of trying to fit the organisation'shistory to an American
script, however, blaming its disintegrationon the black nationalismof a West
Indian faction heavily influencedby American Black Power.22 His conclusions
chimedwith thoseof the contemporaryBritish press,which notedwith disapproval
the presenceof the newly formedUCPA at CARD's 1967annualconvention.In a
Timesarticle headlined,'Tbreat to Card [sic] From Extremists',American Black
Powerwas blamedimplicitly. 'Mhere are alwaysheavydangersin riding tigers',
journalist,
'and these dangersare not reducedwhen the animal
the
concluded
black
to
panther'3
changes a
Some CARD membersclearly were influencedby the burgeoningBlack
Power movementin the United Statesafter 1966. A press statementissued in
November1967by JohnnyJames,oneof the organisation'snewly-electedmilitant
black leaders,had all the hallmarksof a Black Powerperspective.'Let it be quite
clear that I do not like speakingto the white imperialist pressreporters',James
began,'becauseby naturethey haveto lie and distort everythingone saysto carry
4
out the ordersand wishesof their masters'? The rest of James'sstatementpaid
homageto Mao andthe variousanti-colonialmovementsin Africa which, although
" B. Heineman.The Politics of the Powerless: a Study of the Campaign Against Racial
Discrimination(London,1972),p. xL
22
Ibid., p. 219.
2377je7-unes,
7 November1967,p. 11.
24J. James,'Pressinterviewstatement',9 November1967, 1. Documentheld in CARD file
p.
at
Instituteof RaceRelations(IRR).

74

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast":from black disillusionmentto Black Power
in
Britain.
independent
Power
Black
themes,
causes
political
were also
common
FormerCARD memberDiane Langford atteststo this. 'I think [the 1967CARD
'but
American
the political climate
the
says,
she
situation',
an
effect
of
was
coup]
There
in
the
were some
senseof anti-colonial struggles.
was also very exciting
West
China
Maoists
they
to
the
were
up
was
standing
and
were
who
people
25
tremendousrole models'. CARD disintegratedin 1967,therefore,not becauseof
Asian
between
black
Power-inspired
Black
white
and
and
split
nationalist
a
black
helped.
T"he
that
the
members
angry
certainly
goal of
members,although
who packedCARD's annualconferencein July 1967andthe extraordinarygeneral
in
followed
it
November
December,
that
was not necessarilyto
and
meetings
it
from
but
CARD
Black
Power,
to
to
stop
continumg:as a whitereorient
dominated,reformist, lobbying organisationwhosepolicy was decidedat the top
lower
in
imposed
the
and
on
ranks
which the chair and vice-chairmanwere
and
viewedby the lay membershipaslackeysof the state.
By the summerof 1967the British presshad developeda keen interestin
Black Power and the pathologyof Americanracerelations.The reports,from the
disadvantaged
by
1965
rioting
economically
socially
of
onwards,
of
and
summer
African Americansin the major northerncities of the United Stateshad a greater
impacton British politicians' views of racerelationsin Britain than previousnonin
The
United
States
the
civil
rights
protests.
riots
convincedmany white
violent
Britons in positions of power that British race relations were on a potentially
disastrouscourse. A further outbreak of rioting in Detroit in July 1967 was
in
its
British
the
television
on
pages
of
and
newspapers
reported extensively
screens,accompaniedby debateson whether such sceneswould ever be seenin
25DianeLangford,interviewedby the author,I September
2004.

75

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast":from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Britain. 'Dark propheciesand warningsof American-styleriots continuedto be
IRIVs
in
headlines',
in
late
least
the
the
the
noted
summer
or
at
appear
uttered
homes
British
1967
in
By
September
1967.26
most
news cuttings round-up
had
in
technology
television
made transatlantic
a
set and advances
contained
journalists describedthe impact this
broadcastingmuch easier.A team of 7"Imes
had in 1968. 'For on the TV screensof thosewho can afford them,' they wrote,
.
'America's raceriots are broughtas a hideousexampleinto our own homes.It ig
27
longer
isolation.
in
Britain
possibleto view
no
The rioting in the United Stateswas seenas particularlyrelevantto British
first
in
because
it
believed
the
the
the
that
children of
was
society
mid-1960s
brought
immigrants,
in
black
had
been
born
Britain
or
who
either
generationof
over as children, were approachingschool and home-leavingage and were,
therefore,aboutto havetheir first experiencesof Britain's (entirely legal) racially
discriminatoryemploymentand housing markets.Most MIs and race relations
believed
that although a colour bar might have been tolerated by first
researchers
generation immigrants, their British-born or raised children would expect a much
greater degree of equality. The potential fall-out from the gap between black
teenagers'hopes and expectations and the reality of their adult lives in Britain was
therefore considered to be a pressing social problem. In two separate 1966
Labour
Home
Secretary
indicated
Roy
Jenkins
that this was one of the
speeches,
reasonsthe government was considering extending the 1965 Race Relations Act to
cover housing and employmenO

'The next generation, who will

not be

immigrants but coIoured Britons, ' Jenkins explained, 'will expect full opportunities
26TheInstituteofRaceRelations
Newsletter
(September
1967),p. 334.

27S. Clarke, P. Evans, M. Knipe, G. Lloyd, D. van der Vat


and W. Norris, 7he Black Man in Search
Vlo! f (London, 1968), p. 171.
Ile speecheswere at the NCCI on 23 May 1966 and the UM on 10 October 1966.

76

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from blackdisillusionmentto Black Power


to deploy their skills. If we fiustrate those expectations... we shall irreparably
damagethe quality of life in our societyby creatingan American-typesituation.29
On 26 July 1967Jenkinsfinally announcedthe government'sintention to
introducelegislationthat would significantly extendthe scopeof the 1965Race
RelationsAct. The flip side of this legislativecoin was that the governmentwas
also determinedto clamp down on signs of militant agitation in the black
community. It was no coincidencethat on the same day as he announcedthe
government'sproposedextensionof anti-discriminationlegislation,Jenkinsalso
announcedthat StokelyCarmichaelhadbeenbarredfrom Britain. It was not Black
Powerper se, though,that the British governmentwas worried about.Carmichael
banned
because
American-styleraceriots were considereda real and present
was
dangerby mid-1967,not becausethe British governmentsawhim as the harbinger
of a Black Powerrevolution.
Between 1965 and 1967, however, the domestic conditions that black
day
would
one
riot over - police brutality, the differentialtreatmentof their
people
children at school and discriminationin housingand employment- continuedto
worsen.Abroad, the British government'sreftzal to sendtroops to Rhodesiato
overturn white supremacist leader Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of
independence
in November1965,and its oppositionto sanctionsagainstapartheid
South Africa, convincedmany black people in Britain that the statehad no real
commitmentto racial equality.Reviewingthe eventsof 1965,the Institute ofRace
RelationsNewslettercommentedthat 'The hardeningof nationaland local opinion
immigration
issue, and the continued (and highly publicised) activity of
the
on
white racialist guerilla-groups,evoked a correspondingmood of hurt, bitterness,
29R. Jenkins, 'Address by the Home Secrctmy to the Institute, Race 8:3 (1967), 216.
p.

77

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
o
Power
from
Black
Later
newspapers
commentaries
and recoil among many'?
disillusionment
fuelled
Newsletter
by
IP.
R
described
the
feelings
how
the
the
show
fed.
Britain
'That
Black
Power
the
would eventuallysettle
movement
upon which
its "differences7'with the Pigs in Salisbury,we all knew', commenteda Black
Power newspaperin 1972, 'We knew it when Britain failed to take any action
31
Stokely
Carmichael
By
his
Smith
time
the
that
gang'.
and
racist pig
against
the
1967
18
July
in
London
to
gathering,
counter-cultural
speak
at
a
on
arrived
Dialecticsof Liberationconference,manyblack peoplein Britain were readyfor a
direction.
new,
militant,
new voice anda

Stokely Carmichael and the birth of a British Black Power movement


Born in Trinidad, Stokely Carmichael was brought up in New York and
WashingtonD.C., where he graduatedfrom Howard University, a prestigious
African Americancollege.A memberof SNCC from its birth, he was its chairman
by 1966. A middle-classintellectual radicalisedby his experiencesin the civil
black
Pan-Africanism
Carmichael
advocated
unity,
socialism,
rights movement,
The
Politics
His
book,
Power:
Black
to
of
and armed resistance white racism.
Liberation in America, written with political scientist Charles Hamilton, had just
been published in the United States when he came to London in July as part of a
it
found
have
book
Those
Europe
Africa.
the
would
tour of
who actually read
and
inspire
but
in
to
the
title
the
or
tone,
alone
power of
surprisingly measured
intimidate should not be underestimated,and in July 1967 that was the only part of
is
hard
It
in
likely
be
Britain
to
book
to
overstate
aware.
the
was
anyone
of which
Newsletter
(January1966),p. 2.
7heInstindeofRaceRelations

$Zimbabwe(Rhodesia- as they call it)', Resistance 1:2 (November 1972), p. 1. Resistance,held


at the IRR, was the newspaper of the Coventry-based Black Power organisation, the Afro-Asian
PeoplesLiberation Movement.

78

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast: from black disillusionmentto Black Power
the impact of Carmichael'seleven-dayvisit to Britain in July 1967.Trinidadian
intellectualCLR Jamesgavea lengthyanalysisof Carmichael'simportancein a
speechon Black Powerhe wrote a monthafter attendingthe Dialecticsconference.
'It is undoubtedlyhis presencehere, and the impact that he has made in his
speechesand his conversations',said James,'that have made the slogan Black
32
in
Power reverberate the way that it is doing in political Britain'. Declaring
Carmichaelto be the latest West Indian intellectualin a successionthat included
MarcusGarvey,GeorgePadmore,Aimd Usaire and FrantzFanon,Jamespraised
both Carmichael'smessageand his modeof delivery. 'I was so struckby what he
was saying and the way he was saying it', remarkedJames.'He speakswith a
33
depth
that astonishesme'.
of rangeof political understanding
scopeand
Angela Davis, who also attendedthe Dialecticsof Liberation conference,
describedthe personalimpact of Carmichael'sspeechin her autobiography.'As I
listenedto Stokely'swords,cutting like a switchblade,accusingthe enemyasI had
heard
him
before',
accused
never
shewrote, 'I admit I felt the catharticpower of
34
his speech'. Obi EgbunadescribedCarmichael'sarrival in Britain as being 'like
manna from heaven' and argued that, 'It was not until Stokely Carmichael's
historic visit in the Summer of 1967
Black Power got a foothold in
that
...
Britain'? 5 His visit was still being talked about in Britain's black communitiesa
year later. John La Rose,a Trinidadianwriter and political activist who, in 1966,
had set up both independentblack publishinghouseNew BeaconBooks and West
Indian cultural associationthe CaribbeanArtists' Movement (CAM) in London,
32CJ.JL James,'Black Power Its Past,Today and The Way Ahead', 1968.p. 1. The pamphlet
doesnot list a publisherandis held in the Black Documentsfile at the IRR.
33
Ibid., pp. 2,4.
34A. Davis,AngelaDavis. anAutobiography(New York, 1974), 150.
p.
330. Egbuna,Des&W 77zisTemple.
the Voiceof Black PorwerIn Britain (London, 1971), pp. IS,
16.

79

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
feel
'I
his
both
that
Carmichael's
impact
the
organisations.
visit
of
on
of
noticed
in
last
Carmichael's
Stokely
the effect of
year was a catalyst a way
presence...
that nothing before had been", La Rose told fellow CAM membersat the
in
1968,
'and
August
you can seewithin
conference
second
annual
organisation's
6
Carmichael's
has
fantastic
development
that one year's experience,a
occurred'?
impact
just
did
makean
on black Britain though.The editorialteamof the
not
visit
Anti-ApartheidNews were so impressedwith Carmichael'slinking of domestic
in
imperialism
Third
World,
the
and particularly
with
neo-colonialism
and
racism
issue
front
September
Africa,
the
that
they
the
with a
cover of
adorned
southern
37
his
face.
The British government'sreactionto Carmichaelstood in
drawing of
had
X
leader
Malcolm
its
African
American
to
toleration
who
of militant
contrast
been allowed to return to Britain in February 1965 despite making public
have
been
his
during
December
1964
that
visit
could not possibly
statements
inflammatory
less
Carmichael's
than
words.
as
regarded
Carmichael'sspeechat the Dialecticsof Liberationconferencefell far short
in
it
blood-curdling
the
tocsin
to
the
as
call
race revolution was portrayed
of
s
link
domestic
It
to
racism and the economicexploitation of
attempted
press?
black minorities with imperialist and neo-colonialist exploitation of the Third
World, explaining that 'The proletariat has becomethe Third World, and the
9
is
Western
bourgeoisie white
society'? Carmichael finther argued that racial
its
by
because
'Capitalism
very nature,
under
possible
capitalism
was
not
equality

36JohnLa Rose'scommentsfrom the secondCAM conferenceat Kent University in August 1968


transcriptsheld at the GeorgePadmoreInstitute(GPI).
arerecordedon p. 36 of uncatalogued
17Anti-ApartheidNews,September1967,p. 1.
3" For examplethe preambleto an interview with Carmichaelpublishedin The ObserverReview
describedhim as a 'man to hate and fear'. C. McGlashan,'Mainspring of Black Power Colin
McGlashanTalksto StokelyCarmichael',7heObserverReview,23 July 1967,p. 1.
" S. Carmichael,StokelySpeaks:Black PowerBackto Pan-Africanism(New York, 1971), p. 9 1.

80

Chapter 2: 'In the belly of the beast': from black disillusionment to Black Power

O
black
free
from
He
to
people
urged
also
oppression'!
cannot createstructures
World
independent
Tbird
'The
the
are
of
self-image,saying,
people
createan
'
West'!
going to have to stop acceptingthe definitions imposedon them by the
Rejectingwhite peopleof all political huesas unableto seeor dispensewith the
inherent advantagestheir skin colour bestowed,Carmichaelplaced his call for
black people to use violence in defenceof their rights within a historical context of
social, economic and physical violence inflicted on them by white capitalist
from
in
'Wherever
Africa
Africans
today,
the
you
go
are
suffering
societies.
inflicted
by
it
West',
he
'be
them
the
that they are
on
violence
white
argued,
stripped of their culture, of their human dignity, or of the resourcesof their very
land'! 2 Unwittingly condemning the activities of CARD chairman David Pitt and
his organisation, Carmichael made it clear that in his opinion conciliation and
collaboration with a white power structure was pointless. 'Because of the
integration movement's middle-class orientation, because of its subconscious
because
its
and
of
non-violent approach, it has never been able to involve
racism,
3
black
he
lectured!
is
for
'
Tbe
liberal
do
the
thing
proletariat',
me
only
can
a white
to help civilise other whites, becausethey need to be civilised '44
.
Although persuasively argued and elegantly interspersed with literary
referencesto Camus, Sartre, Kipling and even Lewis Carroll, Carmichael's speech
in
its
not
groundbreaking
originality. 11is themes of Pan-Africanism, black
was
unity, the inherent corruption of capitalism and the need for black people to use
violence to resist violent oppression had been articulated in Britain more than two

years earlier by Carmichael'shero Malcolm X. In July 1967, however, black


40

7.
p.
1
41
80.
Ibid,
p.
42
Ibid, p. 92.
43
lbicL,p. 88.
44
Ibid., pp. 85-6.

81

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Britain seemedparticularlyreadyto receivethe messageof Black Powerandwhite
Britons seemedfar more disturbedby it than they had beenat the start of 1965.
Malcolm X's visit had inspiredthe creationof onemilitant organisation,the Racial
AdjustmentAction Society(RAAS), which garneredfar more pressattentionthan
it did members.Carmichael'svisit, on the otherhand,heraldeda paradigmshift in
black protest.
This could not be explainedsimply by the brilliance of Carmichael'sfiery
oratory.By July 1967,British and Americanracerelationshad reacheda stageof
comparativesynchronicity that made black people in Britain look to African
Americansfor guidancefar morethanbefore.Discussingthis changein 1968,John
La Rose told his fellow CAM membersthat, 'The reasonwhy I think the AfroWest Indian in Britain looks to the United Statesis becauseyou have the same
Idmdof urban experiencewhich he is now forced up against.'43The inspirational
value of the non-violent phaseof the American civil rights movementhad been
different
by
the
context of the southernmovementin the United
very
negated
States, the inapplicability of its aims to Britain and the relative unity and
homogeneityof its followers. But the racial polarisationof British society after
1965, an increasingdisillusiomnent with white liberals and refonnism and the
coming of age of a new generationof black Britons combinedto persuadeblack
people, particularly West Indians, that there were real parallels betweentheir
in
African
Americans
the United States.
that
and
of
situation
Such similarities were not only perceived by black people in Britain.
Recallinga visit to Londonin July 1967,Angela Davis wrote in her autobiography
that she was struck 'by the degreeto which West Indian communitiesin Britain
4-5La Rose is quoted on p. 39 of uncataIoguedtranscripts the
of
second CAM conference, held in
the GPI.

82

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast,:from black disillusionmentto Black Power
fiery,
home.
These
images
Black
at
receptive,
communities
warm,
of
were mirror
46
for
enthusiasticpeople were also searching some way to avengethemselves'.
RichardSmall,a foundingmemberof CARD and an activeparticipantin the West
Indian Standing Conference(WISC) and CAM, concludedthat it was African
Americans' successthat particularly attractedblack immigrants' attention. 'We
in
finding
because
black
America
looking
America
to
a way
people
are
simply
are
in
declared
in
he
black
1968.
'If
dealing
their
situation',
people South
with
of
47
look
deal
Africa werefinding a way to
theretoo.,
with their situationwe would
The anti-colonialism and class-basedanalysis that underpinnedBlack
Powerphilosophymadeit particularlywell-suitedto the British context.Whereas
invoking Marxism andaspiringto socialismwerepolitically beyondthe paleto the
in
long
it
Britain
Black
Power
Americans,
African
placed
within
a
of
majority
tradition of radical intellectualdissent.Africans in Britain had alreadycreatedan
in
in
Britain
earlier the twentiethcentury,
anti-colonial,anti-imperialistmovement
that complementedand collaboratedwith home-grownwhite organisations.As
well as settinga precedentfor black protest,therewas a direct crossoverbetween
later
Black
Organisations,
(CAO)
like
Committee
African
the
the
of
and
groups
Power movement.As previously mentioned,UCPA presidentand BPM founder
Obi Egbunahad been(andpossiblystill was) a memberof CAO andMalcolm X's
final visit to Britain in February1965 had been at CAO's behest.Intellectually,
therewas a clear line of descentfrom pan-African,anti-colonialactivistslike Ras
Makonnen,who was both preachingand practising'Black Powee in his adopted
Manchester
long before the 1960s. Makonnen, a panLondon
and
cities of

46Davis, Ange4 p. 150.


47Small is quoted on p. 40 of uncatalogued umscripts of the second CAM conference,held in the
GPI.

83

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiorunentto Black Power
Afficanist who thought that anti-colonial organisationsshould only have black
daily
business
[self-]defence
'this
that
was
almost
a
concern'and
members,wrote
income
in
because
he
'felt
that
this
taxes
to
colonial
strugglepaying
refused pay
8
be
tax would
a crime'! He did not believe in working with black middle-class
League
like
Coloured
Peoples,
Moody's
Harold
of
whoseactivities
organisations
he dismissedas 'mild protest,or if you like, harassingthe goody-goodyelements
in Britain! 9 Makonnen also wrote eloquently about the liberating experience of

in
it
Comer
London.
'Imagine
Speaker's
what
meantto us
mountinga soapboxat
to go to Hyde Park to speak to a race of people who considering themselves our

' he wrote, 'and tell them right out what we felt about their empire and
masters,
50
led
formation
Britain's
It
this
that
to
the
them'.
practice
of
was precisely
about
first Black Power group,the UCPA, just under a decadeafter Makonnenhad left
the countryto work for Nkrumahin Ghana.
Anti-colomalismwas a concreteand contentiouspolitical issueacrossthe
had eitherrecentlybeenfought
Commonwealth,wherestrugglesfor independence
and won, as in the case of recently-liberatedAfrican nations like Ghana'and
Kenya, or were ongoing. In Mozambique,Angola and Guind-Bissaustruggling
againstthe yoke of Portuguesecolonialism, and in SouthernAfrica, where the
of westernEuropeancountriesresultedin its continuedsubjugation
acquiescence
by white supremacistregimes,high profile guerrilla resistancemovementswere
in
by
black
active and actively supported
peopleand radical whites Britain. In the
Caribbean, anti-imperialist movements in Guyana, Trinidad, Anguilla and
Bermuda,among others, campaignedfor the end of British rule or sought to

48R. Makonnen, Pan-Africanism From Within (Oxford, 1973), pp. 143,14 1.


49Ibid., p. 126.

" Ibid., p. 123.

84

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
destabilise their post-independence,pro-British governments. Many first
generationblack immigrants to Britain had been involved in anti-colonialist
movementsin their home countries.Some,like Guyanesehusbandand wife Eric
and JessicaHuntley and Tony Soares,who grew up in Mozambique,had cometo
Britain specificallyto escapepersecutionfor their anti-colonialactivities at home.
Thus, Carmichael'sexplicit linking of domesticracism with foreign imperialism
his
and
exhortationto opposeoppressionon a global scale resonatedwith the
global, anti-colonial perspectivewhich alreadyhad an intellectual and practical
heritage in Britain. His speechresonatedso profoundly becausehe addressed
contemporaryracial discrimination in Britain and analysed it in a global
fi-amework that incorporated immigrants' anti-imperialist struggles, past and
present.
Finally, the needfor a Black Power responseto racism had alreadybeen
in
by
black
Britain
by the time Carmichaelvisited in July
some
people
recognised
1967.Britain wasalreadyhometo two militant black political organisationsbefore
Carmichael'svisit - RAAS, foundedin February1965,and, from June 1967,the
UCPA. Tony Soares,a foundingmemberof the latter, believedthat Carmichael's
visit coincidedalmostexactly with the point at which black peoplein Britain had
decided to take militant action. 'By 1967 there was a certain amount of
consciousnessamong the non-white people in London, and in other parts', he
51
just
'we
remembers, were ...
startingto get organised". Before solidifying into a
formal organisation,the future members of the UCPA had congregatedat
Speaker's Comer where RAAS and UCPA co-founder Roy Sawh built his
reputationon the witty put-downshe deliveredto white peoplethere. A team of
51Tony Soares,interviewed by the author, 23 August 2004.

85

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
investigativejournalistsfrom TheTimesreportedthat, by the time of Carmichael's
in
being
leafy
harder
this
to
there
comer of
said
edge what was
was a
visit,
London. 'The speechesby the colouredmen at Speaker'sComer in Hyde Park
52
Carmichael
they
noted.
wasalso awareof the rumblingsof
already
violent',
were
discontentamong Britain's ethnic minorities. "'Black Power" formations had
begunto emergein the African/Caribbeanimmigrant communitiesin Britain', he
later wrote abouthis 1967trip to London, 'This seemedthe perfectopportunityto
53
forces'.
Carmichael
ideas
these
with
emerging
contact
and
exchange
establish
had acceptedthe invitation to speakat the Dialectics of Liberation conference
becausehe wantedto makeconnectionswith a Black Powermovementin Britain
that he hadbeentold ah-eadyexisted.

Black Power groups in Britain


The largest and most important Black Power groups were, like the largest
in
UCPA,
black
based
London.
They
the
which
were
of
people,
communities
in
itself
1970,
Black
Unity
Freedom
Party
(BUFP)
the
the
and
reconstituted
as
Black Panther Movement (BPM) and its offshoot the Black Liberation Front
(BLF). As well as their headquartersin London,the UCPA and BUFP had sister
branchesin Manchesterand the BPM had Birminghamand Hull branchesas well
branches
in
Collective
Black
People's
Action
the
with
organisation,
an
offshoot
as

s2Clarkeet al, BlackMan, p. 145.


53 S. Carmichaelwith E. M. Thelwell, Readyfor Revolution: the Life Strugglesof Stokely
Carmichael(KwameTure)(New York, 2003 p. 572.

86

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from blackdisiflusiomnentto Black Power


Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Londomm Another group, the Fasimbas,was
had
by
George
Campbell
1960s
in
London
South
the
the
at
and
end of
set up
around 500 members,according to Tony Soares.Fasimbaswas a non-hierarchical
organisation and worked closely with the BLF, eventually merging with the latter
it
1972,
but
the
as was an underground organisation with no official
at
end of
"
it
is
its
activities.
very hard to tram
membershipand did not keep written records,
An article in the Sunday Telegraph on Black Power reported the existence of
in
Based
Notting
Eagles
in
1970.
Hill,
Eagles,
August
Black
the
the
anothergroup,
had approximately 150 members, the newspaperclaimed, and were non-violent,

their mottobeing'Get a brick andbuild9.56


Most regionaltownsandcitieswith significantblackpopulationsalsohada
self-proclaimedBlack Powergroup.We know of their existencemainlybecauseof
their newslettersand journals, which were passedaroundbetweenactivistsand
thereforeendedup beingcirculatedbeyondtheir immediatelocalities,finding their
way into a numberof largerrepositories.11us,the librarianat the Instituteof Race
Relationsin London,friendly to Black Power,mana ed to collect not only the
journals of London-based
groupslike the UCPA (Black Power Speaks),BUFP,
(Black Power Speaksand Black Voice),Black Eagles(Black Dimension),Black
LiberationFront (GrassRoots),Black RegionalAction Movement(Black Ram)
and the Black PantherMovement(Black Life, Black People'sNewsServiceand
Black
FreedomNews) but also Black Chat, newsletterof the Leicester-based
"4 The I-RRholds UCPA letterheadsand copies of Black Power Speakswith a branch addressin
Manchester.When the UCPA split and its rump becamethe BUFP, the sameaddresswas given as
the branch address for the Manchester BUFP. Linton Kwesi Johnson rememberstraveffing to
Birmingham to meet up with another branch of the Black PantherMovemem Colin Prescod,who
studied at Hull University remembersthe exWence of a group called the Black People's Action
Collective.
'53The 1972 merger of Fasimbasand the BLIF is reported in a potted history of the BLY in Grass
Room 4.4 (January 1976).p. 2.
56'Black Power and Michael X, 7he Sunday Telegraph,2 August 1970.

87

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiommentto Black Power
People's Liberation Party, BPFM Weekly and Uhuru, organs of Nottingham's
Black People's Freedom Movement, Resistance, the paper of the Afro-Asian
Peoples Liberation Movement in Coventry and the Manchester edition of the
BUFP's Black Voice, covering the group's activities in the city. Documents in the
Indian Workers' Association archive in Birmingham and the Institute of Race
Relations in London refer to the existence of a Black Defence Organisation in
Bristol, a United Black People's Organisation and a West Indian Association in
Sheffield, a United Caribbean Association in Cardiff and an Afro-Caribbean
$7
but
little
in
Manchester,
Liberation Movement
tell us
more.
The official membership of even the largest London Black Power groups
be
hundred,
flm
three
could
numbers
although greater
about
never reached more
because
Black
for
demonstrations.
This
of
a
membership
was
perhaps
mobilised

Powergrouprequireda greatdeal of commitment,especiallyof time, as members


discussion
in
daily
book,
to
take
philosophy
politics and
part almost
wereexpected
door-to-door
training,
recruiting and
and
newspaper-selling
groups, self-defence
fundraising. Membership,as opposedto active support, was therefore not for
in
differences
highly
The
to
over
groups were also
prone splintering
everyone.
ideology and tactics. The UCPA, for example, split twice in its first year of
existence.The regular name changesof the organisationsto reflect their new
ideologicalpositions,the fluidity of membershipand the lack of written records
kept by groupsin constantfear of beingraidedby the police makesestablishingthe
basic facts of the Black Power movementin Britain difficult. The rest of this
devoted
delineating,
far
is
to
therefore
as possible,the membership,
as
chapter
in
London
four
largest
Black
Power
to
the
organisations
of
aims and activities
57See MS 2141/8, IWA archive, BirminghamCentral Library for all groups exceptthe Afi-oCaribbeanLiberationmovement,correspondence
with which is held,unfiled at the MR.

88

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
provide an empirical basis for the next chapter's analysisof the strengthsand
weaknessesof the Black Power movement.It also includes a short history of
Michael X's RAAS which, although it predatedthe Black Power movementin
Britain by two yearsand was not a serious,grassrootsBlack Power organisation,
wastreatedassignificantby both the mediaandthe police.

TheUniversalColouredPeople'sAssociation
The UCPA was foundedon 5 June 1967 at a meetingin Notting Hill, although
many of those who would becomeits membershad been meeting regularly at
Speaker'sComer in Hyde Park for severalmonths beforehand.The seventy-six
(mostly) men at the foundingmeetingagreedto pay membershipduesand elected
Nigerian playwright Obi Egbunaas their presidentand Roy Sawhas his secondin
58
command. Sawh and Egbuna did not work well together though, perhaps
because,as Ajoy Ghoseremembers,'there was quite a group who didn't like all
[Sawh's] comicalway of making it light-hearted.He was a funny man and usedto
pull a crowd in andwhenthe crowd was in he wouldn't let anybodyelsehavetheir
59
say'. By September1967Sawhandhis supportershad left to form a tiny splinter
did
Universal
Coloured
People
This
Arab
Association
(UCPAAA).
the
and
group,
not stop the vicious in-fighting, as Egbunarecalled in his 1971 biography:'Our
first shockwas to discoverthat we weretoo much of a mixed bagto constituteone
political movement',he wrote. 'The new recruits who attendedour meetingsfor
the first time were so horrified by the snarling and bickering that went on they

58 Information taken from the document 'Names and addresses financial


of
members of UCPA',
held in Tony Soares' private collection.
5' Ajoy Ghose, interviewed by the author, 20 August 2004.

89

Chapter 2: 'In the belly of the beast': Eromblack disillusiomnent to Black Power

60
nevershowedup again'. Egbunahimself left the UCPA in April 1968to startthe
hierarchical
Black
Panther
Movement.
ideologically
In May 1970
and
rigid
more
the UCPA's Manchesterbranchleader,Ron Phillips, was acrimoniouslyexpelled
for 'conduct prejudicial and injurious to the U.C.P.A. and to Black people in
61
later
bulk
Two
the
the
entire
organisation
split
and
of the
general'.
months
membershipreformedasthe BUFP.
In September1967 the UCPA set out its philosophy in a fifteen-page
pamphlet called Black Power in Britain: a Special Statementby the Universal
62

ColouredPeople'sAssociation. Featuringa drawing of a black pantheron the


front and a photo of Stokely Carmichaelon the inside back cover, the pamphlet
borrowedheavily from both the style and contentof American Black Power.Its
critique of white, capitalist society was derived, however, from a disillusioned
analysis of contemporaryBritish politics. 'We know that the only difference
betweenthe Ian Smiths and the Harold Wilsons of the white world is not a
differencein principle but only a differencein tactics,' the pamphletproclaimed,
'it is not a quarrel between fascism and anti-fascism,but a quarrel between
franknessandhypocrisywithin a fascistfi-arnework.
963Given the UCPA's diverse
lack
membershipand self-confessed of ideologicalcoherence,the strict adherence
of the restof the pamphletto the AmericanBlack Powerorthodoxiesof unity, selfhelp, cultural self-detem-Anation,
the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and
defensiveviolence,points to the authorshipof Egbuna.He had spenttime in the
United Stateson an academicexchangeprogrammein 1966 and was by far the
60Egbuna,Des&qy, pp. 19,20.
61UCPA, 'The exposureand expulsion of a con (Ron Phillips) by U. C.P.A. ', May 1970. Document
held in the Black documentsfile at the IRIL
62 UCPA, 'Black Power in Britain: a Special Statement by the Universal Coloured People's
Association', 10 September 1%7. Held in the Black groups file at the UM
63Ibid., p. 4.

90

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
UCPA's most knowledgeableand enthusiasticadvocateof American-styleBlack
Power. 'Me pamphlet's concluding list of 'aims and objects' fell short of the
stridentrhetoric of the middle section,though,reflectinga more pragmaticside to
the organisationand a strongfocus on social and welfare issues.Using the same
format as the original demandsof the Black PantherParty,the UCPA's ten stated
bureaux,
included
advice
cooperativesand study groups
settingup nurseries,
aims
for black peopleandthe vaguegoal of 'propagat[ing]solutionsof our problemson
64
international
level'.
Violence,revolutionandthe overthrowof capitalismwere
an
not mentionedin the UCPA's aims and objectivesat all - unlessone regardedas
threateningthe aim 'to provide protection ... to our peoplewho suffer becauseof
65
faith
disturbances'
Later statementsby the
their colour,
or unwarrantedracial
.
UCPA did call for 'revolutionarysocialism' in the 'Third World' but its domestic
66
programmeremainedessentiallyreformist.
Although it was started in London, the UCPA aspired to create a national
network of loosely federated branches. 'The UCPA was a community movement',
remembers Ghose, 'We said don't be top heavy, don't be centralised, use our
67
branch
in
do
Its
biggest
London
where
you
are'.
was
name, something
outside

Moss Side, Manchester,which produced its own edition of the Black Power
Newsletter.In keepingwith its Black Power philosophy,white peoplewere not
join
but
UCPA,
Tony Soareswas one of severalAsian men who
the
to
allowed
signedup. 'From the beginning', Soaresrecalls, 'it was very much an Afro-Asian

64

Ibid., p. 14.
63
Ibid., p. 14.
" '[T1hebasisof BLACK POWERof the Third World, therefore,mustbe REVOLLMONARY
...
SOCULISM', UCPA, 'U. C.P.A. Black Power', undated,uncataloguedleaflet held at the MR.
Originalqpography.
67Ajoy Ghose,interviewedby the author,20 August2004.

91

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
first
Black
Power
headline
front-page
'Me
the
the
edition
of
of
organisation'8
Newsletter read, 'Indian Lynched in Wolverhampton' and included a notice asking,
69
forthcoming
'Africans, Asians, Caribbeans' to join a
protest. A later leaflet
West
defmed
black
'Africans,
Unity'
is
Black
Power
'Black
as
people
entitled

Indian, Indians,Pakistanis,Chinese,Arabs and all non-white peoples,and drew


in
London
Pakistani
to
asevidence
people
on
of
attacks
a
spate
members'attention
70
diverse
backgrounds.
from
for
Members
the
economic
came
also
need unity.
of
'[T]hey were from all walks of life as far as UCPA was concerned',saysSoares.
71
'There wasn't any particular class distinction or class consciousness. It Was
led
lack
that
the organisation'smore
this
struggle
of emphasison class
eventually
Marxist-leaningelements,led by GeorgeJosephand CommunistParty member
journalist
Cambridge,
(Ricky)
Gazette
Alrick
former
West
Indian
to campaign
and
to restructureandrenamethe organisationin the summerof 1970.
The UCPA's activities consisted of weekly discussion groups, 'work
duplicating,
in
'canvassing,
taught
skills such as
sessions' which memberswere
',
patrols
etc.
anti-thug
poster-making,

film

screenings, public meetings,

door-to-doorand street-comercanvassingand,from late 1969,the


demonstrations,
72
Newsletter.
Cultural
Black
Power
the
activities
production of a newspaper,
includedeventssuch as 'Black Is Beautifid', a free night of 'soul music, poetry,
films and recordingson black culture', held at Lambeth Town Hall, while the

" Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.


69Black PowerNewsletter,1969,p. 1. The story concernedthe trial of eight white youthsfor the
murderof an Indianmanin Wolverhamptonon 20 October1968.
70UCPA, 'Black Powerin Black Unity, undated,uncatalogued
leafletheld at the RM
71Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.
72This followed on from the short-livedBlack Power Speaks,which cameout monthly between
May andJuly 1968and waseditedby Egbuna.Black PowerSpeaksclaimedto be the work of 'the
UCPA editorialteam' despitethe fact that Egbunahad left to startthe Black PantherMovementin
April 1968.The detailsof the UCPXs 'work sessions'were advertisedon back pageof the first
editionof Black PowerSpeaks.

92

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
73
inspirational
Newsletterfeatured
poemsandsatiricalcartoons. UCPA flyers show
that the groupmobilised.its membersto demonstratein supportof a wide varietyof
causes,from the republicanmovementin Northern Ireland to the Black Panther
Party in California, and its newspaperchartedthe eventsof the Vietnam war and
the progressof the African liberationmovements,alongsidereportson British and
74
AmericanBlack Power activity. It also involved itself in domesticpolitics in a
its
direct
by
membersto vote tactically against Conservative
way
urging
more
candidatesduring the 1970generalelection,on the basisthat 'Labour is the lesser
75
of two evils'. T'he UCPA had not been in existencelong when it achieved
notoriety in the white pressand fmnly establishedits Black Power credentialsby
helping to createa majority of new membersat a CARD meeting in November
1967 that subsequentlyvoted out all the white committeemembers.The Daily
Telegraphname-checked
the UCPA in an article headlined'Six quit executiveof
anti-racialist body: "Maoist take-over" fear' and The Times reported that the
UCPA, 'an organisationstanding openly for Black Power', had helped bring
CARD to 'crisis point9.76

TheBlack Unity and FreedomParty


The BUFP was formed from the remainsof the UCPA at a conferenceon 26 July
1970and former UCPA memberGeorgeJosephwas electedits generalsecretary.
Its two branch headquartersin London and Manchesterremainedat the same
addressesas the former UCPA offices. Josephexplained the reasonswhy the
73UCPA flyer, February1967,held in the Black Documentsbox at the EM
74Seeflyers, 'U. S. Fascism "Law and Ordee" and 'U. C.PA. fidly supportthe Irish people in
', both undated,held in the Black Groupsfile at the EM
theirjust strugglefor self determination!
75SeeundatedUCPA flyer, 'A message
to black voters',held in the Black Groupsfile at the IRR.
76 Ae Sunday Telegraph,'Six quit executiveof anti-racialistbody- Maoist take-overfear', 4
December1967,p. 9 and TheTimes,'Threatto CARD from extremists',7 November1967,p. 11.

93

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
UCPA hadbecomethe BUFP in an August 1970letter. 'We havedecide

I is

bourgeois
line
between
draw
the
and
to
and
all
ourselves
a
absolutelynecessary
Marxismhe
'Our
floating
takes
bourgeois
party
wrote.
around',
elements
petit
Lemmismas the basisof its thinking. As black peoplewe believethe peopleand
77
BUFP
Power
Black
the
Like
history'.
organisations,
the peoplealonemake
many
Mao.
It
Chairman
Communism
by
this
inspired
Chinese
was
and
particularly
was
that attracted Sivanandanto the organisation.'I became a sort of unofficial
because,
BUFP
the
althoughmy politics as a university studentmight
memberof
have beenTrotskyite, by the time I left I was more leaningtowardsthe Chinese
79
its
ideology
Marxistdescribed
1970s,
BUFP
qn
he
the
as
recalls.
revolution',
Leninist with Mao TseTung thought', explainsformer memberLesterLewis, 'The
in Tanzaniain 1974and the
6d' Pan-AfricanCongresswas held in Dar-es-Salaam
BUR could haveparticipatedbut it did not becauseit was not Pan-Africanist,it
79
itself
from
Distancing
Mao
Tung
Tse
Marxist-Leninist,
thought'
what
espoused
.
it viewedasreactionaryblack nationalism,therefore,the BUFP placedclassabove
its
in
first
The
two
the
of
source
points
of oppression society.
primary
racism as
'We
this
clear.
recognisethe class nature of this
explicitly
manifesto made
for
first
'We
the
the
classstruggleand
necessity
clause.
recognise
society', stated
the absolutenecessityfor the seizureof statepower by the working-classand the
80
bringingaboutof socialism'addedthe second.
There is no evidencethat the BUFP acceptedwhite members,however,
despitethe implicit acceptancein its manifestothat the black and white working
have
The
to
to
oppression.
unite
overthrow
capitalist
eventually
classeswould
77Letter from BUR generalsecretaryGeorgeJosephto IRR assistantlibrarianHazelWaters,dated
17August1970.Containedin the Black Documentsfile at the IM
7' A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.
79LesterLewis,interviewedby the author,14 September
2004.
80'Manifesto:longtermprogramme'reprintedin Black Voice,August1970,p. 4.

94

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
UCPA had actively supportedIrish Catholicsin what it viewed as an anti-colonial
struggle,so most membersmust, on somelevel, have alreadyacceptedthat white
people could also be oppressedby capitalist imperialism. The BUFP manifesto
argued,however,that the white working classeshad beendupedby capitalisminto
it
black
their
enemy,which made difficult to work with them,
seeing
people as
even though they were black workers' natural allies. 'While we recognisethe
necessity to struggle against racism in general, it is essential to treat the
contradictionbetweenourselvesand the working-classas a contradictionamong
the people', explainedthe manifesto,'Whilst the contradictionbetweenourselves
81
is
between
the
the people and the enemy'.
and
ruling class a contradiction
Nonetheless,in practice BUFP membersonly worked with white people at one
remove.The BUFP's definition of black included Asians and it actively sought
solidarity with groupslike the Indian Workers' Associationof GreatBritain. 'The
B. U. F. P. feels that at this moment in time of the Black presence in Britain,
BUFP leader Roger Loftus explained in a letter to IWA (GB) general secretary
JagmohanJoshi, 'that groups such as ours should develop and maintain links with
82
,,
"Black
Survival
in
Britain'
That the BUFP felt it
eachotheron the questionof
.

neededto formally proposea collaborativeeffort, however,could be interpretedas


evidenceof a growing gulf betweenWest Indian and Asian activistsat the start of
the 1970s.
Despite its explicitly revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist outlook, the
secondhalf of the BUFP's manifestowas a list of elevendemandsfor government
issues
dealt
Eight
with
reforms.
specific to black people, amongthem a public

a' 'Manifesto:long termprogramme'reprintedin Black Voice,August 1970, 4.


p.
82 Undated two-page letter from BUFP
member Roger Loftus held in the IWA archive at
BirminghamCentralLibrary.

95

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
immigration
black
by
better
in
into
treatment
the
of
people
police,
enquiry
racism
Race
Relations
Relations
Act
Race
1968
the
the
and
scrapping
officers, repealof
Board,refimdingnationalinsurancecontributionsto black immigrantswho moved
back to their homecountries,trial of black defendantsby black juries andjudges,
the releaseof all black prisonerswho had not beentried by their ethnic peersand
The
demands
for
fidl
black
history
three
the
curriculum.
other
were
on
school
more
employment (specified, possibly mistakenly, for black people only), decent
83
justice
for
housingand 'bread,peaceandsocial
all men'.
The BUFP's short-termaims, therefore,did not representa radical break
from thoseof the UCPA. Nor did its methods.FormerUCPA memberswould have
been quite familiar with the BUFP's discussion groups, demonstrationsand
pamphlet-producingactivities and comfortablewith new initiatives like summer
schoolsfor black children.'We met regularlyandwe did a lot of campaigning.For
[1971]
Immigration
did
did
Act
the
we
campaign
on
and
we
various
a
example
things with children- we usedto have an annualChristmasparty', recallsLewis,
'We were also always involved in solidarity work with the African liberation
because
Guind
Angola
the
time
and
were Portuguesecolonies,Ian
at
movements
Smith had declaredUDI and there was an armed strugglefor national liberation
there. South Africa was under apartheid,so we were active participantsin the
"
liberation
SouthAfrican
movements'. From August 1970,the BUFP also began
publishing a newspaper,Black Voice, which replaced the Black People's
Newsleuer,andcontinuedto be printeduntil at leastthe endof the 1980s.85

83'Black Unity and FreedomPartyManifesto",26 July 1970,containedin the Black Groupsfile at


the MR.
" LesterLewis,interviewedby the author,14 September
2004.
ts The IRR hasissuesof Black Voicestretchingfrom 1970to 1989.

96

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast: from black disillusionmentto Black Power
As befitteda revolutionaryorganisation,the BUFP stroveto becomemore
disciplined and implementeda strict hierarchy and rules of membership."Ibe
BUFP is an organisationof revolutionaries',stateda 1974internal paper,'which
adheresto discipline and ... seesconclusivelythe necessityfor various levels of
leadershipwithin its structurefor the merereasonsof proficiencyand efficiency'.86
It also madean effort, at leaston the surface,to pay more attentionto the issueof
sexism and the role of women in the movement A Black Women's Action
Committeewas set up within the BUR by female memberGerlin Bean and in
1971 it publisheda pamphletcalled 'Black Women SpeakOut, which gave a
female perspectiveon racism and the workers' struggle.87 Black Voice also
regularly carried articles with titles like, 'Male Chauvinism is Counter
Revolutionary' and 'The Role of Women in the Vietnamese People's
88Although it affordedwomenspaceto expressthemselves
Resistance'.
politically,
the BUFP's extremelystrict ideologicaldiscipline madeother membersfeel very
constricted.'I beganto realise that the kind of Marxism that they had ... was
anotherkind of religion, with the same strictures', Harry Goulbourneexplains,
'They were extremelyauthoritarian,extremely intolerant and if, since then, I've
describedmyself as a liberal it's somethingI saynot lightly'. 89 Having helpedset
up the BUFP's SouthEastSummerSchoolin 1971,Goulbourneleft the BUFP and
embarkedon a highly successfulcareerin acade ia.
The BUFP continuedto exist and publish an impressivelyprofessionallooking Black Voicewell into the 1990s,but it had long stoppedidentifying itself
with Black Power.Black Voicedroppedthe phrase'Power To The People'from its
86BUFP,'What is the B.U.F.P. [sic]', 3 May 1974,p. 40. Documentheld,
unfiled,at the MR.
87Black Women'sAction Committee,'Black WomenSpeakOut', 1971, p. 11. Documentheld in
the Black groupsfile at the EM
SeeBlack Voice,September1971,p. 10andAugust1970,p. 6.
Harry Goulbourne,interviewedby the author,6 September
2004.

97

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast: from black disillusionmentto Black Power
House
in
its
Spaghetti
Siege
1973
the
the
on
reporting
and
start of
mastheadat
1975referredonly to the 'Black movement'or 'Black struggle' and describedthe
BLF, BUFP, Fasimbas and various other groups simply as 'Black organisations
90
death
Even
black
the
an
article
commemorating
of
and
community workers".

AmericanBlack PantherPartyleaderHuey P. Newton,publishedin 1989,madeno


in
BPP's
fi-aming
Power,
Black
the
to
work termsof the anti-imperialist
reference
struggle and describing Newton as the leader of a 'revolutionary Black
MovemenOl From the early 1970sonwards,therefore,Black Power becamea
bannerthe BUFP no longerwishedto wave.Following its own identification,from
1973 onwardsthe BUFP should be consideredas a radical black workers and
community organisation.

Black PantherMovement
77ze
The Black PantherMovementwas foundedby Obi Egbunain Notting Hill in April
1968.Inspiredby the AmericanBlack PantherParty, with which it corresponded,
the British Black PantherMovementwas an independentorganisation.Unlike its
Americannamesake,the British Black Pantherswere extremelypublicity-shy:of
the four major Black Powerorganisationsin London they kept the fewestwritten
records and were the most suspiciousof outsiders.The BPM's origins were
humble.'We beganthe Pantherswith only threeor four members, Egbunawrote
in 19702 Although responsiblefor its creation,Egbunawas not active in the
BPM for long. In July 1968he was arrestedfor publishinga pamphlettitled, 'What

90The List time 'Power to the People' appearedon a Black Voice mastheadwas volume 4, number
1, which one can deducefrom the subjects of the articles, was published at the start of 1973. See
also, 'The truth about the Spaghetti House Siegel, Black Voice 5:3 (1975), back page.
91'We Pay Tribute to Huey P. Newton', Black Voice 20:3 (1989), pp. 1,8.
92Egbuaa,Des&oy, p. 2 1.

98

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
93
Speaker's
Black
Cornee.
Held on
hands
lay
their
to do if cops
man at the
on a
10
December
Egbuna
for
five
on
convicted
under the
was
months,
remand
Offences Against The Person Act of 1861 and sentenced to a year in gaol,
by
his
Cowed
for
the
three
conditions
of
sentence, which
years.
suspended
his
Egbuna
in
from
him
activity,
curtailed
radical political
engaging
prevented
1968.
Althea
Lecointe,
Trinidadian
Black
Power
the
of
a
at
end
activist
career as a

leader.
After Egbuna'sdeparture
became
Panthers'
the
new
postgraduatestudent,
the organisationalcentreof the BPM movedfrom PortobelloRoadin Notting Hill
Road in Brixton and separatebrancheswere startedin Acton and
to Shakespeare
FinsburyPark.Being rootedin the middle of a poor black communitylike Brixton
inspiration
had
important
to
that
and
an
organisation
a
of
strength
an
source
was
high numberof middle-class,well-educatedmembers,but prided itself on beingof
the people.
To join the BPM one had first to prove one's commitment to the
its
and
aims, as Brixton teenagerLinton Kwesi Johnsondiscovered.
organisation
'In thosedaysyou couldn't becomea Black Pantherjust like that', he recalls.'You
hadto join the youth leagueand showthat you were seriousandbe involved in the
94
for
membership'.
organisationalactivitiesandthen someonewould nominateyou
IMe youth leaguewasthe bottom tier of a rigidly hierarchicalstructure,which rose
upward through membersand senior membersto the central committee,which
formulatedpolicy and kept ideologicaland behaviouraldiscipline. The dedication
Black
Panther
become
to
a
meantthat the actual membershipremained
required
in
1970the FinsburyParkbranchhadjust twenty
Soares
Tony
that
estimates
small.
93 See Metropolitan Police file UEPOII 1409: 'Benedict Obi Egbuna, Peter Martin and Gideon
Ketueni T. Dolo charged with uttering and writing threats to kill police officers at Hyde Park, W21,
held at the National Archive (NA).

94Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17 September


2004.

99

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
95
members. JohnsoWsestimate of the size of the Brixton branch's membership is
similarly conservative. 'We weren't a large organisation,' he recalls. 'I'd say that
at our peak we'd probably be about fifty people in the South London branch, but
96
hundreds.
An outsider could, therefore, misjudge the
we could mobilise
Panthers' mime cal strength. A 1968 Metropolitan Police report that estimated the
number of British Black Panthers at more than 800 cannot have differentiated
between membersand supporters7
Although the BPM was predominantly West Indian, it also had African and
several prominent Asian members. Cambridge University graduate Faroukh
Dhondy was a member of the Brixton branch and Tony Soaresjoined the North
London branch in 1970. Brixton branch member Darcus Howe, CLR James's

nephewfrom Trinidad,thoughtthat the BPM's Asian memberscamefrom a higher


West
Indian
the
teenagerswho signedup. 'The Asians
than
most
of
social class
who camein were young intellectuals,' he said. '[W]hereasone had rank and file
West Indiansin it one did not haverank and file Asians.'98(Howe was equallyfar
from being a 'rank and file West Indian', however, having been educatedat
Trinidad's most prestigiousschool.) Linton Kwesi Johnsonremembersseveral
Affican students being members of the Brixton branch of the BPM until they were
deported following an altercation with the police. The BPM was prepared to accept
support from radical white organisations and publicly proclaimed solidarity with
the struggle of Irish republicans against British occupation and striking British
miners, but white people were not allowed to join, or come to meetings, as BUFP
member Harry Goulbourne inadvertently found out. 'I recall ... going to a Black
" TonySoares,
interviewed
by theauthor,23 August2004.

96Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17September


2004.
97SeeMEP02/11409,p. 2.
" Transcript of an unpublishedinterview with Anne Walmsley, 16 January 1986, 4.
The
p.
documentis part of the CAM papersheld at the GPI.
100

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast: from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Road in Brixton with a girlfriend at the time who
Panthermeetingat Shakespeare
dark
beckoned
I
he
'and
to
Persian',
a
was
room and asked
a
while
after
says,
was
I
doing
bringing
did
I
I
to
this
think
white
woman
a
said this
meeting?
was
what
but
don't
look
I
herself
is
from
Persia
think
might
white
sees
and
she
she
as
person
thaO9
Womenwere only a small minority of the membership,but the BPM was
the only Black Power organisationto have a female leader.Sexismwas regarded
black
treating
to
sisterswith the requisiterespectwas
not
racism
and
as equivalent
an offence the central committeetook very seriously. 'Althea [Lecointe] wasn't
discussionon what she felt was
backwardin coming forward in
opening
a
...
disrespectfulbehaviouron your part', remembersBrixton branch memberTony
Sinclair.100The BPM's militant stance against sexism was typical of an
holistic
Being
to
took
that
approach
activism.
a
a Black Pantherwasa
organisation
Members
life
than
affiliation.
a
political
underwent rigorous
rather
way of
ideologicaltraining and were supposedto adhereto a strict moral code.According
to former memberTony Sinclair, Pantherswere not supposedto take drugsor be
didn't
have
back
They
to
time
the
anyway:
pageof eachBlack
probably
unffithful.
People'sNewsServicefeatureda column, 'What we do in practice',that madefor
exhaustingreading:
1. Working amongblack peoplein the community,going from door to door,
information
in
the
the
market
and
asa meansof exchanging
streets
on
...
2. Holding weekly studiesanddiscussionon the history of black people.
3. Holding weekly classeson political educationin order to have a better
of the racist capitalistsystemthat oppresses
understanding
us...
4. Cultural activities
....
5 (a) attendingcourts in order to identify ourselveswith any black person
appearingfor trial ... (b) providing any possible assistanceneededin the
" Harry Goulbourne,interviewedby the author,6 September
2004.
"0 Tony Sinclair,interviewedby the author,17 September
2004.
101

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
in
black
(c)
Keeping
black
defence
lefol
with
people
prison
contact
people
of
al
I
Anoer five headingswent on to describethe Panthers'work with children,public
Black
(and
later
Life
News
Service
People's
Black
the
and
meetings,productionof
FreedomNews),book groupsandlibrary services.
During its early yearsthe BPM was the most active of the Black Power
it
believes
Movement
Black
Panther
'The
black
in
that
culture.
groups promoting
is only by getting to know ourselvesand our history that we will be able to
in
leaflet
BPM
September
liberate
fight
to
a
proclaimed
ourselves',
effectively
Linton Kwesi Johnsonagreed.'Culture was important' he explains. 'It
1969.102
hand
in
in
ideology
together
that
worked
and
politics
culture
glove
was part of our
103
hosted
BPM
The
regularplays,poetryreadings,concerts
a cultureof resistance'.
hundred
that
audiences
of
several
people.
often attracted
and other cultural events
Police notes on a raid of a Black Panthercarnival at the Oval House in South
104
400
for
1970,
London on 31 August
peoplewere present.
example,record that
Cultural events were also held at the BPM's two Black People's Information
Road, Brixton and (until 1971) 54 Wightman Road,
Centresat 38 Shakespeare
FinsburyPark. Black Pantherstouredyouth clubs and arts centreslecturing black
for
Johnson
history
Linton
Kwesi
their
teenagersabout
and
ran cultural workshops
105
league.
hair
in
Female
Panthers
Panther
their
the Black
a natural,
wore
youth
Afro stylewhich, evenin the late 1960s,wasa bold andunusualstatementof black
BPM
In
the
this,
of
all
was never a cultural nationalist
spite
pride.
cultural
ideology
'We
to
the
very
much
opposed
of cultural nationalism
were
organisation.
'01'What we do in practice',Black People'sNewsService,March 1970,p. 8.
102BPM, 'Black PeopleGet To Know YourselflI [sic]', September1969.Containedin the Black
Documentsfile at the EM
'03Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17 September
2004.
104SeeDPP2/4890:'RupertJamesFrank,LeonardAnderson,EdmundLecointeand Keith Spencer
(Black PantherMovementmembers)riot andincitementon August31,1970 in SEI 1.Convicted'.
105
Johnsonwenton to becomea successfulpoet,reggaemusicianandrecordcompanyowner.

102

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
that was being expounded by certain sections of the black movement in America',
Linton Kwesi Johnson recalls. 'We were opposed to Ron Karenga,and Kwanzaa
106
'
and all of that.

The BPM's political ideology became increasingly rigid during the


believed
had
lifespan.
The
BPM
that racial equality was not
always
organisation's
instructed
its
imperialist
members not to
system and
possible under a capitalist
bother participating in electoral PolitiCS.107This conclusion was initially justified
failure
black
from
British
to
the
the
protect
people
government's
grounds of
on
in
discrimination
housing,
harassment
education,
and
employment and
police
'What
BPM's
We Want', noted these
The
statement
original
of
aims,
immigration.
failings and concluded, almost reluctantly, that '[W]e have no alternative but to
108
Britain'.
By the 1970s, the same
reject the entire capitalist establishment of
justified
be
because
it
longer
imperative
to
theoretical
needed
was
a
no
conclusion
of the Marxism-Leninist line to which the group adhered. For the Panthers, class
became
the only accepted solution to the problem of racial
revolution
discrimination, bringing it closer to the position of the BUFP.

The internalorganisationand discipline of the BPM, alwaysstrict, became


intolerablein the opinion of many members,as Trotskyite politics took hold and
the movementbecameideologicallyinflexible. DarcusHowe describedthe central
It
built
Bolshevik
IStalinist
type.
the
the
was
on
same
structure
as
committeeas
109
it
kind
Party, was a
of vanguardparty organisation'. Tony Soares;believesthe
had
been
by
left
far
by
1970.
'[T]he BPM
taken
the
completely
over
organisation
106Linton Kwesi Johnson,interviewwith the author, 17 September2004. Kwanzaais an invented
African Americanfestivalcelebratedbetween26 DecemberandJanuary1.
107SeeBPM flyer 'Black PeopleDon't Vote: organiseagainstexploitationandBritish institutional
racism',June1970,held in the Black Groupsfile at the MR.
108
BPK 'What We Want', undateddocumentheld in the Black Groupsfile at the IRK
109Transcriptof an unpublishedinterview with Anne Walmsleyon 16 January1986, 4. Ihe
p.
triuncript is part of the CAM papersheld at the GPI.

103

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power

was ...

being increasinglycontrolledby the Marxist elements:black Trotskyites,

SocialistLabour League,the InternationalMarxist Group', he remembers.They


had come in and were basically running the show and the people were not
110
North
the
Soares,
the
that'.
other
of
members
along with all
comfortablewith
in
in
1970
BPM
left
branches,
the
West
London
the
central
after
protest
and
because
branch
London
North
four
the
of an
membersof
committeesuspended
ideologicaldisagreement.In June 1973,the BPM changedits nameto the Black
Workers' Movementto reflect its changedideologicalposition, but the defection
Marxist
being
in
to
the
thrall
accusation
white
of
members
and
of so many
far
from
its
Black
Movement
Power
Arrested
had
the
taken
on
roots.
organisations
former
Panther
looked
Kwesi
Johnson
1972,
Linton
in
November
to
Sus
a
charge
DarcusHowe and the charity Releasefor help defendinghis casebecause,as he
less
had
Panthers
Black
'The
ceasedaroundthe sametime'.
more
or
recalls,
I think like all movements,historically, there is a need; an organisation
in
been
have
fulfil
that
things
to
put
need and, once certain
comesalong
it
is
its
fimction,
it
has
done
time
to
that
ceases
and
work
organisation
place,
to move on to anotherstage... And we'd moved on from the ideology of
Black Powerto a moreblack working classideology.' 11
YheBlack Liberation Front
The Black Liberation Front was founded at the start of 1971 by the former
Movement.
branches
Panther
West
London
Black
North
the
the
of
and
membersof
Its headquarterswere at 54 Wightman Road, formerly the BPM's North London
branchaddress.The BLF maintainedclose links with the Black PantherParty in
the United Statesand was organisedon the samelines, with separatedivisions for
from
Having
BPM
the
propaganda
split
and
youth.
areassuch as self-defence,

110
Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.
111
2004.
Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17September

104

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
becauseof its increasinglyrigid Marxism-Leninism,the BLF took its political lead
from Mao Tse Tung and Chinese Communism. Eschewing hierarchy and
dismissing'Orthodox Marxism' as 'irrelevant to the Black struggle', becauseit
BLF
from
Western
that
the
'drawn
argued
proletarian
experience,
exclusively
was
'Real communismrepresentsa way of life that was alreadyin existencein partsof
112
before
Africa and Asia
the coming of the white man'. Identifying closely with
e
in
PanAfrican Congressin Dar-es-Salaarn
Africa, BLF membersattendedthe
1974and a 1975issueof GrassBoots announcedthat the BLF was a memberof
the PanAfrican Committee(U.K.) and that it 'work[ed] closelywith the liberation
13
Affica!
Southern
movementsof
The BLF representedthe more cultural-nationalistvein of Black Power
thought Tony Soaresremembersthat There was a great deal of sympathywith
Ron Kmnga! s type of cultural nationalism,though no great

114
v
links
The BLF's

from
disillusionment
with white societyat
a
grave
also
sprang
culturalnationalism
in
British
levels.
This
the
society,
was a result of
widening racial polarisation
all
foundation
by
1971
BLF's
the
the
time
the
the
of
of
at
passage
exacerbated
Immigration Act, which convincedmany black people in Britain, not just BLF
by
being
Therefore,
that
they
althoughthe
were
a
racist
state.
victimised
members,
BLF continuedto makesimilar demandsfor domesticreform as the UCPA, BUFP
its
BPM,
tone was more urgent, confrontational and occasionally even
and
leaflet
BLF
Britain
lunatic
'fascist
Describing
one
asylum',
as a
apocalyptic.
it
They
Britons
'[D]on't
that
are giving to
mincewords any more.
white
explained

12BLF, 'RevolutionaryBlackNationalism:a paperfor discussion',1971,p. 7.


1:3 T. L. F. Projects',GrassRoots4: 1 (1975),p. 15.
114
Tony Soares,e-mailto author,26 March2005.

105

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
'
15
for
black
The
because
hate
They
they
are
we
am
and
gunning
us'.
us
straight.
us

BLF welcomedAsian membersbut, unlike the BPM and BUFP, sawno benefit in
it
did
its
Neither
count
among
goals a
with
white
groups.
collaborating
radical

in
Britain,
in
'As
Britain.
minority
a
small
we cannotclaim we
socialistrevolution
its
is
That
liberate
the
change
system.
something the native working
country
or
will
in
do
for
itself,
Grass Roots, '[Our] sole
announced an editorial
class must
for
in
in
is
Black
Britain
their
survival
people
concern
and socialism
homelands'! 16

This separatist perspective meant that the BLF focused entirely on


black
from
the
community
and
withdrew
activities, such as
organisingwithin
demonstrations,that were intended to provoke a response from the white
community. It also attracted a different demographic.'The BLF at the time
black
black
the
more
nationalist,
consciousyouths',
younger,
more
attracted
remembersSoares,'The Marxist organisations,like the BPM, were into heavy
Marxism and that had very little appeA to ordinary young black people- they
didn't want to know about Trotsky or whatever'.117Youth work was given
particularprominenceby the organisation.Boostingblack children'sknowledgeof
their own culture and history was the major focus of the BLF's youth wing, the
Black Berets,which was non-political and had approximately300 membersby
mid-1971,accordingto Tony Soares.The Black Berets,andlater alsothe Makonde
Youth Club, met as many as three times a week to play sports,do drama,watch
films, learn karateand even go to discos.On Sundaymornings,until the end of

113Undated BLF leaflet from Tony Soares' private collection.


116'Mtorial', Grass Roots 1:2 (7 July 1971), p. 2.
117Tony SoaMS,interviewed by the audior, 23 August 2004.

106

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
1972,the BLF's North London headquarters
was also hometo the independentlyrun Headstartsupplementary
school.
Discussionsfor adult BLF memberswere held on Sundayevenings,where
the perennialissuesof black identity, culture versus politics, and race struggle
versus class strugglewere hotly debated.On Friday nights a two-hour drop-in
advice servicefor local black peoplewas provided.Three communitybookshops
werealso startedby the BLF - two GrassRootsStorefronts,at 54 Wightuan Road
and from December1972 on Golborne Road in Notting Hill, and a Headstart
Bookshop in West London. 118A list of BLF activities from a 1974 Grass Boots

lists
the 'Ujima HousingAssociation',providing affordablehousingto black
also
families and a 'Prisoner's Welfare Committee' which correspondedwith and
19
black
visited
prisoners!
Outsideof the black communitythe BLF wasbestknown for its newspaper
Grass Roots, which was edited by a variety of different people including Tony
Soaresand Ansel Wong. Startedin mid-1971,by its third issue,GrassRootswas
being distributed in Bristol, Birmingham, Wolverhampton,Bradford, Liverpool,
Hull, Sheffield and

120 ItS f
Urth
London.
0

iSsue circulated in September1971,

contained a reproduction of a page from the American Black Panther Party


featured
instructions
on how to make a Molotov cocktail.
newspaper,which
Although The Black Panther, from which the 'recipe' was taken, was legally
availablein radical book shopsand evensomelibraries,in March 1972the BLF's
Tony Soarcswas chargedwith attemptedincitement to arson; bomb-making;
firearm
intent
to endangerlife and murder of persons
with
possessionof a
1'a Informationfrom interviewsandemailcorrespondence
with Tony Soares.
119See'BLF activities, GrassRoots3:3 (May 1974), 2. Ujima
p.
was still in existencein the 21st
century.
1" Informationon the nationaldistribution GrassRoots
providedby Tony Soares.
of

107

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
unknown - all of which were potentially punishableby life imprisonment.In
responseto what looked suspiciouslylike victimisation of their organisation,the
BLF set up a GrassRoots DefenceCampaignwhich brought it a great deal of
both
black
from
the
publicity and sympathy
within
outside.'Me
communityand
BLF was seriously disrupted, however, by the loss of one of its most active
members.Tony Soareshad already spent over a year in prison in the 1960s
becauseof his anti-Vietnamwar protestactivities.Fearinga further spell in gaol,
he left Britain in early 1972 and spent severalweeks in Algeria as a guest of
American Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, before boredom compelled him to
return. Arrestedwhile signing on in West London,shortly after his return, Soares
spentfour monthson remandin Brixton prison, beforebeing grantedbail in July
1972.He devotedthe rest of the year to preparingthe defencefor his trial at the
Old Bailey, which startedon 20 February1973and is discussedin detail in chapter

four.
The Black LiberationFront hit the headlinesagain,in October1975,when
three young black men claiming to be part of the Black Liberation Army, a
supposed adjunct of the BLF, attempted to rob the Spaghetti House restaurant in

Knightsbridgeandendedup taking eight membersof its staff hostagefor five days.


As the BLF had no official membershipprocedureit was impossibleto prove or
disprove their claim, but the organisationissueda statementof support.121-Ibe
BLF continuedto championthe causeof Black Power in Grass Roots, and the
black
black
self-confessed
nationalism and emphasison African
organisation's
culturemeantthat it continuedto promotea Black Powercultural agenda.Issuesof
GrassRootsfrom 1976,however,revealan organisationwhich, althoughstill true
121
Ile untitled,undatedBLF pressreleaseis held in the SpaghettiHousesiegefile at the EM The
SpaghettiHousesiegeis discussedin moredetail in the following chapter.

108

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
to Black Power, was increasingly paranoid and shrill. The September/October
for
blacks',
banner,
to
'Death
front
the
referring
camps
page
carried
edition
'Holloway
lurid
inside
in
South
Africa,
as
stories such
while
government camps
lesbians assault 15 Year old', and 'TINS OF Baby KILLER' made headlines such
legal
Cross-Country
Leeds:
Tricklewood
the
to
conspiracy', seem positively
as
122
long
baton
Black
Power
Content
by
to
the
after
run with
comparison.
sensible
itself
it,
found
had
dropped
BLF
to
the
an
preaching
organisations
other
increasingly circumscribed coterie of the converted.

Racial Adjustment Action Society (RAAS)

RAAS was accordeda significanceduring its six-yearlifespanthat was out of all


It
limited
its
tiny
was
to
organisational
achievements.
membershipand
proportion
foundedin 1965by TrinidadianimmigrantMichael de,Freitas,who wasinspiredto
X
London
School
hearing
Malcolm
his
the
of
at
speak
after
start own organisation
A charismaticand intelligent but menacing
Economicson II February1965.123
landlord
Peter
for
had
slum
an
enforcer
worked
as
and unpredictableman, who
Rachman,de Freitashadbeenpresentduringthe Notting Hill riots of 1958andhad
joined variousof the short-livedcampaigningimmigrantorganisations;
setup in its
its
launched
first
RAAS
May
1965,
In
RAAS.
before
campaign,
starting
wake,
Courtaulds
West
Red
Scar
Indian
Asian
the
at
the
workers
and
supporting striking
12
June
Michael
de
lasted
from
24
May
X
(as
Ile
Preston.
to
and
strike
mifl near
122
1976,pp. 1,2,4.
GrassRoots,September/October
123Michael X claims in his autobiographyto have spentfour dayswith Malcolm X in February
1965.SeeM. Malik, From Michael de Freitas to Michael X (London,1968),p. 148.Investigative
de
in
biography
Freitas
he
David
Tindall
Humphry
their
that
Derek
of
met
wrote
and
reporters
Malcolm X at Africa Housethe day beforethe LSE speechandthat Malcolm visited him at home
the following evening.SeeFalse Messiah: TheStory of Michael X (London, 1977 p. 48. Both
accountsare contested,however,by JanCarewin GhostsIn Our Blood- WithMalcolmX in Africa
Englandand the Caribbean(Chicago,1994),p. 106,who maintainsthat Malcolm X and Nchael
de Frcitasdid not meetat all.

109

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Frcitas was by then known), Roy Sawh and fellow founding memberAbdullah
Patelspenttwo weeksin Prestonspeakingat strikers' meetingsand raising funds.
RAAS gaineda greatdeal of publicity in the process,but Mchael X's firebrand
into
hands
that was
the
played
of a management
aboutracial exploitation
speeches
trying to dismiss its workers' economicgrievancesas racially-motivated.'Both
[Sawh and Michael X] spokeconsistentlyin racial terms about the black man's
burdenand the white exploiter', noteda report for TheInstitute of RaceRelations
Newsletter.'They wererespectedby strikersfor their interestand wish to help but
124
impress'.
in
did
Michael X remembered the incident
their views,
general,
not

in
his
differently
autobiography,claiming that RAAS's supportof the
somewhat
123
it
in
400
had
receiving
new membershipapplicationsper week.
strike
resulted
Both Patel and Sawh left the organisationshortly after the Courtauldsstrike,
however, the fonner referring pejoratively to Nfichael X as 'a myth' in a
126
newspaperarticle.
subsequent
Michael X explicitly cultivatedcomparisonswith Malcolm X, but the two
sharedvery few qualities. 'The only thing that Michael had in common with
Malcolm', wrote Jan Carew,a former associateof both, 'was that they had both
begunas outlawsin their respectivesocieties,but herethe comparisonhasto end
127

abruptly'.

Certainly, if Michael X was a disciple of Malcolm Y, he was not a

very good one. Michael made no distinction, for example,betweenMalcolm's


independentpan-African, multiracial political programmeand his earlier black
in
Nation
Islam.
Michael X
the
conservative
views
while
of
politically
nationalist,
image
in
interested
the
of Malcolm X than the substanceof his politics,
was more
124p. Foot 'The strike at Courtauld's, Preston', The Institute of Race RelationsNewsletter
lcment(July 1965),p. 1.
sy?
12 ,
Malik, Michael,P. 153.
'26D. Knoy, 'Britain's Black Powerhouse:
MichaelV, Life, 16October1967,p. 17.
127
Carew,Ghosts,p. 99.
110

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
though, becausehis own political commitmentwas skin deep. 'Nfichael never
believed in any of the things he was saying', asserts another former
128
Nation
Malcolm
X's
In
the
of
profound
criticisms
of
contemporary.
spite of
Islam, as well as his belief that the organisationwas trying to have him killed,
Michael X wrote to the Nation's leaderElijah Muhammadafter Malcolm's death
in February 1965 asking to join the organisation.Michael X may well have
becomea memberof the Nation of Islam, and was often describedin the pressas
the leaderof the British Black Muslims (the colloquial name for the Nation of
Islam),but thereis no evidencethat therewere any otherBritish membersfor him
to lead. He did, however, meet Nation of Islam members Herbert X and
MuhammadAli in Stockholmat the requestof Elijah Muhammadand chaperoned
Muhammad Ali when he came to Britain to fight Henry Cooper in May 1966.129

By the time of Stokely Cannichael'svisit in July 1967,RAAS had long


beenlittle morethan a mediavehicle for Mchael X andhe wasregardedby many
of his non-white contemporariesas, in Linton Kwesi Johnson's words, 'a
130
in
X's
black
Nfichael
the
reputation
community was significantly
charlatan'.
in
however,
he
became
first
September
1967,
the
when
non-white
resuscitated

for
inciting
hatred
because
fiery
he
had
be
tried
to
of
a
racial
speech
given
person
Convictedon 9 November 1967,he servedeight
in Readingon 24 July 1967.131
in
July 1968to a martyes
sentence
and
was
released
monthsof a one-yearprison
his
X
held
Michael
Minister
For
the
position
a
year
after
release
of
welcome.
of
Defencefor a small London-based
cadreof Black Panther-styleactivistscalledThe

128
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.
A. Sivanandan,
'" Informationon Malik's relationshipwith the Nation of Islamtakenfrom Humphryand Tindall,
FalseMessiah,pp. 54-6.
130
Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17September
2004.
131
MichaelX's Readingspeechandthe trial that followedarediscussedin detail in chapterfour.
III

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Black Eagles, led by 'Prime Minister' Darcus Awusu. 132At the start of 1969, with

the financial backing of white publishing heir Nigel Samuel,RAAS bought the
buildings at 95-101 Holloway Road in order to turn them into a cultural centre,
shoppingcomplexandhostelcalledThe Black House.
Conceptualised
asa projectrun by andfor the black community,The Black
Houseattractedmany committedpeoplewho took its principles of self-helpand
self-determinationto heart.It also serveda useful function as a meetingplaceand
organisingspacefor local black groups.Even providing the most basic place to
staywas an essentialservicefor manyblack youthsand a strem of peoplelived at
The Black House,swappingtheir labour for food and a place to sleep.Brother
Herman (Edwards),an Antiguan builder who lived, worked and taught at The
Black Housefor two years,saw its value not only in termsof the practicalhelp it
hundreds
to
the
of homelessblack teenagershe said stayedthere,but also
offered
in psychologicalterms as, 'One of the fa-st times we built somethingfor black
133

people in England'.

Former Black House Information Officer Vince Hines

agreed.The Black Housewas the pioneerto Black self-helpin socialand welfare


in
in
he
Britain,
1997.134Although the Black House project and
work
wrote

particularlyMichael X's leadershipof it was,at best,deeplyflawed,it providedan


importantsourceof inspirationto other,morecommittedpeople.After leavingthe
Black House,Brother HermanstartedHarambeein Islington, which attemptedto
provide accommodation,training and employmentfor wayward black youths.
Vince Hines founded a homelessrefuge and rehabilitation centre called Ile

132
DarcusAwusuis now betterknownasDarcusHowe.
133
BrotherHermanquotedin W. Wood, 'Brother Herman:tributeto a founderof black self-helpin
Britain', Race& Class37:4 (1996),p. 73.
1-14
V. Hines, How Black People OvercameFifty Yearsof Repressionin Britain, 1945-1995
(Volumeone. 1945-1975) (London,1997),p. 187.

112

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
Dashiki Council and Ashton Gibson, The Black House's 'Industrial Officee,
135
starteda culturalcentrecalledThe Melting Pot Foundation.
The Black House's work with disaffectedyouth brought it praise and
donations from people and organisationsthat would otherwise have avoided
founder
Collins,
Cannon
CND
Black
Power
antiorganisation.
associationwith a
Council
World
Huddleston
Trevor
Bishop
the
of
and
apartheid campaigner
136
its
funds
donated
Churchesall
to the project and praised work. It soonbecame
financial
backing
Black
House's
however,
The
that
were
public
profile
and
clear,
funding
deal
had
its
in
The
being
of
project
received
a
great
progress.
reflected
not
from rich, sympatheticdonors like SammyDavis Jr, MuhammadAli and John
Lennon,but photographscontainedin the reportof a police investigationinto a fur
be
it
in
January
1970
building
to
that
the
ready
used
showed
was nowherenear
at
The
the
accommodation.
most
rudimentary
as a supermarketand provided only
fire
had
been
that
the
the result of arson,possiblyto coverup the
reportconcluded
The projectwas further derailedwhen Michael X and
lack of building progress-137
during
The
Black
RAAS
on
arrested
raid
were
a
police
members
sevenother
House on 17 April 1970, following allegations of robbery and assault by
138
Mervin BrowrL At the end of November1970Michael X resigned
businessman
from RAAS andon 2 February1971movedto Trinidad to avoid facingtrial for the
letter
fiorn,
Foreign
his
April
1970
A
the
to
arrest.
and
charges relating
133A newspapercutting on the foundationof the Melting Pot foundationandthe annualreportsof
he DashikiCouncilareheld in the Black Groupsfile at the MR.
136
Tindall andHumphry,FalseMessiah,p. 85.
137See MEPO 28/4: The "Black House", headquartersof the Racial AdjustmentAwareness
Society, at 95-101 Holloway Road, N7: damage caused by fire on 15 January 1970.
Unsubstantiatedallegationsmade by Malik, MA, alias Michael Y., againstthe police and fire
brigade',held at theNA.
138See MEPO 31/4: 'Malik MA, alias Michael Y, of the Racial AdjustmentAction Society.
by police following a raid on the Society's
complaintsof intimidation,victimisationandharassment
headquarters,
the "Black House",95-101 Holloway Road,N7 on 17 April 1970.Malik and others
arrestedfor robberyandblackmail1970-1971',held at theNA.

113

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusionmentto Black Power
CommonwealthOffice to the British High Commissioner in Port-of-Spain,
Trinidad,dated30 July 1971, explainedthat the British govemnentwasmorethan
happynot to seekan extraditionorderfor his return 139Trinidad did not proveto be
a safe haven for Michael X for long though. In 1972 he was convictedof the
murders of two of his followers, Gale Bensonand JosephSkerritt, crimes for
in
hanged
1975.
he
May
was
which

Conclusion
British societypolarised,sharplyover the issueof raceduringthe secondhalf of the
1960s. Racial discrimination became enshrined in law in the form of the
CommonwealthImmigrants(KenyanAsians)Act, which createda secondclassof
(non-white)British citizens, while Enoch Powell's inflammatorypopulist racism
dominatedthe media's coverageof British racerelations.Powell's speechesgave
succourto far-right organisationssuch as the newly formed National Front, and
brought the views of the far right into the frame of respectabledebate on
immigration. During the same period, the British media and politicians were
uneasily observingeventsin Los Angeles,WashingtonD.C., Detroit, and other
major cities in the United Statesthat were being set aflame by their Affican
American residentsin retaliation for years of discrimination and neglect The
both
Secretary
Home
the
and the editor of 77ieTimes'slips was could
on
question
it happenhere?
The disillusiomnentblack peoplefelt after the Labour Party abandonedits
immigration
in
1964 gave a militant minority the impetus to
to
control
opposition

organisetheir own radical political organisations.'Me ineffectivenessof the 1965


139SeeFCO 63/613: 'Black Power
movement in Caribbean', held at the NA.

114

Chapter2: 'In the belly of the beast':from black disillusiomnentto Black Power
Race Relations Act discredited the liberal politics and lobbyist methods of
Britain's only national civil rights organisation,the CampaignAgainst Racial
Discrimination(CARD), as well as statutorybodieslike the National Council for
CommonwealthImmigrants(NCCI). Inspiredandencouraged
by the adventof the
black nationalistphaseof the African Americanfreedomstruggle,Britain's Black
Power activists also built on previousgenerationsof black immigrants"struggles
inclusive
for
and
againstcolonialism
an
political unity amongnon-whitepeoplein
Britain. As CLR Jamesenthusiasticallynoted, Black Power was just the cutting
edgeof over a hundredyearsof black political andintellectualinsurgency.
Britain's first Black Powergroupwas foundedin Londonin June1967,but
it wasthe visit of AmericanBlack PowerdoyenStokelyCarmichaelto Londonthe
following monthwhich gavethe fledgling movementa greatboost.This waspartly
becauseof his inspirational speaking and partly becauseof the media and
government'sattention-generatingreactions to his words. The intense media
his
Carmichael's
controversial
speeches
carried
coverageof
messageto a much
wider, national audience.An inspirationalspeaker,Carmichaelwas veneratedby
Britain's Black Power advocates and by the end of the decade most cities with

substantialblack populationshad their own Black Powerorganisation.By far the


largestandmostimportantgroupswerebasedin London,however,just aswerethe
largestcommunitiesof black immigrants.TheseLondon groups- the Universal
ColouredPeople'sAssociation,the Black PantherMovement the Black Unity and
FreedomParty and the Black Liberation Front - could probably claim no more
than a thousandmembersbetweenthem andwereriven by political disagreements,
but neverthelesshad a substantialimpact on race relationsin Britain. This is the
subjectof the next chapter.

115

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


CHAPTER3
6A revolutionary conspiracy"? Black Power's strengths and weaknesses

Introduction
Black Power passedover Britain like a comet: an intenseburst of fiery energy
followed by a diminishing trail of fragments and activity. Of the four selfin
in
London
Black
Power
groups
used as case studies the previous
professed
between
1967 and 1971. Although two of the four
up
chapter, all were set
continuedto exist in someform into the 1990s,of the others,one had dissolvedin
1970andthe otherhad movedawayfi-omBlack Powerby mid-1973.1It would be
importance
Power
in
however,
Black
the
terms of
to
of
solely
assess
misleading,
the size and longevity of its politipal organisations.'Actual membershipof the
.
whole movementmay be small', commenteda journalist fi-om.The Timesin 1968,
2

,but the appealof what theseblack politicians preachis astonishinglywide'. A


be
but
have
important
impact
can
politically
marginal
on the
still
an
movement
This
in
Black
Power
Britain.
the
the
case
was
with
society.
movement
wider
In the nine years between 1967 and 1976 Black Power went through three

roughly distinct phases.'Me first of these,which stretchedfrom the foundationof


the Universal ColouredPeople'sAssociation(UCPA) in June 1967to about the
in
1968,
the
the
period
of
greatest
was
polarisation British race relations.
end of
Black Powerwas interpretedby the white press,but also by manyblack people,as
a political and psychologicalcounterbalanceto the dramatic anti-immigration
increased
Powell
Enoch
the
and
speechesof
activity of the National Front. ne
1 Harry Goulbournereportsthat the BUFP was still meetingin the early 1990s H. Goulbourne,
CaribbeanTransnationalFExperlence
(London,2002), p. 80. The IRR holds copiesof the BLF's
urnal GrassRootsdatingup to 1988.
S. Clarke,P. Evans,M. Knipe,G. Lloyd, D. Van der Vat andW. Norris, TheBlackMan in Search
ofPower (London,1968),p. 147.

116 '

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


secondphase,which lasted until about 1972, representeda period of greater
political sophistication,activity and support.This was the period during which
Black Powerreachedits critical massand achievedits greatestsuccesses:
its high
water mark was, perhaps,the MangroveNine trial of Octoberto December1971.
Thereafter,the movementbeganto fragmentand declinein political influenceand
public profile, althoughgroupscontinuedto exist and undertakevaluablework in
their communities.A victim of its own success,as well as of myriad failures,and
the actionsof a hostile state,Black Powerbecamea political sloganthat still had
but
also an increasing air of belonging to a bygone era. 'In 1976 ... after
resonance

a two yearabsencefrom Britain, I camebackto Londonandthe whole black scene


appearedto be in turmoil', wrote Roy Sawh,'The impact"Black Power"hadmade
on British society appearedto have been curtailed, if not manipulatedby the
3
establishment'. However, Black Power's messagethat 'Black is beautiful' had
into
least
African and West Indian peoplein
the
collective
psyche
of,
at
soaked
Britain: culturally Black Powerhad achievedwhat it had set out to. Politically, it
was divided by an acrimoniousdebatebetween,on the onehand,"heavysocialism'
(to useColin Prescod'sphrase),which subsumedthe black struggleunderthe class
struggle, and, on the other, cultural nationalism,which rallied black people in
termsof their relationshipto the Third World, especiallyAfrica, andrejectedwhite
society.

The Black Powermovementachieveda numberof things during all three


it
beyond.
did
Politically,
phasesand
not engagemany ordinary black people
directly, but the challengeit made to the liberal orthodoxiesof integrationand
moderation led many of them to re-examine,the aims and tactics of the
3R Sawh,From WhereI Stand(London,1987), 13.
p.

117

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


organisations of which they were members, or even to start new, militant ones of

their own. Groupslike the CampaignAgainst Racial Discrimination(CARD) and


the West Indian StandingConference(WISC) were either taken over, as in the
former case,or significantly influenced,as in the latter, by advocatesof Black
Power.By April 1968,for example,WISC, which had beenset up as a socialand
by
Federation
High
Commission
West
Indian
ten
the
the
organisation
of
welfare
yearsearlier,was one of the foundingorganisationsof the militant, socialistBlack
Peoples'Alliance (BPA). Black Power's political influence did not stop at the
black community.Its propagationof a culture where black was beautifid and its
contentionthat the problemaffectingBritish racerelationswas white racismrather
than black immigration contributedsignificantly to the radicalisation.of the race
relationsindustry.Its threatsof revolt and vociferoushighlighting of the injustices
factors
facing
inequalities
black
in
Britain
to
combined
with
people
other
and
introduce
for
inner
to
the
city
govenmient
a
programme
of
urban
aid
persuade
areaswith high concentrationsof black immigrantsin 1968 and to passits first
in
1976.
Relations
Act
Race
effective
'Me need for militant black community organising was a central plank of

Black Powerphilosophyand the practiceof communityself-helpproliferatedlong


after the political groupshad folded or retreatedinto the background.Black Power
law
bureaux,
hostels
for the
centres,
centres,
advice
groupsset up nurseries,youth
homelessandnumerouseducationalprojects.Supplementary
educationwas one of
the highestpriorities for Black Power groups,reflecting the importanceplacedon
it by the wider black community. Furthermore,the supplementaryeducation
movement,which continuesto thrive today, was the main areawhere the Black
Powertenetsof cultural self-determinationand self-educationcould be practically

118

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


applied to benefit the whole black commupitY. Direct participation in Black Power

groups had an enormouslybeneficial personal impact on members,as former


highly
Power
Black
tended
to
activists readily attest.
organisations
attract
motivated,creative,intelligent, public-spiritedpeopleand imbuedin them a great
self-discipline and a thirst for knowledge. Many of them later used their
experiencesin the movementto fuel successfidcareersin both the private sector
andpublic scrvice.
The yearsin which the Black Powermovementdevelopedalso witnesseda
growing militancy in Britain's black communities.It would be misleading to
suggestthat Black Powerwasthe main causeof this radicalisation,but it servedto
dramatise and publicise the most important issues affecting Britain's black
inner-city
like
In
Notting Hill and Brixton in London,where
areas
communities.
the relationshipbetweenyoung black men and the police was most intenseand
volatile, local Black Power groups helped give black people the confidenceto
harassment
as
a
community
against
police
stand
andalsoprovidedindividualswith
legal advice and practical support when they were arrestedand put on trial.
Immigration, educationand policing were the three major areasthat mobilised
widespread black political activity between 1967 and 1976. In 1971, an
Immigration Act was passedthat introducedthe conceptof patriality - that the
live
in
Britain was only availableto British passportholderswith a Britishto
right
born parent or grandparent.Ilose, mostly black people,who could not trace an
immediatebloodline back to the country were treated as secondclass citizens,
subjectto immigration control. In the sameyear,the publicationof a book called
How The WestIndian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British
School System:The Scandal of the Black Child in Schoolsin Britain brought

119

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


4
in
British
national attention to the structural racism the
education system. Also, by
1971, Britain's newspapers were full of alarmist reports of the crime-wave of
6muggings' in London, responsibility for which was laid at the door of the West
Indian community, giving the Metropolitan Police an excuse to increase its use of
the 'Sus' law to harassand arrest young black males simply for looking as if they
5
be
might
about to commit a crime. Furthermore, the increasing activity and
boldness of far right groups like the National Front and the continued public

prominenceof the intemperatepronouncements


of MP Enoch Powell persuaded
many formerly reticent black peoplethat if they did not standup soon for their
right to live in Britain without fear of physical attack, discrimination or
deportation,they might lose it in the future. In this context,by making an extreme
Power
British
Black
of
society,
activistsenabledotherblack peopleto get
critique
involved in more moderatepolitical organisationswithout feeling that they were
standingon the frontline.
Numerousexternalpressuresmilitated againstthe survival of Black Power,
not least the state's highly effective campaign of surveillance, arrest and
6
Power
Black
activists. Black Power groupswere quite capableof
prosecutionof
imploding on their own, however,and the secondhalf of this chapterlooks at the
internal factorsthat contributedto the demiseof organisedBlack Power politics.
The problemsthat besetthe movementchangedsignificantly between1967 and
1976.Initially, the lack of ideologicalcoherenceand the leadershipof men more
interestedin seekingpersonalpublicity than building a movementhamperedBlack
1
4 B. Coard, How ne WestIndian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School
System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain (London, 1971).

5The treatmentof youngWestIndianmalesby the police is discussedin the following chapter.See


alsoS. Hall, C. Critcher,J. ClarkeandB. Roberts,Policing the Crisis: Mugging;theStateandLaw
Order(London,1978).
and
6 111iS
is discussedin detail in the following chapter.

120

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


Power organisationslike the UCPA and the Black PantherMovement (BPM).
led
Power
Black
the
influence
movement
Later, the
of revolutionarysocialismon
to a serious cleavageover whether race or class was the true source of the
it
debates
Bitter
black
and
was
possible
over
whether
people.
of
oppression
desirableto, show solidarity with white working class organisationsor whether
having a cultural focuson Africa was a bourgeoisinventiondesignedto divide the
black working class into ethnic enclaves,turned the movementin on itself and
discouragedAsian membersfrom continuing to participatein the Black Power
movement.
Furthermore,the inherent contradictions'in Black Power groups that
but
be
to
whose members were solicited on a
socialist and revolutionary,
claimed
inclination
did
have
to
basis
to
the
use armed
or
access
guns
not
and
who
racial
both
damaging
within and
and
misunderstandings
confusion
violence, caused
heavily
American
Power
Black
British
on
the
groups relied
movement.
outside
Black Power for inspiration and too easily glossed over the important differences
between the two movements. Black Power groups in the United Stateswere armed,
from
homogenous,
a coordinated and
siege
publicity-seeking and under
racially
7 Black

deadly state attack in the form of the FBI's COINTELPROprogramme.

Power groups in Britain containedWest Indian, Asian and African members,


largely avoidedpublicity after 1968,were neverarmedand only becameinvolved
in violence during confrontationswith the police. Although they were under
branch
intelligence-gathering
by
Branch
(the
Special
the
of
constantsurveillance
the MetropolitanPolice),their lives werenot underthreat. -

7 COINTIELPROwas an FBI domesticcounter-intelligence


operationthat was aimed at radical
African Americangroupsbetween1967and 1971.

121

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


British Black Power groups' propensity to echo the revolutionary rhetoric

led
American
their
of
counterparts to two problems.Firstly, an organisationwhich
statesthat revolution is the only answerto society's ills risks demoralisingits
membersif that revolution does not materialise.British Black Power groups
claimedto be aiming for revolution- both at homeand abroadin the caseof the
BUFP, or just in the Third World for the BLF, which had discardedthe idea of
trying to rouseBritain's, in their view, irredeemablyracist white working classbut concentrated on activities like consciousness-raisingand community
in
to
that
the overthrowof the state.Secondly,and
were
unlikely
result
organising
far more damagingly,their violent languagewas takenat facevalue by the British
its
powers of prosecutionto silence them. Surveillanceand
state, which used
infiltration, police raids, frequent arrests and long periods spent in prison on
for
Black Power activists and a number of
were
occurrences
remand
regular
political trials punctuatedthe late 1960sand early 1970s.This did have some
advantages- one of the ways the BPM recruited new memberswas from the
black
young
men who came to the organisation.asking for help
steady stream of
with police harassmentand the resulting court casesagainst them. The manifestly

black
treatment
of
peopleservedas excellentrecruitmentpropaganda
unjustpolice
for Black Power groups.Nonetheless,these tactics also disruptedBlack Power
funds
into
diverting
defendingtheir membersin
by
their
and energy
organisations
for
Fundraising
the 'defencecommittee' of an activist facing prosecution
court.
becamea mainstayof black political organisingin the 1970s,which meantthat
issues
and community organisinghad to take a back seat.
campaigningon other
The state responseto Black Power is the subject of the next chapter,but it is
flag
here
to
the significanceof its role in the movement'sdecline.
necessary

122

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


Black Power's strengths and achievements
Although the Black Power movement in Britain had only a modest number of
followers, it can claim some significant achievements.By far the most important of
these was to send out the messagethat being black was something to be proud of.
In making this statement it challenged the paternalistic assumptions of the white
liberal race relations industry and, to a lesser extent, the government, and changed
the way they thought about and treated black people. The insurgent politics and

insistence
having
black
Black
Power
their
that
activists,
coupled
with
of
raw anger
in
fed
did
not automaticallymakeone a socialproblem, a wider militancy the
skin
black community, particularly among young black males. Their refusal to accept

discrimination
harassment
the
the
and
of
police
of the educationsystemand
quietly
job market eventuallyshook the governmentout of its complacentbelief that it
only neededto maketokeneffortsto tackleracial discrimination.
The 1976RaceRelationsAct, althoughthe third of its kind, was the first to
in
in
discrimination
British
This
teeth.
societywith a sharpset Of
was
attackracial
no small part due to the government'sfear that, if the racial discriminationthey
faced were allowed to fester, an increasingly disaffected and volatile generation of

young black Britons would actually stagethe violent rebellionsthe Black Power
movementhad only threatened.But evenas early as 1968,the governmentclearly
had one eye on the Black Power movementwhen Prime Minister Harold Wilson
announcedthe introduction of an Urban Programmeduring a speechon race
into
5
May.
Designed
in
disadvantaged
Birmingham
to
on
channel
money
relations
immigrant
black
large
populations,the idea of urban aid was directly
areaswith
borrowedfrom the United Stateswheresomeof PresidentJohnson'sGreatSociety

123

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


disaffection
African
American
designed
to
prevent
were
explicitly
measures
8
in
turning into radical political activity and rioting the northern cities.
Impetus for reform of the inadequate anti-discrimination legislation also
in
Power
from
industry
face
Black
that,
the
militancy,
of
came
a race relations
found it increasingly difficult to justify playing 'the numbers game' and approach
for
dark-skinned
finding
formula
how
in
terms
the
many
magic
of
race relations
immigrants could assimilate into the white host society without challenging the
faith
in
liberalism
Power
Black
The
to
their
that
represented
challenge
status quo.
for the well-meaning, overwhelmingly white, middle-class people who had joined
the race relations industry, was powerful and tmnsformative. This was especially
true after the passageof the Commonwealth Immigrants 'Kenyan Asians' Act in
March 1968, which made many government race relations advisors and the
feel
bodies
like
NCCI
Board
Relations
Race
the
the
of
statutory
and
employees
that their remit to improve domestic race relations was being irreparably

underminedby the government'sracially discriminatory immigration policies.


'Tbe hostile expressionof our immigration law casts doubt upon the friendly
law',
lawyers
Geoffrey
Lester
Anthony
of
our
race
relations
wrote
and
expression
Bindman in the introductionto their 1971book Raceand Law, 'However much
it
legislators
hostility
is
taken more seriously
the
otherwise,
might
wish
were
our
thanthe friendliness- on both sidesof the colour line.'9
White race relations workers' crisis of confidencein the sincerity of the
government's moderate, conciliatory approachto race relations, made Black Power
depiction
liberalism
of
white
as racism in sheep's clothing seem more
activists'
palatable. In 1968, people like Oxford don Michael Dummett, who had been a
" Fora fullerdiscussion
4.
theUrbanProgrmmeseechapter
of
9

A. Lester and G. Bindman, Race and Law (Harmondsworth, 1971), p. 14.

124

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


foundingmemberof CARD, the Oxford Committeefor Racial Integrationand the
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), were coming to the
the
'From
the
that,
whole official
the
minorities,
of
racial
view
of
point
conclusion
liaison
Immigrants
for
Commonwealth
the
Committee
National
and
structure,the
committees,stands clearly exposedas a

10
found
Durnmett
trick'.
confidence

himself sharingcommongroundwith Black Poweractivistswhenhe surmisedthat


'[O]nly finther demoralisationand despair can come until the whole shabby
1
dismantled'!
been
has
paternaliststructure
The most dramatic example of a white, liberal race relations body reBlack
light
in
itself,
its
the
of
principles and radically redefining
examining
Power's critique of white liberalism, was the Institute of Race Relations (IRR). In
1972 its largely white staff voted against the wishes of their board of directors and
financial backers to transform the organisation from 'a policy-orientated,
disinterestedresearchbody into a progressive think-tank in the service of the black
doing
before
different
kind
'We
then', recalls
very
work
were
of
community.
Jenny Bourne, who joined the IRR as a junior researcher in 1970. 'It was all
It
the
that
was a very
numbers
of
coming.
projected
people
were
about
arguing
12 Britain's oldest and largest non-governmental race relations
debate'.
reactionary
its
beyond
losing
the
IRR
the
and
premises
changed
recognition
organisation,
in
Black
Power
its
funding
the
and
staff
process.
was not the sole cause
majority of
1972
hierarchical
By
the
transformation.
structure of the
this
old-fashioned,
of
Institute was being challenged by the junior - and particularly the female debate
between
increasingly
There
the
an
was
also
acrimonious
staff.
research
10NIS 2141/l/2: 'Immigrant Organisations,a JCWI paper deliveredby Michael Durnmettat the
IRR third annualracerelationsconferenceon incipientghettoesandthe concentrationof minorities,
1969',P. 15.Documentheld in the IWA archiveat BirminghamCentralLibrary.
11Ibid., p. 16.
12JennyBourne,interviewedby the author,28 July 20(9.

125

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


IRR's managementand its staff about their journalistic freedom,which centred
aroundthe editorial contentof the Institute's monthly journal Race Today.This
increasing
aroseout of an
uneaseaboutwho was benefitingfrom the researchthat
the Institute was undertaking.This intensified after the 1969 publication of the
IlMs

'Myrdal for Britain, Colour and Citizenship:A Report on British Race

Relations,which some staff membersviewed as little more than an exercisein


13
black
spyingon the
community. ResearcherRobin Jenkinsput his doubtsabout
the benefitto black peopleof the Institute'swork very bluntly in a paperdelivered
to the British SociologicalAssociationin 1971. 'When in future IRR researchers
comeknockingat their door', he told the audience,'the immigrantshouldtell them
Jenkins'swas not the only rebellion. I[fln our unit we had been
to 'Itick off-)%14
askedto do researchfor what was thenthe CommunityRelationsCommissionand
we said,"no we've not beenset up to do work for the government".much to the
embarrassmentof our director, remembersJenny Bourne. 'There was such a
massivedifferencebetweenwhat we were studying,what we said, and what was
actuallythe lived experienceof black people.Very hard lives peoplewere leading
15
andour researchjustseemedcompletelyat oddswith that experience'.
Unbeknownto senior management,the IRR had maintaineda symbiotic
relationshipwith Black Power activists since 1967. 'After six o'clock my library
was alwaysa venue,though the bossesmay not have known it', explainsformer
16 In the
head librarian Sivanandan.
process he became familiar with the
developmentsin grassrootsblack political organising.'I was closestto the BUFP,
but I was a go-betweenall thesepeoplebecauseI had a library and they wanted
13
E.J.B. Roseet al, Colour and Citizenship.A Reporton British RaceRelations(London,1969);G.
Myrdal,An AmericanDilemma(New York, 1944).
14Jenkinsquotedin A. Sivanandan,
RaceandResistance.theIRRStory(London,1974),p. 20.
15JennyBourne,interviewedby the author,28 July 2004.
16A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.

126

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


literatureandto discussthings, he recalls.Hence,throughthis link betweenBlack
Power activists, Sivanandanand other sympatheticstaff, the militant views from
the Black Power movementsin both Britain and the United Stateshad been
allowed to infiltrate the IRR and challengeits liberal orthodoxies.'I can't stress
black
began
how
to affect all our political development',
the
whole
scene
enough
saysJennyBourne, 'All of us would be readingCleaver,Malcolm X and later
GeorgeJackson:thosewerethe bookswe wereall giving eachotherfor Christmas
17
birthday
debate
informed
by'
'The palace
the
that we were all
presents,
and
.
18
didn't
Sivanandan
revolution
come out of thin air',
confirms. In responseto its
by
radicalisation, 1974 the IRR had lost all its old sourcesof fimding and its
premisesand consistedof just a library and three membersof staff, Sivanandan,
Bourneandassistantlibrarian Hazel Waters.They kept the Institutegoing with the
help of unpaid volunteersfrom the black community, including several Black
Poweractivistssuchas the BLF's Tony Soares,the BUFP's RogerLoftus and the
BPM's DarcusHowe,who wasaskedto be the editor of RaceToday.
If the Black Powermovementcould bring abouta radicalcultural shift in the
largely white race relationsindustry, its impact on those who actuallyjoined its
rankswas evenmoreprofound.For manyof the youngblack men andwomenwho
joined the variousBlack Powergroups,their involvementin the movementbecame
a defining point in their lives. The senseof personalagency,confidenceand
political engagementconferredby being part of the movementwas powerful: its
alumni includemanypeoplewho went on to achievewealth,statusand evenfame.
To take the Brixton branchof the Black PantherMovementasan example,former
leader Althea Lecointe is now a doctor, Darcus Howe is a journalist and TV
17JennyBourne,interviewedby the author,29 July 2004.
'8 Ibid.

127

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


is
Johnson
Kwesi
Linton
is
film
Dhondy
Faroukh
a well
scriptwriter,
a
presenter,
known poet and owns his own record label, Neil Kenlock co-foundedLondon
is
H.
0.
Nazareth
is
Choice
FM
a
and a respectedphotographer,and
radio station
from
journalist.
Activists
film
director
otherorganisations,suchas
and
playwright,
HermanEdwards,AshtonGibsonand Vince Hines of RAAS, and Tony Soaresof
the BLF, were inspiredby their experiencesas Black Power activists to take up
lessglamorousbut no lessimportantandsuccessfulcareersin socialcare.
Linton Kwesi Johnsondescribeshis participationin the Black Pantheras 'a
catalystfor self-discovery':
The Panthersshapedmy worldview. I came into contact with them at a very
formative time of my life - in my late teens - and it had a lasting impact on
discovered
I
literature,
black
discovered
in
I
I
me. was grounded politics,
black poetry: it's had the most profound impact on my life. That's how I
found out who I was, that's where I learned how to locate myself in history
19
and society.
Joining a Black Power group acted as a psychological counterweight to the low
job
teachers
rejections and poor
advisors,
unexplained
and career
expectations of
living conditions that demoralised and alienated many black people from British
society. Its emphases on personal worth and community action provided a
had
The
the
'hustling'
type
to
the
who
of
people
streets.
on
constructive alternative
motivation, discipline and political commitment to join Black Power groups were
ipsofacto the sort of people who wanted to be active in society, but Black Power
direction.
them
confidence
support,
and
gave
Black Power groups were small and localised which meant that the areasin
based
felt
This
impact
the
their
they
activities.
was
were
strongest
of
which
reinforced by the fact that a major part of the Black Power groups' programmes
for
their usually
concerned consciousness-raisingand providing essential services
'9LintonKwesiJohnson,
interviewed
by theauthor,17September
2004.

128

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy,?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


poor and under-resourcedneighbourhoods.Nurseries, housing projects, youth
clubs, supplementaryschoolsand social events were set up by activists. Black
Poweryouth groupstaughtlocal black teenagersto direct their energiesinto their
families,communitiesandpolitics ratherdm drink, drugsandcrime. Black Power
in
had
involved
been
themselves,
were
often
parents
supplementary
activists,who
educationsinceits inceptionin the late 1960s.They believedthat racial pride anda
revolutionary consciousnesscould only be developedthrough extra-curricular
classesbecauseon the rare occasionsthat black children in British schoolswere
taughtabout peoplewho looked like them, they were either depictedas slavesor
savages.'British educationpurposelydistorts our history and neverteachesus of
the greatnessand dignity of our peopleand their brave struggleagainstEuropean
domination', chargeda 1970 article in the BPM newspaper,the Black People's
20
News Service. Black Power newspapers reflected the need for a positive

in
Africa
of
a continuousstreamof articlesaboutpeopleandplaces
representation
from African history, which featuredalongsideregular reports on contemporary
anti-colonialstrugglesin placeslike Angola and Mozambique.The idea of Africa
asthe touchstonefor a positiveblack identity becameincreasinglyimportantasthe
Black Power movementmatured.For West Indians, 'Mother Africa' could offer
them the pride and senseof belongingthat the 'mother country' had deniedthem.
'People loved the idea of Africa and they loved the African-nessin themselves
becauseit counteredthe mirror white society was holding up in which black is
seenas bad', explainsColin PrescWl 'But it was a critical engagement... and it
tendedto be peoplewho were politically active,who were activists,who had this

20BPM, 'What we standfoe, Black People'sNewsService,March 1970,p. 7.


21Colin Prescod,interviewedby the author,23 January2008.

129

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


it
was another part of the trappings of militancy and
culturalist response conftonting the status

22
quo'.

The primary aim of supplementary schools was to teach black children


Black
in
'[P]art
heritage
the
them
their
of
sense
and engender
a
of pride.
about
Power movement was talking about the curriculum, not just the three Rs but also
the cultural content", remembers BUR

member Harry Goulbourne, who after

leaving university helped set up the organisation's first South East Summer School
in 19713 The London groups used as case studies in this thesis started a number
of other educational projects catering for pre-school children through to adults.
Examples of these initiatives included the Headstart project and a Sunday school
for struggling West Indian children, both run from the BLF's headquarters; the
BUFP's annual South East Summer Schools; the Malcolm X Montessori School
for
former
UCPA
by
Ghose
his
Kathy
Ajoy
the children
member
and
wife
started
in their Notting Hill street; and, from September 1969, the Free University for
I

Black Studies,which cateredfor adultsof any colour who wantedto find out more
24
black
CUItUre. The Malcolm X Montessori School (later known by the
about
Fun
With
Learning)
its
its
took
of
name
gentler
rather
as motto namesake'smaxim
25
is
born
but
Black
that, 'A child not
stupid, madestupid'. This neatlyencapsulated
Poweractivists' belief that the British educationsystemwas deliberatelydesigned

22

Ibid.
23Harry Goulbourne,interviewedby the author,6 September
2004. Goulbourneis now a professor
at SouthBankUniversity.
' Headstartand the BLF Sundaysupplementaryschool were advertisedin GrassRoots; BUFP
pressreleasesabouttheir SouthEastSummerSchoolsareheld, unfiled, at the MR; an article 'Fun
With Learning project is in the balance' about the Fun With Learning/MalcolmX Montessori
Projectappearedin the KensingtonPost on 4 February1972;and for the FreeUniversityfor Black
Studiesseethe 1971GeminiNews Servicepressrelease,'Where they educatewhites and blacks
aboutblackness,held in the Black Groupsfile at the MR.
" This quoteand a pictureof Malcolm X adomthe back coverof an undatedpamphletaboutFun
With Learningby Ajoy Ghosecalled'Towardsa Black Tomorrow',held4unfiled, at the Instituteof
RaceRelations(IRR).

130

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


determined
They
demoralised.
ignorant
to reverse
leave
black
were
to
children
and
this process.
The supplementaryeducationmovementwas the area in which Black
Powergroups' insistenceon knowing aboutandhavingpride in one's heritagehad
I
black
lives
for
the
the
the
of
majority
of
everyday
a practical significance
community. Much of the militancy of the supplementaryeducationmovement
came from the strength of West Indian parents' concernsabout the way their
however,
developed
The
the
was
movement
way
children were schooled.
influencedby the pre-existenceof a Black Powermovementwhich placeda high
black
that
said
peopleshouldactively take control of their
on
education,
emphasis
communities,and arguedthat without a senseof self-worth gained through a
knowledge of one's history and heritage, black people were inherently
6
disadvantaged?ThoseWestIndian parentswho werenaturallyinclinedto deferto
their children's teachers'authority and believe that their children were lazy or
Black
in
light
had
their
the
the
to
criticisms
re-examine
assumptions
of
stupid,
Power activists were tenaciouslymaking about the British school system.The
is
longest-lasting
the
movement
and most
education
one
of
supplementary
Power
black
Black
from
1960s
the
and
of
community
action
aspects
successful
in
formation
development
the
a
significant
role
and
of that movement.
played
Achieving unity amongsucha diverserangeof ethnic groupswas the most
for
faced
in
Black
Britain
Power
that
the
and
one
problem
movement
challenging
which it could not look to the United States for guidance.The movement's
26Although it is beyondthe scopeof this thesis,informationaboutthe Black ParentsMovement,
which was foundedin April 1975and was activeuntil the mid-19809canbe found at the George
PadmoreInstitute(GPI) in north London.The Black ParentsMovementgrew out of the political
activity andsupplementary
educationinitiatives,from 1968onwards,of activists(andparents)John
la RoseandEric andJessicaHuntley,amongothers.Archival materialaboutthis canalsobe found
at the GPI.

131

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


responsewas to createan inclusive political identity basedon non-whitepeople's
sharedexperiencesof oppression,both in the past, as Britain's colonial subjects,
in
and the present,asthe targetsof white racismin the 'mother country'.To do this
it appropriatedthe term 'black' andusedit to signify a political identity ratherthan
a physicaldescription.'[B]Iack was the colour of our fight, our politics, not our
27
Sivanandan.
Political blacknessdid not replaceethnic,religious
skins', explained
and national identities but restedon top of them allowing peoplefrom disparate
backgroundsto come togetherto campaignon issuesthat affectedthem all. 'We
have,
in
might
our lifestyles and our beliefs, defined ourselves culturally',
remembersA. Sivanandan,'but in our fight againstracism we defined ourselves
politically'.

28

The debateover political blacknesswas alive throughoutthe Black Power


periodandbeyond,with attacksboth from cultural nationalists,who tendedto link
blacknesswith Afficanness,and Asians who felt uncomfortablewith identiPjing
themselvesas black for a variety of reasons.Nonetheless,the idea of political
blacknesswas broadly accepted.A 1974 article in the newspaperof one of the
most cultural nationalist Black Power groups, the BLF, showed how the
both
could
organisation
support African nationalism and the idea of political
blackness.'Black people can be Brown, dark Brown, Jet Black
in fact, all
...
shadesof Black, yet we're all definedas BLACK. From that you can seehow the
definition unitesus', explainedthe article, 'When we definea personas Black, the
word for one describesthe non-whiterace,the peoplethat personspringsfrom; in

-" Bowser,KushnickandGrant,'CatchingHistory on the Wing: A. Sivanandan


asActivist, Teacher
and Rebel', in B. Bowserand L Kushnick(eds) with P. GrantAgainst the Odds:Scholarswho
ChallengedRacismin the TwentiethCentury(AmherstandBoston,2002),p. 237.
23
Ibid., p. 237.

132

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


29
idea
People'.
The
Race
African
The
African
the
of political
our case
and
blackness
in fact, achievedsuchhegemonythat, nearly thirty yearslater,journal
o
being
devoted
black
Asians
to arguingwhy
published?
werenot
were still
articles
Simplifying race relationsinto a binary oppositionbetweenblack and white was
details
focused
keep
than
the
to
of
attention
on
white
racism
rather
also an attempt
how it affectedeach ethnic minority differently and whether some groupswere
surviving better than others.It forced the post-warimmigrantsfrom Asia to ask
themselveswhetherthey were 'black' and, if so, where they stood in relation to
did
black
Even
definition
those
the
themselves
society.
who
not
accept
white
as
of
could only reachthis conclusionthrough a processof thinking about their ethnic
identity and its relationshipto white society,which often heightenedtheir political
awareness.
One significantattemptto organisearoundthis new black political identity
was the formation of the Black Peoples'Alliance (BPA) on 28 April 1968.The
brainchild of the generalsecretaryof the Indian Workers Associationof Great
Britain, JagmohanJoshi, the BPA was born at a conferencein LeamingtonSpa
attendedby fifty-one delegatesfrom twenty militant African, Asian and West
Indian organisations,including various Pakistani Workers' Associations, the
PakistanDemocraticFront, WISC, the West Indian Association,the Caribbean
Socialist Union, the Group for Nigerian Revolution, the Afro-Asian Liberation
Front, BPM, IWA (GB) and the Black Regional Action Movement (BRAM)? '
Groupswith white membersor reformist goalswere not allowed to join, although
29'Black Is... ', Grass Roots 3:3 (May 1974), p. 7.
30SeeT. Modood, 'Political blacknessand British Asians', SocioloSy 28:4 (1994).
31A list of sixteen member groups is included in CPGB
a
report, 'Racialism and "Black Powee",
10 May 1968, in CPILON/RACE/02/01.1he involvement of BRAM is discussed in its newspaper
Black Ram, held at the EM and the Black Peoples'Alliance Newsletter, JmTeb 1970, contains a
report from the United Black People's Organisation in Sheffield.

133

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy,?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


the BPA was preparedto 'seekallies from [the] majority community' by working
32
BPA
The
the
creation
of
was an explicit
alongsidemilitant white organisations.
been
[have]
different
'National
to
minorities
unite
ethnic minorities.
attempt
suspicious of one another and have sometimes seen their interests as conflicting,
is
from
founding
'This
the
the
one of the
conference.
meeting
read
printed notes
33
thesedifficulties'. The BPA

most concretesigns of us overcoming

was equally

explicit, however, in its exclusion of middle-classreformists of any ethnicity.


'Obviouslythe supportof all sectionsof the Black Communitiesshouldbe sought".
delegates,
by
line
'but
the
taking
the
not
at
cost
of
agreed-the
soft
preferred many
34
Immigrants.
The members of the BPA saw blackness as a
of the middle-class

radical political identity, inextricably linked with class struggle. ne member


groups disagreedover whether it was a Black Power organisation:'That an
organisationof the compositionof [the] BPA could have such wide and varied
views on Black Powerpointsto onething, that a public discussionhasto be carried
out ... to enablethe whole questionto be cleared',reportedBRAM's chairmanin
35

February 1969. Nonetheless,all were happy to organiseunder the banner of


political blackness.
Despite its resolution to undertake 'the kinds of activities which will
mobilise our own peopleand not necessarilythe kinds of things which the British
tradition finds most acceptable',the BPA largely relied on the sameold tactics of
?6
petitions and marches That said, the BPA's first demonstration,a 'march for
dignity' to Downing Streeton 12 January1969,attractedeight thousandmarchers,
32BPA, 'Documentedand adoptedat the inauguralmeeting28/4/68', p. 2. Two-pagedocumept
held in Tony Soares'privatecollection.
33
Ibid., p. 1
34
Ibid., p. 1.
35'View of meeting', The Black Ram 1:3 (15 February 1969), 3.
p.
36Ibid., p. 2.

134

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power"sstrengthsandweaknesses


37
two thirds of whom wereAsian, by Joshi'sestimate. The marchersconvergedon
Downing Street,delivereda petition and then symbolicallyturnedtheir backson
No. 10 and set fire to an effigy of EnochPowell. Despitethesebig public displays
its
between
deal
did
BPA
the
solidarity
and
not achievea great
of unity, the
Asian
there
Indian
West
African,
was
waned
when
member
groups
and
constituent
focus
Act,
1971
Immigration
issue,
their
big
to
the
opposition
as
such
not a
for
blackness
Nonetheless,
the
remained manyyears
conceptof political
outwards.
in
the anti-racistmovement.
to
tool
unity
promote
a usefid
A seriousand much commentedupon flaw in the AmericanBlack Power
is
it
its
dismissive
treatment
of
women,
worth noting that the
and
movementwas
British movementhad a prouderrecord in this respect.By the start of the 1970s,
many Black Power groupswere attemptingto take a strongstanceagainstsexism,
Power
better
in
The
Black
have
than
this
on
may
worked
paper
practice.
although
far
however,
the
than
was,
progressive
sexism
more
on
movement'sposition
Sexism
stand
against
and misogyny,
movement's
racism.
women's
nascent
Power
had
been
Black
the
the
white
women,
of
against
rife
at
start
particularly
X
in
his
leader
Michael
RAAS
to
autobiography
openly
admitted
movement.
having been a pimp in his former days as a Notting Hill hustler and continued to
boast that he lived off rich white women's patronage.38The UCPA had very few
female members and its original leaders Roy Sawh and Obi Egbuna were hardly
it
issues.
Both
to
thinkers
when
came
objectified white women
gender
progressive
for
disdain
their
the
the
of
such
professed
white
man
and
as
as
sexual property
them. A police transcript of one of Sawh's flamboyant Hyde Park speeches
37SeeMS2141/2:
by J. Joshiat theNationalConference
'Reportof theGeneralSecretary
presented
in
held
November
2
1.
Document
IWA
7-8
1970
Nottingham,
(GB),
IWA
the
the
p.
archiveat
at
of
CentralLibrary.
Birmingham
31SeeM. MaRk,From MichaeldeFreitasto MichaelX (London,1968).

135

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


They
by
here
living
him
'I
are
white
women.
selling
as saying, make a
reported
Sawh's
because
they
words,as ever,weremeant
to
silly'?
and
are
stupid
easy sell
lack
but
to
they
of
an
underlying
than
also pointed
to shockrather
reflect reality,
respectfor women.Egbuna'sposturingon the subjectof white womenwasequally
human
black
his
but
the
embodiment
women
as
of
sentimentaleulogising
atavistic,
0
however,
1970s,
By
Mother
Africa
the
openly
early
was more pernicious!
of
denigratingwomenwasno longeracceptablein the movementandthe BUFP,BLF
had
their
female-led
BPM
treatment
the
of
the
correct
policies
on
written
all
and
femalemembers.A two-dayNationalConferenceon the Rightsof Black Peoplein
Britain in May 1971, jointly organisedby the BUFP and BPM, included a
dedicatedwomen'ssessionentitled '"Black womenwant freedom"- Black sisters
in
the
941
The
on
women
page
programme
contained
a
conference
speak out!
(BWAC),
by
BUFP's
Women's
Committee
Black
Action
the
movementwritten
which asserted:
Womenmust not be relegatedto the role of kitchentroops,secretarialslaves
(for typing, circulatingaddresses
or passingashtrays)or houseservants.Our
be
must
women must guard againstmale chauvinism and arrogance,and
42
fidly
in
the runningof the party.
allowedto participate
The fact that this still needed to be stated showed that the deeply
It
disappeared.
had
Black
Power
not
activists
entrenchedchauvinismamongmale
ideologically.
fought
issue
being
however,
that
was
against
addressedand
an
was,
39'Transcript of shorthand notes taken by Det. Sgt. Battyc, Special Branch, of parts of a speechby
Roy Sawh at a meeting under the auspices of the Universal Coloured People's Association at
Speaker's Comer', p. 3. Document part of DPP2/4428: 'Alton Watson, Roy Sawh, Ajoy Shankar
Ghose, Michael Ezekiel, RAAS and UCPA, 23d/24'b August 1967', held at the National Archive
(NA).

' For a lengthy exampleof this see Egbuna's'Letter from Brixton Prison', in which Egbuna
he
Woman'
haspaid
Black
Marcus
Garvey's
'The
Harlem
with
after
prostitute
poem
serenades
a
her for sex.0. Egbuna,Destroy77dsTemple:the Voiceof Black Power in Britain (London, 1971),
pp. 61-93.
" 'National conferencespecialissue',May 1971, p. 8. Documentheld in black organisationsfile at
the IRIL
42BUFP, 'NationalConference:Strugglefor our humanrights', May 22-23,197 1, p. 11.Document
held in the blackgroupsfile at the IRFL

136

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


A BLF pamphletfrom 1971, reprinted in 1977, recognisedthat sexism was an
issuethat neededto be addressed.'Black women in Black societyare oppressed
it
but
by
Black
by
the
of
attitudes
men', stated,adding
also
not only white society
that if Black Powerdid not recogniseand remedyits sexistattitudes,black women
43
libemtion
into
be
dmwn
the white women's
movement. A new
would

introduction in 1977 noted, however, that 'The section on Black women and
4
[sic]
lib
discredited
from
the start'! It was not
was condemnedand
womens
discreditedenoughto be removedfrom the pamphletthough. Black feministsand
former activists BeverleyBryan, Stella Dadzie and SuzanneScaferecalledthat,
'Although we worked tirelessly,the significanceof our contributionto the mass
by
Black
Power
the
of
era.
was
undermined
and
mobilisation
overshadowed the
45
both
They
set the agendaand stole the show'. Despite this dig
men.
judgement,they concededthat Black Power had offered black women an early
ideology
heritage,
'As
in
African
to
that
self-respect.
an
expanded
pride our
path
they wrote. 'Black Power gaverise to one of the earliestconsciousand collective
46
by
Black
women of cultural self-respect'.
expressions

Black Power's internal weaknessesand decline


Although all three phasesof the Black Power movementcontainedelementsof
strengthand weakness,the latter was exhibited most obviously at its start and
during its decline. Like any political movement,Black Power in Britain did not
fully-formed
into
life
spring
and with infhllible leaders.During its first phase,
43 A- Hassan, Revolutionary Black Nationalism: Unity
and Struggle Against Domination (2 nd
edition, London, 1977), p. 6.
" Ibid., p. 1.
45 B. Bryan, S. Dadzie and S. Scafe, The Heart
of the Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain
(London, 1985), p. 144.
46Ibid., p. 222.

137

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


groups like the UCPA were going through the processof thrashing out their
ideologiesand goals and trying out different protest strategies.Concerningthe
latter, former UCPA memberTony Soaresrecalls wryly that 'I don't think there
7
in
first
idea
The
Black
Power
the
tactics
time'!
organisation
at
about
was any
Britain, the UCPA publisheda fifteen-page'SpecialStatement'in September1967
48
length.
that offered only the vaguestof solutionsto the problemsit detailedat
The aim 'to propagatethe solution of our problemson internationallevels', for
9
defined
be
as to
virtually meaningless! Even the more
example,was so vaguely
immediate
for
'To
take
the establishmentof
action
goals,
such
as
concrete
nurseriesfor colouredchildren', were included without any explanationof how
50
be
they would
achieved. The statementwas also littered with contradictions.
'Black people of the world can no longer afford to fight White oppressionas
individuals or in isolated little groups', it explained,before adding that 'Black
Power is a revolutionaryconspiracy The less the numberof peopleinvolved,
...
51
the more securethe conspiracy'. The document'sattitude to white peoplewas
similarly confused."The Black man has no choice today. Either he smashesthat
[white capitalist] systemwith active POWERor the systemwill take advantageof
his passivepowerlessness
and smashhim', it declared,beforestatingthat, 'Where
52
depends
White
on the attitude of the
man'. The contradictionsand
we stand
of termscontainedin the UCPA's SpecialStatementgaveit a flexibility
vagueness
that could mediatebetweenthe different vantagepoints of the group's members,
who were drawn from a variety of countries and classes,but it also meantthe
47Tony Soares,interviewed by the author, 17 September2004.
48 UCPA, 'Black Power in Britain: a Special Statement by the Universal Coloured People's
Association', 10 September1967, contained in the Black groups file at the EM
49Ibid, p. 14.
50Ibid., p. 13. Capitalisation original.
31Ibid., pp. 4,9. Capitalisation original.
51Ibid., pp. 7-8,10. Capitalisation original.

138

Chapter3: "A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


initial surge of organisational energy was not very usefully directed. In an
in
1968,
black
Britain
hostile
this
to
was a
as
people
environment as politically
significant weakness.
Early Black Power leaders were also lacking in the skills to build and
by
Leadership
the
those
most
with
claimed
was
movement.
grassroots
sustain a
Tbree
the
men were publicly
most
publicity.
who
sought
and
ambition
personal
identified as Black Power leaders at the start bf the movement and they attracted

UCPA
X
leader
Michael
They
RAAS
the
and
the majority of
were
mediaattention.
leadersRoy Sawh and Obi Egbuna.53All three were skilful media manipulators,
first
for
flamboyant
journalists,
their
them
made
soundbite
who
ever readywith a
Power.
information
Black
This
for
gavethem a public profile that
on
ports of call
influence
in
black
the
to
their
communityand often
of
out
proportion
was entirely
led to their personalopinionsbeing reportedas the policies of their organisations.
A four-pagefeaturein TheSund;ay TelegraphMagazinefrom May 1969perfectly
54
Power
Black
A
this
thoughtful
trend.
survey
of
generally
sober
and
exemplified
in Britain, the article's major focus was, nonetheless,on Egbuna, Sawh and
Michael X. This was despitethe fact that within the article Egbunaadmittedhe
it
Roy
Sawh's
longer
that
maverick
and
politically
active
was
reported
was no
had
behaviour
recentlycausedhim to be disownedby his latest organisation,the
Black Peoples'Alliance (BPA). 'The criticism most often levelled against[Sawh]
is that he wants to be a leaderof black people in the eyesof white people', the
55
irony.
article's authorreported,apparentlywithout

33As Michael X's characterhas been discussedat length in the previouschapterthe following
on SawhandEgbuna.
sectionconcentrates
' B. Cox, 'White is a stateof mind', TheSund4 TelegraphMagazine,23 May 1969,pp. 14-18.
53Ibid, p. 16.

139

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


Sawhwas a former Communistwho had briefly lived in Moscow in 1962,
but was appalledby the racism there. Returningto Britain, he becamea regular
for
Power.
Black
1967,
Comer
Speaker's
campaigner
an active
and,after
orator at
Sawhco-foundedRAAS in 1965,the UCPA in 1967,the BPA in 1968and the
FreeUniversity for Black Studiesin 1969,as well as a numberof lesssignificant
Association
Arab
People
Coloured
Universal
the
and
organisationssuch as
56
In November 1967he was the second
Black
Power
Party.
(UCPAAA) and the
black man in Britain to be prosecutedfor incitementto racial hatredfor his rabble57
fine.
His
Comer,
L120
Speaker's
naturalaptitude
receiving
a
at
rousingspeeches
for making witty and highly entertainingspeeches,good looks and boundless
for
Sawh
for
asset
an
attractingattentionand whipping
energy new venturesmade
however,
limelight,
for
His
the
meant
enjoymentof
up enthusiasm new groups.
that he was less interestedin the prosaic task of day-to-day organising and
favoured flippant bon mots over thorough analysis.Sawh's unilateral, attentionfor
Peoples'
led,
his
from
Black
behaviour
to
the
example,
expulsion
seeking
Alliance within a year of him being madethe chairmanof the organisation.'The
BPA decided to expel Roy Sawh from the organisationat Sunday's meeting
becausehe madestatementsin the nameof the BPA which werenot true, that BPA
had called a massblack strike for May Ist', reportedthe chairmanof BRAM in
February1969.58Sawh'sdesireto offer up a sensationalstory to the presshad got
the better of him again.Harry Goulbourne,a memberof the BUFP in 1970,also
detecteda degreeof hypocrisybetweenSawh's words and his deeds.'Roy had a
thing about whites, white women', remembersGoulbourne,'but the momenthe
' For biographicalinformationon Sawh,seeibid., pp. 14-19.
57Fellow UCPA members,Speaker'sCorneroratorsand co-defendants
Alton Watson,Ajoy Ghose
and hfichael Ezekiel were also convicted of incitementto racial hatred at the sametrial. See
DPP214428
at theNationalArchive (NA)
3" TheBlackRam 1:3 (15 Febnmry1969),p. 3.

140

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


cameoff the rostrum [at Speaker'sComer] he would go for a drink and he was
how
it
lot
by
his
friends.
And
that
of these
was
was
a
with
white
surrounded
59

chaps'. Sawh's mastery of a charismatic and entertaining style ultimately


of his work with Black Powerorganisations.
underminedthe substance
A respectedplaywright and writer from Nigeria, who won a scholarshipto
study in London, Obi Egbunahad been an active memberof the Committeeof
African Organisationsbeforean educationalexchangeto the United Statesin 1966,
introduced
by
had
British
Council,
him
been
Black
He
Power.
the
to
organised
very impressedby the activistshe met in the United Statesand returnedto Britain
determinedto start a Black Power movement.Black people in Britain, however,
were not ready for Black Power in 1966, 'So,' Egbuna explained in his
autobiography,'biding our time, we contentedourselveswith our old activities in
60
Pan-African
the
movement'. By July 1967 his wait was over. Elected as the
presidentof the newly formed UCPA becauseof his eloquenceand knowledgeof
American Black Power, Egbuna's stewardship quickly led to splits in the
organisationand he himself left to form the Black PantherMovementin April
1968.
Egbuna'smusingson Black Power and his role in it were publishedin a
1971 book called Destroy This Temple: The Voice of Black Power in Britain,
61
his
egotism. Furthermore, anyone who had read Eldridge
which revealed
Cleaver'sSoul on Ice, publishedin Britain two years earlier, would have found
Destroy This Temple highly derivative in style and content.62 For example,
althoughhe was not serving a sentencefor rape, as Cleaverhad been when he
59HarryGoulbourne,
interviewed
by
6
September
2004.
the
author,
60
See0. Egbuna,
Destroy,
pp.17.

61Anothersemi-autobiographical
tome,Dhvy of a Homeless
Prodigal(Enugu,Nigeria,1978),
reprised
partof DestroyThisTemple.
62E Cleaver,Soul OnIce (New York, 1969).

141

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


justification
for
included
Egbuna
On
Ice,
Soul
raping white
a
political
also
wrote
is
Black
White
between
the
'Tbe
the
man not a
woman and
relationship
women.
'T'his
Boy
Brussels',
Little
in
'The
he
of
explained a chapter entitled
normal one',
As
Black
Black
her,
the
target
the
to
a symbol of
vengeance.
of
man,
makes
63The book

Europeanwomanhoodshedeservesto be raped'.

long
also containeda

Harlem
Prison')
From
Brixton
(Tetter
that
to
wasclearly
a
prostitute
address
open
inspired by Soul On Ice's chapter of love letters from Cleaver to his lawyer
Beverley Axelrod and his meditations on black men's difficulties in forming
Britain's
black
In
himself
answerto
positioning
case
as
women.
relationshipswith
EldridgeCleaverfailed to cementhis Black Powercredentials,Egbunahad a final
trump cardup his sleeve.'As I write at this very moment',he declarednearthe end
fast
into
in
language
African
book,
'I
thinking
translating
the
very
my
and
am
of
English'.64
In 1968, Egbuna had also written another, rather different, letter from
Brixton prison, while spending five months on remand there with fellow activists,
Peter Martin and Gideon Dolo, awaiting trial for 'uttering or writing threats to kill

police officers at

65
Hyde Park. The

had
Egbuna
derived
from
a speech
charges

hands
Comer
lay
Black
'What
do
Speaker's
titled,
to
their
on
when
cops
at
given
be
Speaker's
Comer',
he
then
to
the
transcript
the
arranged
of which
men at
The
Egbuna
took
the
to
the
was subsequently
printer
speech
police
and
printed.
reactionto what amountedto little morethanEgbuna's
arrested.The heavy-handed
habitual posturing and the refusal of bail to a middle-classplaywright with no
previous convictions were punitive in effect and, one suspects,intent. Having
63Egbuna,Destoy,pp. 56-7.
" lbidL,p. 155.
63SeeMetropolitanPolice file MEP02/11409: 'Benedict Obi Egbuna,PeterMartin and Gideon
Ketucni Dolo chargedwith uttering and writing threatsto kill police officers at Hyde Park, WT,
held at theNA.

142

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


publicly declaredthat he would neither seek bail nor offer a defence,Egbuna
justification
both,
did
the
that, althoughhe wantedto 'puke fires
eventually
using
could not take
of revolutionaryvenomon the white system',his two co-defendants
66
the pressureof prison. 'Someof you might think this wasthe wrong decision',he
foreif
his
fellow
here
'but
[sic]
to
the
activists,
you were
andsee
what even
wrote
taste of prison is like, and what it can do to a man like Peter,you might think
just
I
do
it
him'.
to
again.
couldn't

67

Convictedand sentencedto a year in gaol,

for threeyears,Egbunawithdrew from activitiesthat might havelanded


suspended
him back in prison. By the time Destroy This Templecameout in 1971,after his
suspendedsentencehad been served,Egbuna's reputation in the Black Power
movementhad beenseverelydamagedand his flamboyantpublicity-seekingstyle
hadgoneout of vogue.
Towardsthe end of the 1960s,Black Poweractivistshad begunto explore
Marxism much more seriously and develop much firmer ideas about their goals.
By 1969, their tactics and leadership had changed too. The fht

wave of self.

aggrandising leaders were castigated by most Black Power supporters as selfserving traitors who were - even worse - not of the people. A statement by the
BPM distancing itself from Egbuna made this its first accusation. '[H]e has never
participated in the community activities of the Movement, and has never identified
68Furthermore,Egbuna
himself with our people at grassrootlevel', it thundered.

kept bad company:'He seeksalliance with the arch tricksters and traitors and
de
Freitas
Michael
[Michael X] and Roy Sawh, who representno
opportunists

660. Egbuna,'Letter from 0. B. Egbunain Brixton prisonto his brothersandsisters',


undated,p. 1.
Held in Tony Soares'privatecollection.
67
lbidL,p. 2.
" BPK 'A statementon Obi BenedictEgbuna(0. B. E.)',
undated,p. 1. Singlepagedocument
held in the IWA archiveat BirminghamCentralLibrary.

143

Chapter3: "A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


69
Having public
black
BPM
people', castigated the
genuine movement of
.
figureheadswho spoketo the pressor campaignedto influencethe white power
during
Black
Power
became
deeply
organisations
unfashionableamong
structure
the movement'ssecondphase.Showing a willingness to lead resultedin many
formerly respectedBlack Power activists being accusedof being bourgeoisand
placing themselvesabovethe people,which in the Maoist-influencedatmosphere
of the 1970sBlack Powermovementwere cardinalsins.Ron Phillips, who ran the
UCPA's Manchesterbranch,was expelled in May 1970, for example,because,
amongotherthings,'He spentmostof his time in the universityandvery little time
with the ordinary working people of Moss Side ... This man indulgesin book
70
Phillips
the
the
neglects
of
people'.
and
experience
also stoodaccusedof
worship
sexism.'Ron Phillips' behaviourtowardsseveralblack women(and white women
too), showsquite clearly that he believesthat womenare a commodityto be used
demandsthat black
astoilet paper', his UCPA accusersspat.'Black consciousness
71
66
dignity
honour
be
is
and
which theirs'. By 1970, the
women treatedwith
macho, flamboyant, attention-seekingleadership style of the Black Power
movementhad become much more sober and low key. Althea Lecointe, Obi
Egbuna'sfemalereplacementat the headof the Black PantherMovement,could
rival any man with her rigid discipline and revolutionaryfervour, accordingto
former PanthersLinton Kwesi JohnsonandTony Sinclair,but went out of her way
to remain anonymousoutside of the movement.She achievedthis with great
from
by
Lecointe,as part of her defenceat the
statements
success:apart
made

69Ibid., p. 1.
70UCPA, 'The exposureand expulsion of
a con (Ron Phillips) by UCPA', May 1970, pp. 1-2. Two
page document held in the Black documents file at the MR.
lbidL p. 2.

144

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


MangroveNine trial in 1971, this author has not been able to find any written
72
by
her.
material or about
The secondphaseof British Black Power, which lasted until 1972, was
disciplined.
While
had
ideologically
this
many
organisationally
and
much more
different
began
it
their
to
that
groups
argue over
advantages, also meant
interpretationsof Black Power and the movementbegan to coalesceinto two
mutually critical camps, one looking to Marxism-Leninism to lead the way out of

Britain's oppressivecapitalism and the other, although it was also socialist,


focusingon Pan-Africanismand the strugglesof the Third World to inspire and
bolster the black struggle in Britain. BLF leader Tony Soaresremembersthe
bickering' of folk who were Marxists and were into socialismand all
&constant
73

that andon the otherside ... thesevery traditionalcultural nationalistpeople'.

Ile heterogeneous
natureof Britain's black populationhad alwaysposeda
seriouschallengeto the unity of the Black Power movement.As groupsbecame
focused
tightly
politically
and appealedto smaller and smaller
more and more
constituencies,they put off many existing and potential supporters.This trend
toward factionalism had been observed as early as February 1970 by visiting

American Black Panther Connie Matthews, who commentedscathingly on it


duringa speakingtour of Britain. 'You're muchtoo fragmentedandyou can't even
organisethis meetingproperly', shetold one gathering.'You gottaget out of your
own individual bagsand do something',shesnappedat another, 'You don't want

72The MangroveNine trial, discussedin the following chapter,took place at the Old Bailey
between5 Octoberand 16 December1971.The nine defendantswere betweenthem accusedof
thirty-oneseriousoffencesarising from disturbancesat a demonstrationagainstpolice harassment
held in Notting Hill on 9 August 1970. Some of the defendants,including Althea Lecointe,
conductedtheir own defence.
73Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.

145

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


74
have
16
to
organisationswhich won't work with white people'. Matthews'
warning was prescient.The increasinglystrict adherenceto different variationsof
Marxist doctrineamongthe Londongroupsmeantthat memberswho did not want
to toe the political line had little option but to splinter off to form new
organisations.The BLF, for example,was foundedin early 1970 by disaffected
membersof the North andWestLondonbranchesof the Black PantherMovement,
who disagreedwith the increasinglystrict Marxism-Leninismof leader Althea,
Lecointeand wanteda looserorganisationalstructurewith a greateremphasison
culture.The BLF andthe BPM had much in common;both agreedthat racismwas
a function of capitalismthat could only be overturnedby socialistrevolution and
both maintainedlinks with the'American Black PantherParty. But the BPM's
inability to tolerate political heterodoxynecessitatedthe creation of the BLF to
its
some
of
represent
members'dissidentviews.
Matthews' criticism of British Black Power groups' unwillingnessto work
with white people was less well-founded. Many British groups' newspapers
reportedsympathetically.
on, and expressedsolidarity with, the republicanstruggle
in Northern Ireland, for example.In fact, in adopting a class-basedanalysisof
Britain's problems,groupslike the BUFP and, after 1973,the BPM - or Black
Workers' Movementas it became- could be saidto haveidentified with the white
working classto the detrimentof the Black Powermovement.In a February1971
interview, BUFP founding memberRicky Cambridgewas askedwhether'with a
political analysis",he saw, 'the root problem as capitalism as opposedto raceT
'Yes", he replied, 'I think the whole businessof race can be projectedout of all

74 D. Humphry, 'Sister Connie


swearsat the British Black Panthers',The Sunday Times,22
February1970,p. 14.

146

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


75
in
forces
the society'. If Cambridgewas
proportion to the correlationof class
its
is
it
hard
line,
BUFP's
to
this
the
continuing
with
square
accuratelyrepresenting
in
from
His
departure
Power
Black
the
organisation
organisation.
existenceas a
September1971perhapsindicatesthat his fellow memberswere not yet readyto
A
idea
the
oppression.
on
grounds
of
racial
of campaigning
completelyabandon
1974 internal discussionpaper explainedthat althoughthe BUFP took MarxistLeninism as its basis and was inspired by the strugglesof the Chinese and
75

Vietnamesepeople, it was not a true revolutionaryvanguardparty. However,


later that year, the front page headline of the BUFP's newspaperBlack Voice
The
Only
Solution",
'Communism
and explainedthat 'More and more
proclaimed
of us working classblack peoplein Britain are ... finding that our only salvation
lies in THE TOTAL DESTRUCTIONOF CAPITALISM' 77And while the article
.
concededthat black workerswere the most exploited sectionof their class,Black
Powerwasnot mentionedat all.
Representingthe other side of the Black Power divide, groupssuchas the
BLF did refuseto work with white peopleandtook a morecultural nationalistline.
The BLF is a black organisation.It's [sic] sole concernis survival for Black
do
issue
Grass
in
1971
Roots
Britain',
'As
not
a
of
a rule we
explained,
people
78
Although it is important
acceptwhite membersor relateto white organisations'
.
not to overplaythe Aftocentrism of the BLF, or other Black Power'groupswith a
by
bent,
the mid-1970s it was the case that their increased
cultural-nationalist
identification with Africa as a source of cultural pride meant that their Asian
less
felt
comfortableparticipating.An article, 'Black Is... ', featuredin
members
73T. Bowden,'Questionson Black Power, TheBlackLiberator 1:2/3 (Winter 1971),p.7 1.
76See'Wbat is the B.U.F.P.', 3 May 1974,unpublished46-pageinternal discussionpaper,held,
unfiledat the IRPL
77'Communismthe only solution',Black Voice5: 1 (1974),p. 1.- Capitalisationoriginal.
78GrassRoots1:2 (7 July 1971),p. 2.

147

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


the May 1974 issue of Grass Roots, defined black in a way that completely
define
for
Black,
Asian
'When
the
word
a
person
people.
we
as
one
excluded
describesthe non-white race, the people that person springs from", the article
79
The
African
Pace
The
'in
People'.
Tony Soares
African
and
explained, our case,
lists nationalismas one of the reasonhe decidedto withdraw from the BLF in
becomevery Afrocentric', he says.'I was one of the last Asians
...
left there, so my own personalposition was getting difficult'. 80Sri Lankan-bom
1977.'It had

Sivanandanalso noticed the negativeimpact of cultural-nationalistAfrocentrism


on the Black Power group he was closestto, the BUFP. 'Black nationalismto a
81
broke
down
Black
Power',
he
certainextent
recalls.
Whetherone belongedto a more cultural nationalistor a Marxist-Leninist
Black Power group, community self-help projects were an essential part of one's
activities. But although setting up supplementary schools, nurseries and youth
long-lasting
impact
had
a
positive
and
often
clubs
on their immediate communities,
these activities advanced Black Power groups' underlying political aims at a
painstakingly slow rate. Whether the fmal goal was revolutionary black
in
Third
World (the doctrine of the quasi-anarchist, culturalthe
nationalism
nationalist BLF), socialist world revolution (desired by the Marxist-Leninist
BUFP), or the end of capitalism and liberation of all oppressedpeople (the stated
aim of the BPM), all three groups agreed that racism was a tool of capitalist
domination and that only a revolutionary change in society would bring about
racial equality. To achieve this they all adopted the same strategy of building a
revolutionary black consciousnessat the grassroots level, although the BUFP and

79'BlackIs...', GrassRoots3:3 (May 1974),p.7.

soTony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.


" A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.

148

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


BPM were preparedto work with revolutionarywhite groupswhile the BLF was
into
black
BLFs
The
the
community ran the risk of
approachof retreating
not.
contracting the Black Power movement's influence even further, while Black
Power groups' revolutionaryfervour scaredoff middle-classWest Indians,most
Asians (who believedin economicadvancementand organisingthroughthe trade
union movementand were not preparedto sacrifice their religious beliefs for a
secular revolution) and potential white allies like anti-racist liberals and the
CommunistPartyof GreatBritain (CPGB).
Pamphletspublished-bythe CPGB show that the party had an impressive
understandingof the problemsfacing black immigrants,the injusticeof their being
for
scapegoated Britain's pre-existing social and economic problems, and the
82
existence of trade union racism. -Me Party also campaignedon behalf of
incarceratedAmericanBlack PowerheroesAngela Davis, herselfa memberof the
83It was, however,completelyopposedto separatist
CPUSA,and GeorgeJackson.
black organisations,even Marxist ones, becauseit believed they divided the
working class.The CPGB had reactedless than enthusiasticallyto the arrival of
committedanti-racist campaignerCommunist Claudia Jonesin the 1950s,even
thoughshe had beena dedicatedmemberof the CPUSA, and it reactedto Black
Power activists' desire to place black people at the vanguardof revolutionary
Hence,
equal
with
suspicion.
politics
a report on racial discrtimmationby CPGB
memberAsquith Gibbes, from March 1968, acknowledgedthe validity of black
dissatisfactionbut not of Black Power.'We haveto try to understandwhy andhow
12Ilm representativeexamplesof pamphletswere, H. Bourne, 'Racialism: Causeand Cure,,
1965,pp. 14, London District Committeeof the ConnnunistParty, 'Brothers in the Fight for a
BetterLife, undatedbut pre-decirnalisation,
andCommunistParty,'One Race,Ilie HumanRace:a
Communist Party broadsheet on the menace of racism', 1975, in CPALON/RACE/01/1,
1/02and CPALON/RACE/02/02
CPALONIRACE/O
respectively,held at the LabourHistory Archive
andStudyCentre,ManchesterUniversity.
' SeeCPALON/RACEIO
1/02.

149

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


thesefeelingsuponwhich black power [sic] basesitself actuallyarise,andwe have
to recognisethe positive elementsin them', he wrote, 'even thoughunscrupulous
demagogues
exploit them.Thesepropagandistsmouth revolutionaryphraseswhile
94
in practicethey remainoutsidethe struggle'. The CPGBregardedBlack Power's
CommunistheroesMao TseTung, Leon Trotsky and CheGuevarato be dangerous
dissidents.'Many of these[British Black Power] groupshavelinks outsideBritain
with Trotskyist and Maoist circles and are stronglyanti-Communist',reportedthe
85
international
CPGB's
affairs committee. StokelyCarmichael'sreportedcriticism
impression
in
left
CPGB's
1968
April
the
that Black Power
the
reinforced
white
of
into
heart
'Marxism
takes
anti-white
movement.
a
separatist,
only
account
was at
the economicaspectof the struggle.It cannothelp black peoplebecauseours is
more social and cultural than economic', a CPGB memo reported Carmichael
looking
Marx
honkie,
don't
black
'Besides,
was
a
we
up
and
want
people
saying,
86
is'.
he
to no white manno matterwho
Although coming from different parts of the political spectrum,both the
CPGBandwhite liberalsmistakenlyperceivedthe Black Powermessageto be that
all white peoplewere the enemy.While, during the 1960s,this had not beenthe
case,by the early 1970sgroupslike the BLF andBRAM did believethat the white
working classhad beenso corruptedby capitalismthat it was beyondredemption.
But without white suppor4 even if every black person in Britain had been
for
the
need a Black Powerrevolution,they would still only havehad
persuadedof
the supportof about3 per centof the population.And evenif they hadbeenarmed,
" A. Gibbes, 'Ile fight against racial discrimination, 9-10 March 1968, p. 2. See file
CP/LON/RACE/02/01held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester
University.
85'Racialismand"Black Powee-, informationdocumentpreparedfor meetingof the International
Affairs Committee,10May 1968,in ibid..
" Memo from JohnnyW. to JackWoddis,reportingon Carmichael'sspeechat the NationalBlack
Anti-War,Anti-Draft Union Conferencein April 1968in ibid..

150

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


Power
British
Black
activistswere not, successwould still almostcertainly
which
haveeludedthem - despitea wider supportbaseand a readysupply of guns,the
AmericanBlack PantherParty had hardly got very far in fomenting a revolution
acrossthe Atlantic. Therefore,althoughthe secondphaseof Black Power was
its
A
focused
achievable.
and organised, political aims were no more
more.
former
Black
momentum,
as
movementwithout realisableaims cannot sustain
PantherDarcusHowe realised. 'Once you set your sights on "The Revolution!',
have
he
lot
demoralised
it
doesn't
to
a
you
are
going
of
people',
come
when
87

reflected.

One of the factorsbehind the movement'sdecline in its third phase,was


that activistslost their motivation to pursuepolitical revolution as a practicalaim
and redirected their energies into self-help projects with more immediately
demonstrableresults; cultural forms of resistance;or increasingly nebulous
intellectual debatesabout revolutionary theory. A fine example of the latter
tendency,Ricky Cambridgeand Colin Prescod'sjournal The Black Liberator, a
self-styled'theoreticaland discussionjournal for black revolution', foundedat the
densely
1971,
was
so
written and impenetrablethat Prescodliked to joke
end of
88
footnotes
had
footriotes'.
By 1977,evenTony Soares,oneof the
that, 'even our
most active and committedanti-colonial and Black Power campaigners,who had
in
deter
let
him from following his political ideals,had
prison
severalspells
not
Black
feeling
Power.
'I
that we werevery much
the
the
of
promise
up
got
given on
he
in
saysof the BLF. 'We werenot makinganyprogressand
going round circles,

'7 Transcript of an unpublishedinterview with Anne Walmsley, 16 January 1986, p. 7. The


documentis part of the CAM papersheld at the GeorgePadmoreInstitute(GPI).
88TheBlack Liberator 1:1 (Sept/Oct1971), p. 1. Colin Prescod,interviewedby the author,20 July
2004.

151

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


I could not see it going anywhere'.89He quit the organisation, went to university to

study sociology and has since developeda successftdcareerin providing social


housingfor ethnicminorities.
Black Power in the United States was an essential source of inspiration to

militant black people in Britain, even though the situation of African Americans
bore little relation to that of black people in Britain. Yet, nothing 'seemedmore
relevant to a settling British black population than those in black America',
remembersformer BUR memberHarry Goulbourne,'The Americans'booksand
90
Black
Panthers
Speak,
popular publications, particularly the
were avidly read'.

'There is no doubt that we were influencedby eventsin the USA and how our
black brotherstherewere meetingthe situation', wrote Roy Sawh.91Linton Kwesi
Johnsonrememberseventsin the United Statesfascinatinghim as a schoolboyin
1968.'When thoseathletesgavethe Black Power saluteat the Olympics,that had
92
impact
lot
he
of us, especiallyme',
on a
recalls. For Johnsonand
a tremendous
his classmateTony Sinclair, their admirationfor American Black Power spurred
them on to look for local militant groups.'The thing that led me into Doiningthe
Black Panther Movement] in the first place was Linton and the American
Sincla03
Often
best-attended
Black Powereventsin
the
movement',remembers
Britain were rallies and demoristrationsin support of imprisoned American
activistslike AngelaDavis, Bobby Sealeand GeorgeJackson.For example,a rally

89Tony Soares,interviewed by the author, 23 August 2004.


90H. Goulboumc, Caribbean, p. 90.
9' R. Sawh, From "ere IStand (London, 1987), p. 33.
92Linton Kwesi Johnson,interviewed by the author, 17 September2004.
" Tony Sinclair, interviewed by the author, 17 September2004.

152

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


funds
for
Soledad
April
1971,
20
Westminster,
the
Hall,
Central
to
raise
on
at
Brothers, attracted 3,000 people and raised E2,000.94

The fact that American Black Power could be such an inspirationaltool


between
differences
led
Power
Black
the
British
to
overlook
marked
activists
often
the contextsof the two movements,Trinidadian student Colin Prcscodran up
he
dared
1967,
July
differences
to questionthe
these
when
early
as
as
against
for
Stokely
'I
Carmichael's
Stokely
armed
call
saw
revolution.
practicality of
Centre',
Students
Prescod
West
Indian
in
London
the
recalls:
at
speak
He had been getting into rhetoric - arm ourselvesand fight and all that
business- but I raisedmy handand said,"Well Stokely,yeah,all the people
here are cheeringlike crazy but actually most of us have never seena gun
like you folks in the States.You know what gunsare like: the idea of taking
be
firing
it
is
we
not something should simply claging about,we
oneup and
don't know what that means7'. I got booeddown of course.
...
Outwardly,British Black Power appearedto be a close facsimile of its American
British
like
Prescod
but
the
acknowledged
movement
activists
within
progenitor,
the differencesin context betweenBritain and the United States.'[Wle were all
first genemtion,we were from different countries,we were not homogenous.It
but
I
like
America,
supposewe were all carriedawaywith the rhetoric
wasn't quite
6
former
Tony
BLF
Soares
By
America',
adoptingthe style and
says
member
of
both
Black
British
Power
American
the
movement,
activists
showed
of
rhetoric
their solidarity with their transatlantic counterparts and hoped their own
important
influential
by
association.By
appear
more
and
organisationswould
links,
however,they also implied a connectionbetween
these
explicitly making
94CPGB,'Speeches
From Ile SoledadBrothersRally, CentralHall, Westminster,April 20,1971-,
London, 1971,p. 1. Pamphletheld in the CPGB archiveat the LabourHistory Archive and Study
Centre,ManchesterUniversity. The rally was organisedby a coalition of groups including the
BPK BUFPandBLF.
95Colin Prescod,interviewedby the author,20 July 2004.
96Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.

153

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


their groups'goalsandtactics,andthoseof the AmericanBlack Powermovement,
at leastin the mindsof the British public, governmentandcriminaljustice system.
The BPM, for example,had no organisationalaffiliation to the American
Black PantherParty(BPP),yet it copiedboth its nameandbrandedits newspapers,
the Black People'sNews Serviceand FreedomNews, with the BPP's trademark
insignia of a black-glovedfist and a leaping panther.It was hardly surprising,
therefore,that most peopleoutsidethe organisationassumed,erroneously,that the
BPM was the British branchof the BPP, or at leastsharedits policies and tactics.
British Panthers,however,alwaysknew that there were significant differences.'I
would saythat althoughthe BPM in Englandwas keento follow the developments
[of the BPP], at no stagein my view did the BPM think that we shouldbecomelike
a carbon copy of them and, for example,pick up the gun', says former British
Black PantherTony Sinclair. 'We recognisedour own situationfor what it wasand
thought we could learn some lessonsfrom theml7 Ile

BPM never actually

advocatedthe useof anythingmoredangerousthan martial artsin self-defence,but


this was hard to tell from readingits literature.For example,the mastheadon the
front pageof the March 1970issueof the Black People'sNewsServiceinterwove
slogansfrom leadingAfrican Americanmilitants Bobby Scaleand Malcolm X in
the sentence,'Black people unite and fight by any means necessaryfor our
liberation

Seizethe time!! The time is now!' andillustratedthem with an image


...

of a snarling black panther and two pictures of men giving the Black Power
it's
'I
think
the namemorethan anythingthat droveour scaringthe police
salute8

97Tony Sinclair, interviewed by the author, 17 September2004.1


" BPM, Black People's News Service, March 1970, 1. The Bobby Seale
p.
quote is 'Seize the time'
and the Malcolm X quote, 'By any meansnecessary'.

154

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


"
Panther
Linton
Kwesi
Johnson.
That
former
Black
British
in this country, says
both
deliberate
disingenuous
theunderstands
one
effort
until
statement seems
its
image
its
link
Movement
by
Black
Panther
to
the
public
with
more
made
its
lack
American
and
of a strategic plan actually to
counterpart,
radical, armed
British
the
to
the
threat
of
state.
security
any
physical
pose
Appropriating the American Black Panther Party's insurrectionary rhetoric

for lessthan revolutionaryendswasnot the solepreserveof the BPM. In 1972,the


BLF's newspaperGrass Roots reprinted from the BPP newspaper,7he Black
100Tony Soares,who
Panther, instructionson how to make a Molotov COcktail.
stood trial for four separateseriousoffencesas a result of the issue,saysit was
definitely not part of a consideredplan to equip Grass Roots readerswith the
know-how to make bombs for a coming revolution. 'No', he laughs. 'Sometimes
they used to struggle to find stuff to put in, which is why that particular thing went
in'. 101Of all the Black Power organisations the BLF's literature suggeststhat it
was the most serious about using guerrilla tactics, if only becauseof its proclaimed
total disillusion with white British society. Soareshad already spent over a year in
for
advocating violent resistancewhile a member of the Vietnam Liberation
prison
Organisation and had been involved in anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique
where he grew up. Looking back, however, he does not rate the BLF's
highly.
'There was a lot of militant rhetoric but I don't
potential
revolutionary
think anybody was organised enough to do something', he says. 'There were a few

99Linton Kwesi Johnson,interviewed by the author, 17 September2004.


100BLF, 'Recipes', Grass Roots, September 1971, p. 5. During the trial it transpired that the
instructions, as printed, did not make a working bomb.
"" Tony Soares,interviewed by the author, 23 August 2004.

155

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


incidents- certainindividuals-Aere

they did throw the odd petrol bomb ... but

they were very, vmy few 9.102

The BLF, in commonwith many Black Power groups,actively supported


form
for
in
had
the
that
success,
a genuinepotential
armedrevolutionarystruggles
like
in
liberation
African
countries
movements
of the guerrilla campaignsof
Guin6-Bissau,Angola, Mozambique,SouthAfrica and Rhodesia.All Black Power
Libertagao
like
de
Frente
the
the
of
groups
progress
newspaperscarriedreportson
de Morambique (FRELIMO), Movimento Popular de Libertagao de Angola
(MPLA), ZimbabweAfrican People'sUnion (ZAPU), ZimbabweAfrican National
da Guinde CaboVerde
Union (ZANU) andthe PartidoAfficano da Independencia
(PAIGC), and Black Power activists looking to actively involve themselvesin an
fandraising
fulfil
by
this
ambition
armedstruggleagainstwhite oppressorscould
for thesegroups.Although the BLF was the only one of the four major London
Black Power groups that openly declared that revolution in Britain was not
in
Third
its
focus
fomenting
the
therefore
that
was
on
revolution
possible and
World, in practice the nearestany Black Power organisationin Britain got to

ftough
African
struggle
was
with
revolutionary
expressing
solidarity
armed
freedomfighters.
Sivanandan thought the biggest threat posed by the concept of
itself.
Black
Power
'Very often we
to
the
was
movement
revolutionaryviolence
Uncle
Toms.
he
'One
two
was
of
sorts
of
people',
contends.
were suspicious
...
The otherswerepeoplewho had stupidbloody politics, who wantedrevolutionand
dangerous.
burn:
"
fag.
baby
light
And
"bum,
they
they
when
were
couldn't
a
said
Thosewerethe sort of peoplewho distractedour organisations;
- andorganisations
102
Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,17 September
2004.

156

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Poweesstrengthsandweaknesses


103
between
Within
Black
Power
the
their
the
collapsed.
groups
contradiction
fiustration
led
to
methods
confusion,
and
revolutionary aims and non-revolutionary
disillusion. 'You see the BLF was trying to put roots down in the community, but
many of the youths were impatient', recalled one anonymous former member, 'and
we got attacked from all sides. Some were calling us extremists, others were saying
104
we were selling out'.

Youthful impatience overtook grassroots political organisation in


September1975 when three black men - Anthony Monroe, Wesley Dick and
Frank Davies- attemptedan armedrobberyon the SpaghettiHouserestaurantin
Knightsbridge,London.105Whenthe police arrivedon the scenebeforethe robbery
hadended,the robberstook eight of the restaurant'semployeeshostageandduring
the five-day siege that followed, declared that they were called the Black
Liberation Army, had links to the BLF and that the robberyhad beenpolitically
106
motivated. After five days, during which none of the hostageswere hurt but
Frank Davies attempted suicide by shooting himself in the stomach, they
surrenderedto the police. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Robert Mark insisted
that there was no political dimension to the Spaghetti House siege. 'From the
it
outset was rightly assumedthat this was a simple armed robbery that had gone
wrong', he wrote in his memoirs, 'any attempts ... to representit as a political act
107
derision
deserved'.
Once in custody,
were receivedwith the
which they clearly

however, the three robbers were held under the same conditions as political
`3 A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.
` BLF memberAli Hassan(not his real name)quotedin H. 0. Nazareth,'No SimpleRobbery',
TimeOut,23-29 November1979,p. 27.
"" Details about the robbery referredto in this and the next paragraphare taken from ibid., A.
Sivanandanand R. Lofters, 'The SpaghettiHouseSiege',Aftas Review2 (Summer1976),pp. 2833 andR. Mark, In TheQfflceof Constable(London,1978).
106The robbery took place on 28 Septemberand the siege lasted
until the early morning of 3
October1975.Two hostageswerereleasedbeforethe endof the siege.
'07R. Mark, In TheOffice,p. 188.

157

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


prisoners. Inspired by IRA members they met on remand, Monroe, Dick and
Davies refused to recognise the court. Having offered no defence, they received
respectivesentencesof seventeen,eighteenand twenty-one years' imprisonment.
The BLF tried to make political capital out of the siege by refusing to

confirm or deny that the three robberswere members.A BLF press statement
releasedjust after the siegedeclaredthat, 'Thesethreemen were fighting to make
white societyrealisethat they can't pushBlack peoplearoundtoo often any more,
but in private many activists thought their methodswere misguided.108'It may
havebeena bit stupid', commentedan anonymousBLF memberwho had known
the trio. 'They wereclearlynot prepared;tnd the communityalsowasnot readyfor
it - to supportor even understandit. 109The British media,public andjudiciary
simply regardedthe trio as common criminals. This assessmentwas probably
correct in the case of Frank Davies, who had only just been releasedfrom a
previous ten-year sentencefor armed robbery, but Wesley Dick had been a
volunteerat the IRR and Anthony Monroe had helpedto set up a supplementary
schoolin Shepherd'sBush,Londonin 1973.It is likely that both Dick andMonroe
would haveusedpart of their shareto Rindblack communityprojectsandthat their
justification for getting involved in an uncharacteristicallycriminal act stemmed
from their political beliefsaboutwhy they, asyoungblack men,wereat the bottom
of the social and economicheap.Ultimately, though,they had taken part in the
robbery more out of fiustration rather than as part of a conscious political
programme.
In the final analysis,most black people in Britain were not interestedin
Black Power.'[M]ost black individuals that I met, who were not membersof the
08Untitled,
BLFpress
intheSpaghetti
1.
Held
House
file
undated
release,
IRR.
p.
the
siege
at
09Nazareth,
'Robbery',p. 27.

158

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


in
London
Black
Power
thought
that
there
movement
no
was
real
radical groups,
hustle",
"politicised
dismissed
thing
the
contemporaryresearcher
a
as
whole
and
' 10At the time shewaswriting, almostall black
SusanCraig damninglyconcluded.
immigrants.
West
Indian
first-generation
in
Britain
Large-scale
and
were
people
Asian immigrationto Britain had only startedtwelve yearsbeforethe Black Power
black
began,
British-born
the
people that
so
second generationof
movement
British politiciansfearedwould reactviolently if they werenot treatedequally,had
were
not quite yet come of age. Most of Britain's Black Power organisations,
peopledby educated,first generationinunigrants.Eventhe younger,working-class
activists,like Linton Kwesi Johnson,who joined the Black PantherMovementasa
teenager,had come to Britain as young children. Hence the Black Power
movementaddressedtheir political concerns,which were more internationalin
outlook andinformedby a memoryof anti-colonialresistancein the countriesfrom
which they hademigrated.
The children of the first generationof the immigrantsfrom the Caribbean,
whose British upbringing gave them a more homogeneous cultural identity and

increasedtheir identification with African Americans,were influenced by the


cultural messagesof pride and resistancethat the Black Power movement
successfullytransmittedwell beyondits membership,but their strugglewas fought
against a more entrenchedracism and in particular against a police force that
black
in
hostility
Brought
men with
viewed young
up
socially
and suspicion.
deprivedareas,let down by a structurallyracist educationsystemthat condemned
them - at best - to unskilled, badly paid jobs, and harassedby a rising far right
presenceon the streetsand a hostile police force, the first generationof British110S. Craig, 'Black Powergroupsin London, 1967-1969',unpublishedBSc thesis,University of
Edinburgh,1970,p. 6.

159

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


born black peoplefacedwhat seemeda more monolithic racismthan their parents.
'The secondgenerationdidn't have a double consciousness,
their culture was
wholly British', saysSivanandan.'So whereaswe struggledfor equalityand antidiscriminationand anti-racism,againsttradeunionsand educationand bussingof
children, housing etcetera,thesekids said "bum, baby burn7, becausethey had
"'
nothing'. 'I think [Black Power] radicaliseda section of young people and
changedtheir perception, explainsTony Soares,'but by then they had an entirely
different problem'.' 12Neither Black Power's successfulassertionthat there was
noihing inherently wrong with being black, nor the government'spassageof a
genuinelypowerful anti-discriminationlegislation in 1976 managedto halt the
deteriorationof the relationshipbetweenthe police and black communities.When
black youths fought a six-hour streetbattle againstthe police at the Notting Hill
Carnival in August 1976, it was an indication both of the successof the Black
Power movementin having instilled in the next generationa culture of proud
resistancethat enabledthemto takeon the police, andof its failure to bring abouta
societyin which they would not haveto.

Conclusion
The Black Power movementin Britain can be credited with both significant
achievementsand failures. Politically, it was a short-livedmovement,starting in
1967 and peaking at the start of the 1970s.Although at least two of the main
LondonBlack Powergroupscontinuedto exist well into the 1990s,after the mid1970sthere was no longer much of a Black Power 'movement. At times far too
reliant on AmericanBla6k Powerfor direction,British Black Powergroupsstarted
11A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.
112
interviewedby the author,23 August2004.
Tony SoareS,

160

Chapter3: 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


off unfocusedand poorly led and evolvedinto doctrinally rigid organisationsthat
had no chanceof building a broadfollowing. Furthermore,the socialistrevolution
that almost all Black Power groupsstatedwas their ultimate aim was no ftirther
it
how
bring
to
advancedby 1976than in 1967,and disagreement
over
aboutsplit
some groups and distractedothers from their fight againstracism. The use of
violent rhetoric by Black Power membersand in their groups' literature was a
tactical error. It handedthe statea justification for using heavy-handedpolicing
methodsand severelegal sanctionsagainstthem, alienatedpotential white allies
and confused members who grew fi-ustrated and disillusioned when their
revolutionarygoalsdid not moveany closer.
On the other hand,Black Powerhad a lasting cultural impact on Britain's
black communitiesandthe way racerelationswasdiscussedin Britain. It helpedto
bring abouta radical changein the racerelationsindustryandcreatedan inclusive
'black' political identity that was capableof temporarilybridging the differences
betweendiversecommunitieswhen unity was neededon specificissues.Although
groups continued to define themselvesand organise on the basis of their
nationality,religion, geographicallocation,ageor relationshipwith the police,they
could also make use of the wider categoryof black when it impartedstrengthto
their campaigns.The movement'scentral messagesof black pride and agency
contributedto more people becominginvolved in both politics and community
organising,especiallyin the fields of educationand housing. Although the Black
Powermovementwas small, its members'militant reffisal to acceptsecondplace
in British society changedthe paradigm.of black protest. It proved to be a
watershedbetweenpast groups,which had struggledagainstcolonialism abroad

161

Chapter3 'A revolutionaryconspiracy'?Black Power'sstrengthsandweaknesses


future
in
Britain,
for
organisations,
the
and
equality
government
and petitioned

for
their rights.
learned
to
their
to
the
push
communities
use powerof
which

162

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
CHAPTER4
Counter-insurgency and community funding: the state response

Introduction
The British state took a carrot and stick approach to dealing with the Black Power
justice
ne
1970s.
late
1960s
the
criminal
police and
and early
activism of the
Power
Black
disrupt
harass
to
and
system were used consistently and effectively
(the
it
COINTELPRO
British
leaders.
Although
their
stopped short of a
groups and
FBI's domestic counter-insurgencyprogramme that was pursued with lethal effect
against the American Black Panther Party), Black Power activists and groups were
kept under constant surveillance, often infiltrated and regularly raided and arrested
by the Special Branch. This resulted in a series of high profile trials such as those
Tony
1971
in
X
in
Nine
October
Michael
November
1967,
Mangrove
the
and
of
Soares of the Black Liberation Front (BLF) in March 1973. To minimise the
however,
Black
Power
there seems
activists,
propagandavalue of Prosecutionsof
to have been an unwritten government policy of using the courts o inconvenience
The
intimidate
but
Black
Power
to
their
to
gaol.
members
groups
send
and
not
Michael
had
learned
lesson
from
its
heavy-handed
treatment
of
a sharp
government
Y., who was sentencedto a year's imprisonment for inciting racial hatred and was
Black
Power
famous
influential
After
in
1968
before.
that,
than
more
and
released
for
trial
offences that, upon
months
spent
on remand awaiting
activists usually
in
in
The
most effective punishment
conviction, rarely resulted custodial sentences.
terms of social control was the suspendedcustodial sentence,which meant that the
convicted person was left with the threat of prison hanging over their head should
they be arrested

i.

163

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
At the sametime, the governmentsoughtto tackle the wider problem of
black disaffection - exemplified most vividly by the rapidly deteriorating
West
Indians
British-born
through
between
the
police and young
relationship
legislationandgenerousfundingof social,cultural andwelfareorganisationsin the
deprivedinner-city areaswheremost black peoplelived! The Urban Programme,
inauguratedin October 1968, was clearly influenced by American President
Lyndon BainesJohnson'sGreat Societyprogrammes,particularly the Economic
OpportunityAct of 1965and its CommunityAction Programs(CAPs).Britain had
learnedfrom Johnson'smistakes,however,and the various Urban Programmes
had
CAP
than
the
schemes,which
were much more closely monitored
early
buy
in
federal
being
fund
to
guns.
money
used
political groupsand even
resulted
The British Urban Programmechannellednational and local governmentmoney
directly to communitygroups,but they had to work within the guidelinesof their
funders. This significantly altered the nature of black community organising,
in
independent
had
been
by
Black
Power
groups
previously
which
and spearheaded
many of the poorestblack communities.To tackle the ongoingproblem of racial
discrimination, successiveLabour -governmentsalso passed two more Race
RelationsActs in 1968and 1976.Although the 1968act waslittle improvementon
its piecemealand weakly enforced 1965 predecessor,the 1976 act was a much
more comprehensiveand hard-hitting law that acknowledgedthe principle of
indirect racial discriminationand vesteda new body, the Commissionfor Racial
Equality (CRE), with the power to investigatepotential discriminatorypractices,
evenwhereno complainthadbeenmade.

1 Although the British-born children of West Indian immigrantswere Britons, the thesis will
themselves.
continueto refff to themasWestIndians,asthis is how manycontinuedto descnibe

164

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
community
and
The British statetook the Black Power movementvery seriously,both at
home and abroad.In the five years after December1965, when inciting racial
hatredwas made a criminal offence,over a third of the peopleprosecutedfor it
were Black Power activists. Although the numberswere small - only thirteen
peoplewere tried in total, five of whom wereBlack Poweractivists- this was still
a disproportionatelyhigh figure both comparedto the percentageof black people
in the general population and the percentageof black members of radical
organisations.For thoseprominentin the British Black Powermovement,raids on
for
their homesand organisationalheadquarters
and arrestsand court appearances
a rangeof allegedoffenceswere an almostunavoidablepart of life. All the known
Black Powerleaders,including Mchael X, Roy Sawh,Obi Egbuna,Tony Soares,
Darcus Howe and Althea Lecointe, were prosecutedat least once for actions
related to their political activities. Abroad, the progress of Black Power in
America, Africa and the Caribbeanwas closely monitored by the British state.
Documentsfrom the British Prime Minister's office show that Britain helpedthe
Bermudangovernmentto searchfor legal groundson which to ban a Black Power
conferenceon the island in July 1969.Unable to preventit, Britain sent Special
Branchofficers to attendthe conferenceundercover,while a Royal Navy ship full
of marineswas redirectedto anchoroff the Bermudancoastduring the conference
weekendunderthe guiseof a training exercise,in casea military interventionwas
2
required. Having barred Stokely Carmichaelfirom returning to Britain in July
1967,the British governmentusedits influenceto dissuadethe state-ownedBritish

2 See PREM13/2885:'Bermuda, Black Power


conference,July 10-13,1%9' and FC044/195:
'"Black Power"political activities1969',both held in theNationalArchive (NA).

165

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Countcr-insurgency
andcommunity
Overseas Airways Corporation from flying him from Trinidad to Bermuda to

3
aftendthe samcconfcrence.
The statetreatedthe Black Powermovementin Britain as highly dangerous
becauseit believed it encourageddiscontent among the already disaffected
in
from
bom
brought
been
had
black
age
an
early
up
or
peoplewho
generationof
Britain. From the mid-I 960sonwards,politicianshadbeenworrying abouthow the
in
British
immigrants,
black
first
who were effectively
wave of
children of the
being
treated as second-classcitizens.
to
react
would
upbringing,
outlook and
Furthermore,two reports publishedin 1967 persuadedMps, academicsand the
United
in
be
British
the
to
those
that
more analogous
race relationsmight
press
Political
Statesthan they had previouslythought.The government-commissioned
in
April,
discrimination,
Planning
(PEP)
Economic
published
report on racial
and
it
but
in
discrimination
Britain
that
was
that
racial
not only existed
concluded
4
in
followed
be.
It
immigrants
it
to
was
perceived
actually worse than non-white
October 1967by the StreetReport, a legal surveyof anti-discriminationlaws in
follow
American
the
that
that
model as
countries
recommended
other
parliament
5
for
future
legislation.
basis
At the sametime as they were looking acrossthe
the
Atlantic for policy inspiration,politicians also noted the hugely destructiveriots
that weretaking placethere.The millions of dollarsof damageto the Watts district
increasingly
in
in
1967
1965
Detroit
July
August
Los
Angeles
them
made
and
of
By
Britain's
level
disorder
the
the
that
cities.
of
same
might engulf
worried
by
fidl
1967
the
me relations
written
newspaperswere
of articles
summerof

3 Fordetailsof communication
between
OfficeandBOACsee
theForeignandCommonwealth
heldintheNA.
BlackPower
July10-13,1969,
'Bermuda:
13/2885:
PREM
conference,
4Political
Planning
1967).
(PEP),
RacialDiscrimination
inBritain(London,
andEconomic
3H. Street,
G.HoweandG.Bindman.
Anti-Discrimination
Legislation:
Report(London,
theStreet
1967).
166

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
academicsdebatingwhetherraceriots might take placein BritairL6The likelihood
of the Americannightmarebecominga British reality seemedto increasebetween
the late 1960sand early 1970sas Britain's economyentereda vertiginousdecline,
bringing with it increasedsocial and classtensions,crime and racial intolerance,
the latter expertly whipped up by Enoch Powell and the increasingly active
National Front. The descentof Northern Ireland into virtual civil war during the
early 1970sshowedthat British society was not immune from bloody sectarian
division andthe IRA's campaignof mainlandbombingsmadedomesticterrorisma
very real fear.
The antagonismbetweenthe police and young black men was such an
openlyacknowledgedsocialproblemby the startof the 1970sthat EdwardHeath's
Conservativegovernmentinstigateda select committee investigationof police'immigrant' relations.Its findings were publishedin 1972,with the government
7
following
both
Although
the report and the
making an official responsethe
year.
government'sresponseconcededfailings in some police procedures,neither
acknowledgedthe existenceof structural racism in the police force, nor the
corrosive effect on race relations of the 1971 Immigration Act, which gave the
police new responsibilitiesand powersto searchfor illegal immigrants.This had a
impact
negative
particularly
on the relationship betweenthe police and Asian
communities,which were the main targets of immigration raids. The sustained
strikes of Asian workers over working conditions and workplace discrimination
alsocontributedto a senseof socialunrest.
6A representativeexamplewas a Sund4 Timesarticle from 30 July 1967,by lawyer
and race
relationsexpertAnthonyLester,titled 'Why it shouldn'thappenhere'.
7 Select Committeeon Race Relationsand Immigratioi; Session1971-1972,PolicelImmigrant
Relations,Volume1. Report(London: RMSO, 1972)and PolicelImmigrantRelationsin England
and Wales: Observationson the Report of the Select Committeeon Race Relations and
Immigration.(London:HMSO, 1973).

167

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
As well as theseexternalfactors,within Westminstera rangeof political
impetus
legal
for the 1976 Race Relations
to
the
and
pressurescombined create
Act. A seriesof PEP reports showedthat the 1968 RaceRelationsAct had had
very little impact on racial discrimination. The passageof the Sex Discrimination

Act in 1975also meantthat the racial and sexualdiscriminationlaws were out of


step,with racial.discriminationclearly the weakerpartner.The scopeand strength
of the 1976RaceRelationsAct, which cameinto force on I January1977,threw
into sharprelief. The act heraldeda new
the half-heartedness
of its predecessors
willingness to confront the problemsof structural racism rather than individual
prejudice and showedthat the governmenthad at least begun to recognisethe
seriousness
of racial discrimination!
of the consequences

The Urban Programme

Britain's Urban Programme,which ran from 1968 until the 1980s,owed a lot to
the Great Society programmesof Lyndon Johnsonand those of his successor
RichardNixon. Prior to the UrbanProgramme'sintroductionin 1968,a numberof
govcmment-employedrace relations workers were sent to America to study its
anti-povertyprogrammes.Although, like Johnson,the British governmentdenied
the link betweencolour and poverty, the Urban Programmewas clearly and at
times explicitly directedat areaswith high percentages
of black residents.Having
learneda lessonfrom the Americangovernment'sdifficulty in controlling how its
CAP funding was deployed, the British governmentwas quite successftdin
bringing manypreviouslyindependentradical black groupsunderthe aegisof the
state through generousbut closely monitored funding agreements.Many Black
$RacialDiscrimination(London:HMSO, 1975).

168

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
Poweractivistsregardedthe Urban Programmeas a form of bribery, while others
for
funding
in
downplay
the social
to
to
their
politics order receive
were prepared
programmesthey werestrugglingto nm.
The Urban Programmewas first mootedby Labour Prime Minister Harold
Wilson during a speechon racerelationsin Birminghamon 5 May 1968.Put into
but
for
four
designed
last
it
five
later,
to
was
years,
was originally
months
action
The
last
1976?
by
Government
Need)
Act
1969
Local
(Social
to
the
until
extended
Home Office administeredthe Programme's overall budget of f.55 million,
disbursingit in stagesto a seriesof mini-programmesaimedat different areasof
James
Secretary
first
in
Home
Announcing
July
1968,
the
the
outline
of
need.
Callaghantried to play down the link Wilson had madein his Birminghamspeech
betweensocial deprivationand high levels of immigrant settlement,insisting, as
Lyndon Johnsonhad in relation to America's Great Societyprogmmmes,that the
10
government'sschemewas colour-blind. One of the two criteria the Home Office
usedto judge which areaswere in urgentsocialneedduringthe initial stagesof the
Urban Programme,however,was whethermore am 6 per cent of school places
"
by
immigrant
were occupied
children. Using the presenceof immigrantsas an
index of urbandeprivationwas not a new thing: underthe Local GovernmentAct
fifty-seven
local
funding
being
1966
to
needy
of
extra
was already
provided
authoritiesselectedpartly becauseimmigrantsconstitutedmore than two per cent
of their populations.Furthermore,although the first phasesof the programme
focusedon the theoreticallycolour-blind issuesof provision of nurseryeducation,
9 It is not clearwhenthe Urban Programme'slifespanwas extendedagain,but Dilip Hiro refersto
Urban Programmefimding being disbursedin 1981 in D. Hiro, Black Britisk WhiteBritish: a
History ofRaceRelationsin Britain (London,1992),pp. 243-4.
'0 See the round-up of news commentaryon Callaghan'sspeechin the Institute of Race
RelationsNewsletter(July 1968),p. 271.
" The otherwasthe level of homelessness.

169

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
community
and
in
implemented
for
homeless,
housing
twelve
the
phase
and services
child-care,
the mid-1970s- was exclusively aimed at funding independentblack self-help
groups.

12

Howevermuch Callaghantried to persuadehis fellow M[Psthat the Urban


Programmewas about poverty not colour, the legislation was clearly aimed at
BenGideon
Sociologists
impact
the
two.
the
the
of
combinationof
countering
Tovirn andJohn Gabrielmadethis point in their persuasiveanalysisof the impact
in
1960s
in
initiatives
black
Britain
the
and
on radical
politics
of government
1970s.'Evidence does suggest, they argued,'that the [Urban] progrmme can
only be understoodagainstthe debateaboutCommonwealthimmigrationand race
13

Wle
defuse
devised
to
as an attempt
a potentiallyexplosivesituation'.
andwas
it is correctto identify the post-warinflux of black immigrantsas a sourceof great
concemto the British govemmentin the 1960s,it was the spectreof repeatedrace
in
in
led
it
fear
'explosive'
America
become
the
that
to
the
situation might
riots
in
lead
decade.
half
The
followed
America's
British
the
of
second
government
believing that tackling inner-city social deprivationwas a vital step in preventing
be
developing
in
its
'The
cities.
ethnic ghettoes
next generationwho will not
immigrantsbut coloured,Britons

full opportunitiesto deploy their


will
expect
...

fiustrate
Home
Secretary
in
Roy
Jenkins
1967.
'If
those
we
skills', said
14
American
1rpe
situation'.
expectationswe shall ... creat[e]an

'2 For more informationon the specificdetailsof the Urban ProgrammeseeE. J. B. Roseet al,
Colour and Citizenship.a Report on British RaceRelations(London, 1969),pp. 621-3 and G.
Ben-Tovimand J. Gabriel, 'The politics of race in Britain, 1962-79:a review of the major trends
and of recent debates'in C. Husband(ed.), Race in Britain. Continuity and Change(London,
1982),pp. 156-8, and F- Holman,'The Urban Programme',Venture23:1 (January1971), pp. I I14.
13G. Ben-TovimandJ. Gabriel,ibid., p. 157.
14Roy Jenkins'30 July 1967speechon racerelationsis quotedin J. Solomos,Black Yout&Racism
and theState.thePolitics of1deologyandPolicy (Cambridge,1988p. 83.

170

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfimding: the stateresponse
The British government,perhapsunsurprisingly, also looked to America for
the solutions to the social problems it was witnessing there. Lyndon Johnson's
Great Society programmes were studied by a number of government-employed
race relations experts during a series of state-funded fact-finding trips to America.
The general secretaryof the National Commission for Commonwealth Immigrants
(NCCI), Nadine Peppard, reported back from her month-long trip in 1966 that,

'Whatever its faults

lessonsto be derived from the Anti-Poverty


there
are
...
Programmefor Britain'. 15She was particularly keen that Britain should follow
America's lead by taking 'an imaginative approachto the administration of
fLmds'16Another lengthy fact-finding trip was undertakenthe following year by
.
Mark Bonham-Carter,the headof the Race RelationsBoard and in 1969 Dipak
Nandy, director of the government'sclosestindependentrace relationsadvisors,
the Runnymede Trust, reported back enthusiastically on President Nixon's
attemptsto get small businessesinvolved in the regenerationof poor African
Americanareas.Americanswere invited to bring their expertiseto Britain too. In
July 1967RogerW. Wilkins, directorof America's CommunityRelationsService,
a conciliatorybody setup underthe 1964Civil RightsAct, spenttwo daysbriefing
the Home Secretary,various MPs and police representativesin London on how
17
Americawasdealingwith urbanpovertyin the ghettoes.
Taking its lead from the most successfulGreatSocietyinitiative, the Head
Start pre-schoolprograziune,the Urban Programme'sinitial focus was on the
provision of nurseryeducation.The British governmentalso introducedits own
13NCCI, 'Report of the GeneralSecretary'svisit to the USA October 12'hto November4*
and
November13' to 19d'1966',p. 6, held in NCCI file at the Instituteof RaceRelations(IRR).
16
Ibid, p. 6.
17See NCCI/67/50: 'Revised programmeof the visit
of Mr Roger Willdns, Director of the
communityRelationsService,USA, Thursday6 July to Thursday13 July 1967'. Documentheld
in the NCCI file at the IRK

171

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
versionof America's CAPs, a less successfulinitiative to help poor communities
help themselvesby settingup local anti-povertyboardsthat gavelocal peoplereal
control over how funding was spent in their area. This conceptwas known as
'maximum feasible participation' of the poor and in many casesrapidly led to
corruption and/or radicalisation.British politicians were quick to learn from the
mistakesof the early CAPs:Urban Programmefunding in Britain wasmuch more
tightly controlledandits recipientsmorecarefullyvettedthan the Americangroups
that had received CAP money in the mid-1960s. The concept of 'maximum
feasible participation', central to the philosophy of the early CAPs but quietly
droppedby the endof 1966,wasalsonevera factor in Britain's UrbanProgramme.
Furthermore,affirmative action and the idea of ethnic monitoring were still
anathemato British leadersin the early 1970s and so were not included in
governmentpolicies.
In order to obtain Urban Programmegrantslocal councilshad to apply to
the government.Initially, funding applicationswere only acceptedfrom thirty-four
councilsidentified by the governmentas being in areasof specialsocial needand
the money they receivedcould be spent directly by them. After phasetwo, all
councils were eligible to apply, but on behalf of local community groupswhose
projectsthey hadvettedanddecidedto supporLGroupswere,therefore,only likely
to receiveUrban Programmemoney if they proposedinitiatives which fitted in
with their local council's strategicaims and were run by peoplesympatheticto its
political goals.This waspartlyjustified by the fact that eachcouncil wasobligedto
provide 25 per cent of successfidgrant bids from local funds.Many former Black
Poweractivists,nevertheless,
blamedthe targetingof black communitygroupsfor
UrbanProgrammefunding during the mid-1970sfor stymieingthe developmentof

172

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
a radical independentblack political movement.'The governmentstarteda lot of
buy
it
intended
leadership.
By
1970s
that
to
the
the
out
programmes
were
early
becameall grantsand UrbanAid [sic], arguesTony Soares.'A lot of moneywas
going in, employingpeople,channellingthem into community work and taking
them away from political work. They all got caughtup in somekind of project or
SA
'
because
before'.
Black
therewas moneyon a scalethey'd neverseen
the other
Unity and FreedomParty (BUFP) documentfrom 1974voiced similar suspicions
about the motivation behind expensivegovernmentinitiatives like the Urban
Programme. 'Blacks organising themselves outside the state fi-amework
...
representeda threat to the state', it postulated.'The alternativeswhich the state
offered were plush offices, staff salaries [and] to discuss the problems and
19
in
its
laws:
strategies compliance with the state and
within the state structure'.
Sivanandan agrees: 'They bought off everybody except [Harambee-founder
Brother] Herman with Urban Aid', he says. 'Even Herman took the money - he
just thought he could tell them what to do with iti, 20
.

Sociology professor John Solomos viewed the Urban Programmeas


disastrousfor independentblack political organising.In a 1977paper on 'Black
militancy and class conflict', he describedUrban Programmefunding as more
damagingthan police harassment.'Still worse', he wrote, 'a self-helpprogramme
for Black groupswas financedwhich could only havethe effect of castratingthe
21
groupswho took the money. Self-help had always been a key tenet of Black
Power philosophy and community work was a central feature of Black Power
Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,17September
2004.
BUFP, 'What Is Ile B.U.F.P. [sic]', 3 May 1974,p. 24. Unpublisheddocument,held,unfiled, at
the IRR.
20A. Sivanandan,
interviewedby the author,28 June2004.
21J. Rex, "Blackmilitancyand class
conflict', July 1977,p. 22. Unpublishedpaperheld, unfiled, at
the EM

173

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
Headstart
BLF
for
the
a
In
London,
the
nursery,
ran
example,
activities.
groups'
Sundaysupplementaryschool, a 'black community legal advice serviceand the
Black Beretsyouth club; the BUFP ran annualSouth East SummerSchools;the
UCPA's Ajoy Ghoseandhis wife ran the Malcolm X Montessorischool;RAAS's
homeless
for
hostel
Rinctioned
House,
Black
youths;
The
headquarters,
as a
also
black
to
(and
legal
fi-ee
BPM
sometimesrepresentation)
advice
provided
and the
landlords
having
their
had
been
or
with
problems
were
or
arrested
who
youths
Liberation
in
Afro-Caribbean
Manchester,
in
Elsewhere
the
country,
employers.
Movement leader Gus John helped set up the George Jackson Trust which
for
black
training
hostel
accommodation,educationand employment
provided
James
Nello
the
United
Association
West
Indian
in
1970
the
set up
youths,and
In
Birmingham
the
legal
courses.
and
education
services
centrewhich provided
African-Caribbean Self-Help Organisation (ACSHO), whose newspaper,
HarambeeBlack Unity, sporteda black gloved fist, ran a supplementaryschool
2
andwelfareadviceservice!
When the Urban Programmechoseto singleout black self-helpgroupsfor
funding,therefore,manyof the groupsit was targetinghad closeassociationswith
not
Black Power.As local authoritiesand the Home Office were,understandably,
Power
Black
funding
to
to
groups with political objectives,
allocate
prepared
in
Although
the
their
had
tough
work
then
to
choice.
make a
groups and activists
helped
Black
Power
it
in
itself,
in
also
many respects an end
community was
introduce
their
them
to
local
political
and
people
a
with
rapport
groups establish
Programme
Urban
in
link
had
be
broken
This
to
to
order receive
vital
philosophy.
22Forinformation
1971,p.
EveningNews,28 December
centre,seeManchester
ontheNefloJames
in
Harambee
ASCHO
For
CLR
James.
the
5. Nello wasthenickname
see
reports
of
activities
of
Black Unity,undated,held,unfiled,at the EM ASCHOwasindependent
of BrotherHerman's
Project.
LondonHarambee

174

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
funding. On the other hand, Black Power community initiatives were chronically
into
hundreds
Urban
Programme
of
which
could
run
grants,
under-funded and
thousandsof pounds, were extremely useful. In 1975, for example, Harambeeand
The Melting Pot Foundation in London and the George Jackson Housing Trust in
Manchester, all community projects run by former Black Power activists, received

Urban Programmegrantsof E281,000,E51,000and 02,000 respectively- more


moneythan they could possiblyhaveraisedindependently3The existenceof the
Urban Programmeforced Black Power activists to choosebetweenthe political
be
Virtually
to
the
chose
everyone
and
practical objectivesof community work.
pragmatic.
If the strategicaim of the Urban Programmewas to separatethe practical
it
into
bring
from
its
ideological
base
Black
Power
the
the
and
movement
work of
indeed
it
the
of
state,
orbit
was
successful.The Black Powermovementwas split
by the questionof whether governmentmoney could be usedto achieveradical
objectives.Thosewho took moneyor acceptedjobs were denouncedas sell-outs,
those who did not found their financial and political independencecame at the
price of influenceand effectiveness.Brother HermanEdwards,a former member
for
hostel
founded
Racial
Action
Society
Adjustment
(RAAS)
the
a
of
who
homelessyoungblack ex-convictsat the start of the 1970s,was deeplyembittered
by his encounterwith the Urban Programme.Having refusedon principle to take
govemmen moneyfor manyyears,he eventuallyaccepteda grant- but refusedto
follow the rules on how it should be spentand accountedfor. As a result, in the
mid-1970s,he servedseveralshort prison sentencesfor embezzlement.Edwards

23Figuresfrom Urban ProgrwnmeCirculars, Nas 11 and 12 (London:HMSO, 1975)quotedin


Sivanandan,'Race,classand the state:the black experiencein Britain', Race& Class 17.4(1976),
p. 364.

175

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
ultimately came to see the Urban Programme as 'The biggest con trick of this
is
like
from
brilliant
"aid
Nyerere
'Julius
the
thinker
that
a
west
said
century'4
rope around your neck"', Herman wrote. 'Ile

west bring [sic] that same filthy

dirty trickery and now calls it urban aid [SiC],? 5

Black Power and the criminal justice system


Between1967andthe mid-I 970sthe British stateusedthe criminal justice system
to inhibit the Black Powermovement.The new criminal offenceof 'incitementto
racial hatred', introducedby the 1965RaceRelationsAct, was, ironically, one of
the first legal weaponsit used. Although the state viewed Black Power as the
mirror imageof white supremacy,Black Poweractivistswere, in fact, treatedless
Theseblack defendantsandtheir
sympatheticallyin court than white supremacists.
organisations,however, quickly realised,the propagandavalue of being sent to
prisonfor their political beliefs.To minimisethis, the statedevelopedan unwritten
in
handing
down
Power
Black
to
policy of
non-custodial sentences
activists
politically sensitivetrials, eventhoughmanyweredeniedbail prior to appearingin
courL

The criminal offence of incitementto racial hatred was introducedby the


1965 Race Relations Act and left in place by the 1968 Race Relations Act.
Prosecutionsfor inciting racial hatred could only be instigatedby the AttorneyGeneraland carrieda maximumpenaltyof two years' imprisonmentand a fine of
E1,000.Although part of an act designedto lessenracial discritnination,nearly 50
per cent of the defendantsin incitementto racial hatred trials were black. The

24I-L Edwards,'Loyalty and DUV, undatedspeechtranscriptheld in the HarambeeMe at the MR,


6.
Ibid., p. 6.

176

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
community
and
incitementclausewas,however,rarely used.In the almostthreeyearsbetweenthe
passageof the first and secondRaceRelationsActs, the Attorney-General,Elwyn
Jones,authorisedonly six trials of thirteenmen.Two of theseconcernedfive Black
Poweractivists.A ftulher proposedprosecutionfor incitement- againstAmerican
Black Power leaderStokely Carmichaelfor speecheshe had madein London in
July 1967- was shelvedwhen the Home Secretarybannedhim from returningto
Britain instead.Ile new criminal penalty set out by Britain's first law against
racial discriminationwasthereforebeingusedagainstblack peoplealmostas often
it
as wasagainstwhites.
The reasonfor this was that, when deciding whether to prosecute,the
Attorney-Generalassumeda level playing field betweenBlack Power activists,
fascistandneo-Naziagitatorsand far-right MPs like EnochPowell, Cyril
seasoned
Osborneand Duncan Sandys.This led him to treat the blood-curdlingrhetorical
excessesof anonymousBlack Power advocatesin front of small audiencesat
Speaker'sComer as more threateningto public order than the more soberly
wordedanti-immigrantstatementsof MIN like EnochPowell and DuncanSandys
Furthermore,becausethe Attomeywhich routinely filled the nationalnewspapers.
General, all judges and magistratesand the overwhelming majority of jury
memberswerewhite andmiddle-class(propertyownershipwasa conditionofjury
service until 1972), they rarely perceivedthe difference in impact betweenthe
racism of white majority societyand the reactiveverbal abuseof a few hundred
Black Poweractivists.A July 1967article from TheSun newspaper,for example,
while deploring the extremism of speechesby both Duncan SandysMP and
Michael Y, nonethelessconcludedthat, "Black intoleranceis no more acceptable

177

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
community
and
26
in
in
This
it
is
than white ...
comparisonwas reiterated
apartheid reverse'.
Home
Office,
for
State
by
Under-Secretary
the
the
of
parliamentshortlyafterwards
David Ennals,when he declaredin October1967that 'Black Powerin Britain and
7
To
is
tune
the
times'?
politicians and the
with
out
of
white supremacyelsewhere
between
drawing
1970s,
late
the
during
1960s
the
parallels
and early
media
totalitarian apartheidregime of South Africa and an unarmedclique of Black
Poweractivistsin Britain seemedreasonable.
Black Poweractivistsusedinsulting, threateningand abusivelanguagefor
a variety of reasons:to make up for their lack of numerical and organisational
strength,to grab their audiences'attention,to emphasisethe seriousnessof their
just
But
Attorney-General
to
the
seemsto
and
sometimes
entertain.
grievances
have taken statementsby Black Power activists literally. Ilierefore, when police
die',
'We
English
'I
like
to
must
people
seeall
reportedstatementssuchas, would
is
killing
by
human
like
being
thinks
that
the
andmurdering'
white
man
a
acts,
act
decided
he
have
do
'The
the
same,
whites
usedgunsand power and we shall
and
29MPs like DuncanSandysand Enoch
it was in the public interestto prosecute.
Powell, on the other hand, as well as extreme-right groups like the Racial
PreservationSociety(RPS)and the British National SocialistMovement(BNSM)
could discourseat length about the threat to white societyfrom disease-carrying
immigrantswith atavistic cultures,and the undesirabilityof miscegenation,with
little fearof beingprosecuted.

I The quotationfi-ornan article in TheSun on 26 July 1967is includedin TheInstitute of Race


RelationsNewsletter(September1967),p. 336.
27David Ennals'speechin Wolverhamptonon 9 October1967is reportedin TheInstitute ofRace
RelationsNewsletter(December1967),p. 417.
'Mese three quotesare taken from police transcriptsof speechesat Speaker'sComer by Alton
Watson,Roy SawhandAjoy Ghoserespectively.SeeDPP2/4428:'Alton Watson,Roy Sawh,Ajoy
ShankarGhose,MichaelEzekiel,RAAS andUCPA, 23-24 August19671,held at theNA.

178

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
This was especiallytrue if they obeyedthe letter, althoughnot the spirit, of
the RaceRelationsAct and were a personof high social standing.The AttorneyGeneraloften seemedloath to ascribeill motivesto well-heeledwhite peoplewhen
they made inflammatory racist statements.Furthermore,as the 'problem' of
immigration
coloured
was a legitimate topic of discussionfor white Britons,
discussingit - even in very hostile terms - was not interpretedas encouraging
hatred of black people. 'Since the underlying assumptionsof most racialists,are
fmnly enshrined in the Immigration Act of 1971', barrister Ian Macdonald
commentedacidly in 1977, 'all kinds of racist propagandacan be dressedup as
29
for
Act.
This meantthat despiterepeatedcalls
proposals the amendmentof that
for Powell and Sandysto be prosecutedfor incitementto racial hatred,neitherwas
taken to court. In July 1967,for example,Sandyswas reportedto the AttorneyGeneral because of a nationally-reported speech in which he called for
At
govemment-funded.
repatriationand a completeban on non-whiteHintmigration.
the heartof his argumentwas a fear of miscegenation.'The Governmenthasjust
publisheda reportwhich urgesus to accepta large increasein mixed marriagesas
an essentialelementin -our declaredpolicy of integration7, he erroneouslystated.
'The breedingof millions of half-castechildrenwould merelyproducea generation
30
increased
tensions'. Therewere also numerousdemandsfor
of misfits and create
EnochPowell to be prosecutedafter his infamous'Rivers of blood' speechon 20
April 1968. Even Conservativeleader Edward Heath describedthe speechas

" I. Macdonald
RaceRelations- TheNewI4m (London,1977),p. 139.
30Quote reportedin The Institute Race RelationsNewsletter(June/July1967), 246. The
of
p.
Attorney-Generalannouncedhis decisionon 21 September1967that DuncanSandyswould not
faceprosecution.

179

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
community
and
Gracialistin tone and liable to exacerbateracial tensions',but the Attorney-General
31
did
find
in
it
interest
to prosecute.
the public
still
not
Successfulprosecutionfor incitementto racial hatredrestedon convincing
thejury of threefactors:that the defendantshad usedinsulting language,that they
had doneso with the intent of stirring up hatredagainsta group on the groundsof
its colour or nationalityand that their actionswere likely to havethis effect. Once
in the dock,the convictionratefor black defendantswas 100per cent- doublethat
for whites.The fact that all the black defendantsdecidedto representthemselvesin
court may havebeenpartly responsiblefor their higher convictionrate.(Although,
as evidencefrom the next sectionwill show,defendingoneselfwasnot necessarily
foolhardyif onewerea Black Poweractivist.) It wasalsothe casethat all the black
defendantshad talked about white people in openly violent terms,whereaswhite
tendedto usecodedlanguage,allowing them to argueit hadnot been
supremacists
their intention to insult. The Institute of Race Relations drew attention to this
loophole in Colour and Citizenship.'Section 6 will lead to the prosecutionand
conviction of thosewho use crude,flamboyant,vulgar speech',noted its authors,
'but it will not touch those who expresshighly prejudicial opinions in a more
32
sophisticatedstyle'. Even after taking these factors into account,however, it
seemsclear that juries and judges had different standardsfor black and white
defendants.In R v. Hancock, the March 1968 trial of four Racial Preservation
Society(RPS)membersfor publishinga racistmagazinecalledSouthernNews,the
defencesuccessfullyarguedthat SouthernNews could not have beenintendedto
be offensive to black people becauseit was predominantlydistributed in East
31Heathsaid this when dismissingPowell from the
shadowcabineton 28 April 1968.His speech
wasreportedin TheInstituteofRace RelationsNewsletter(April/May 1968),p. 157.TUeAttorneyGeneralannounced
on 2 May 1968that Powellwould not faceprosecution.
32E.JJ3.Roseet al, Colour
and Citizenship.,a Reporton British RaceRelations(London, 1969),p.
689.

180

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
Grinsteadwheretherewas a tiny black population.In the November1967trial of
Michael Y, however,the fact that the speechfor which he was being prosecuted
had beendeliveredin a privately rentedhall in front of a small audienceof Black
Powersupportersdid not stophim beingconvicted.
While juries had little time for Black Power activists' argumentthat their
in
be
assessed the context of an exploited minority
anti-white sentiments should
dismiss
to
in
hostile,
living
they
were often prepared
racist country,
a
group
benign
the
ill-judged
but
of
overstatement
essentially
aggressivewhite racism as an
An
for
Britain.
black
people presented a social problem
accepted truth that
American academic who sat in on the trial of the four members of the RPS in
legal
disguised
by
level
1968
March
as
the
of racist propagandising
was shocked
trial
the
judge.
by
'I
that
the
of
the
mood
general
can
say
argument allowed
descendedto a racialist level which for an American was reminiscent of "cornP.
Richard
Professor
in
in
in
1940s',
invective
Mississippi
the
trial
wrote
a
pone'
3
in
for
IRR?
Longaker a report
the

Such notions as miscegenation,the purity of the races, dominance of


inferiority
in
inherent
the
of
the
genetic
coloureds schools,
crime rate, and
Anglo raceswere put forward to the middle classjury
thosenon-Caucasian
Daily
from
judge
defence
The
doubt
the
the
words
strong
also
read
andno
...
Expresson immigrationand said that his clients,althoughmorehard-hitting,
34
issue.
wereengagedin the sameenterpriseof public educationon the
The fact was that the Racial PreservationSociety'svicious scaremongering
about
fall
be
to
Britain
to
within the
could plausibly argued
non-white peoplecoming
best
immigration.
Its
debate
the
that
the
contention
on
respectable
parametersof
just
immigrants
Britain
to
an extremeextension
was
waszero
numberof non-white
" 'Memorandumfor Mr E. J. B. Rose on the Racial IncitementTrial, LewesAssizes,Sussex,
March 25-28,1968', written by RichardP. Longaker,professorof political science,University of
California,3 April 1968,p. 2. Documentheld,unfiled,at the MR.
34
Ibid, p. 2.

181

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
A
by
'numbers
the
month
politicians.
and
academics
game' argumentused
of
beforethe RPS trial began,for example,parliamenthad voted overwhelminglyto
living
British
Asians
designed
immigration
to
that
stop
was clearly
approvean
act
in EastAfrica from exercisingtheir right to live in Britain. Within the contextof
that nonBritain in the late 1960sand 1970s,wheretherewasa political consensus
incitement
it
harder
immigration
to
to
prove
white
was undesirable, was much
racial hatredin caseswith white defendantsthanwith black.
Prosecutionsunder section six of the 1965 Race Relations Act, only a
trickle in the late 1960s,dried up completelyin the 1970s.The inetTectiveness
of
the law in preventinganything but the most explicit racial hate-mongeringhad
beennotedin a selectcommitteeinquiry publishedin 1972,which concludedthat
'Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1965 should either be repealed or
occasionallybe brought to bear against publications and speechesmanifestly
s
White
hatred'?
The
to
a
governmentresponse,publishedas
seeking stir up racial
Paper in October 1973, declined to follow either recommendation.Describing
section six as 'unobjectionable',it ascribedthe paucity of prosecutionsto the
would
successof the law's deterrenteffect andassertedthat The Attorneym-General
it
believed
hesitate
his
if
he
that
to
to
prosecuteor give
consent a prosecution
not
36
be
in
interest
do
the public
to So'.
would
One of the reasons the Attorney-General may have been so reluctant to
initiate incitement prosecutions, even of Black Power activists, was the high
in
1967 (R v.
Michael
X
The
that
trials
trial
publicity
volume of
such
attracted.
of
Malik) was a case in point and generatedan enormous amount of publicity for the
33SelectCommittee
PolicelImmigrant
on RaceRelationsand ImmigratiomSession1971-1972,
Relations,Volume1.Report(London:HMSO,1972),p. 23.
16
Policefimmigrant Relations in England and Wales. Observations on the Report of the Select
Committee on Race Relations and Immigration (London, HMSO, 1973), p. 8.

182

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
community
and
Black Powermovement.Michael X was indicted in September1967for a speech
he had given in Readingon 24 July in which he had said, 'Whites ... are vicious
black
his
lay
hands
If
a
woman
on
and nastypeople.... everyou seea white man
kill him instantly'?7 Pleadingnot guilty, Michael X conductedhis own defence,
front
in
his
forward
him
to
of an eager
views
plenty of opportunity put
giving
in
October,
became
The
the
when
of
story
part
press.
newspapercoverageactually
the trial had to be abandonedafter TheSundayTimespublishedan unfavourably
38
A
judge
decided
X
Michael
two-day
that
the
was
prejudicial
captionedpictureof
.
retrial at the startof November,however,resultedin his convictionand a one-year
X
failed
Michael
21
December
was sent to
appealon
gaol sentenceand after a
intense
had
The
three
trial
publicity
of
months
process
produced
extended
prison.
for Michael X andhis organisationRAAS, asthe pressdebatedthe natureof Black
Power and his role in it. The severityof his sentencemadeMichael X an instant
his
long
Black
Power
It
to
the
towards
resuscitating
cause. went a
way
martyr
doubted
in
black
had
the
those
the
among
previously
community who
reputation
his
sincerityof
commitmentto radical black politics and evokedsympathyamong
white advocatesof civil liberties and freedom of speech.Even his strongest
detractorsbelievedthat 'Michael's sentencewas harshconsideringthat Roy Sawh
andthreeotherblackshadmerelybeenfined ... a week earlierfor sayingmuchthe
9
samethings'? It was the last time a Black Power activist would haveto servea
custodialsentencefor a political act.
In December1968,former UCPA leaderand BPM founderObi Egbunawas
convicted of 'conspiracyto utter a writing threateningto murder' becauseof a
37Excerptsfrom Michael X's Readingspeechwere reportedin The Institute of RaceRelations
Newsletter(JunetJuly1967),p. 246.
38ThomsonNewspapersLtd, which owned The SundayTimes,was eventuallyfined L5,000 for
contemptof court.
" D. HumphryandD. Tindall, FalseMessiah:theStoryofMichaelX (London,1977),p. 50.

183

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-inswrgency
andcommunity
four
however,
he
had
the
he
The
time
was
endured,
only prison
written.
pamphlet
40
Dolo
Gideon
Martin
Peter
he
spenton remand.
and
months and co-defendants
Egbuna,who had beenunderpolice surveillancefor sometime, was portrayedin
the written police evidenceto the court asthe violent leaderof an aspiringterrorist
his
incite
being
Yet,
despite
to
murder,
convicted of conspiracy
organisation.
(Dolo
for
imprisonment
three
was
years.
was
suspended
sentenceof one year's
)
The
in
for
his
fined
00
Martin
the
conspiracy.
was
part
eventuallyacquittedand
it
disrupting
BPM
the
without providing with any martyrs was
state's goal of
but
for
four
by
holding
Egbuna
Martin
months
and
on remand
adequatelyserved
has,
Martin
Egbuna
'The
them
to
at
and
arrestof
gaol onceconvicted.
not sending
this stageanyway,put the [Black Panther]party in confusionand it is not likely to
Kenneth
Inspector
Chief
for
Detective
to
many months come', noted
resurrect
Thompson in a memorandumcommendingthe officers who had worked on
Egbuna'scase!'
Despitea policy of not sendingconvictedBlack Poweractiviststo prison,
the governmentstill ran the risk of giving Black Power groups publicity and
believes
injustice.
Johnson
Linton
Kwesi
the
their
members'senseof
reinforcing
legal harassmentthe BPM encounteredwas not entirely destructive. 'Court
it
lot
didn't
but
took
time
stopus',
up
a
of
our
and sappedour energy
appearances
he recalls. 'In fact it madeus more determinedand more committedto fight for
2
justice'!
Mangrove
Nine
famous
In
the
two
trials
social
of
racial equality and
' For furtherdetailsof the prosecutionseeMEP02/11409:'BenedictObi Egbuna,PeterMartin and
GideonKetucniT. Dolo chargedwith utteringandwriting threatening[sic] to kill police officersat
HydePark,WT, held at theNA.
"' `203/68174:Recommendation
for commendationor reward from DetectiveChief InspectorY,
Tbompson,January13,1969', in MEP02111409:'BenedictObi Egbuna,PeterMartin andGideon
KetueniT. Dolo chargedwith uttering and writing threatening[sic] to kill police officers at Hyde
Park,WT, held at theNA.
42Linton KwesiJohnson,interviewedby the author,17 September
2004.

184

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
in 1971andof Tony Soaresof the BLF in 1973- articulateblack activistschoseto
defendthemselvesand in the processattracteda greatdeal of publicity. They used
it to put the structuralracismof the stateon trial and attractnew membersto their
organisations.

Former BUR memberHarry Goulboumehas written that, 'In the black


communitiesof London and elsewhereperhapsthe single most dramaticevent of
theseyearswas the trial of the MangroveNine in Notting Hill where the police
43

The
into
direct
black
youths'.
came
confrontationwith young and articulate
MangroveNine trial lastedfor elevenweeksbetween5 Octoberand 16 December
1971 and was widely covered by the press in Britain, as well as attracting
signfflcant interest abroad.The nine black defendantswere chargedwith riot,
afftay andassaultingpolice officers,after a rnarchon 9 August 1970againstpolice
harassmentof the MangroveCafd in Notting Hill endedin violence.The police
contendedthat the fighting at the end of the march had been part of a wellorganisedand pre-plannedriot by black agitators.The defendantscounteredthat a
disproportionately large and antagonistic police presence had deliberately
provokedthe marchers.
The Mangrove Nine trial was regardedas political not just becauseit
involved black peopleprotestingagainstthe MetropolitanPolice but also because
the defendantshad beenthe subjectsof police surveillance(and harassmentin the
caseof Frank Critchlow) for a long time becauseof their Black Power activism.
Two daysafter the march,Home SecretaryReginaldMaudling told 7he Guardian
that, 'The SpecialBranchhashadthe movementunderobservationfor morethan a

43FLGoulboume,RaceRelationsin Britain Since1945(Basingstoke,1998), 65.


p.

185

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
community
and
It
least,
Power
Black
tight
Police
surveillance%"
worthy of
as, at
now regard
year.
been
had
twenty-three
arrested
the
people who
was not a coincidence that, of
during the march, it was those nine who eventually stood trial. They had been
picked

out from

surveillance

photographs

taken by an undercover

police

but
the
were picked up
march
photographer and some were not even arrested on
!5 Three of the defendants, Althea Lecointe, Radford (Darcus)
weeks afterwards
Howe and Barbara Beese were leading members of the BPM. Another, Frank
Critchlow, was the owner of the Mangrove Cafd, an unofficial

community centre

Metropolitan
for
Black
Power
the
that
activists
and regular meeting place

Police

had been trying to close down for months. 'The trial was a political trial', wrote
Louis Chase of the West Indian Standing Conference, 'and throughout the three
defendants who represented themselves made the courtroom

international
an

black
injustices
for
black
the
community
protest
about
against
vehicle
police'.

by the

46

It was clear from the start of the Mangrove trial that the jury would have to

decidebetweenthe MetropolitanPolice's depictionof the Mangroveprotestorsas


Police
defendants'
Metropolitan
thugs
the
the
as a
and
portrayalof
violent criminal
Gordon,
Rhodan
force
Howe
Lecointe,
and
of occupation.
racist and corrupt
Macdonald,
Ian
in
lead
defence
their
counsel
case coordinationwith
presenting
drew on the specific experiencesof Black Power activists and the black
between
in
Notting
Hill
but
broader
the situationof
parallels
alsomade
community
44TheGuardian,12August1970,p. 3.
45Onedefendant,RothwellKentish,wasarrestedby four policemenat the garagewherehe worked
have
did
because
1970,
He
14
October
the
the
a
not
police
six weeksafter
march. resistedarrest
on
by
his
he
he
had
left
in
the time the clashwith the police
that
the
name
and
claimed
march
warrant
took place. Subsequentlyacquittedof all chargesduring the Mangrovetrial, he was, however,
hammer,
(the
carrying
offensive
weapons
a
officer
and
of
assaulting
police
convicted
separately
his
from
he
had
been
charges
resulting
equipment
and
wire
cutters
using
at
work)
welding
October1970arrest.
46L Chase,'Whatjustice for the MangroveNine?' RaceToday4:2 (February1972),p. 39.

186

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
the Mangrove defendants and African American political prisoners like George
Jackson and Angela Davis. Iley

systematically tried to highlight not only the

vindictive and dishonest behaviour of the police but also the structural racism of
the judicial system which, they said, prevented black people receiving a fair trial.
Macdonald started the trial by requesting an all-black jury -a

demand that

Magna
Citing
British
Black
Power
the
the
groups.
appearedon
manifestosof all
Carta,he arguedthat only black peoplecould understandthe attitudeof the police
to the black communityandso fairly judge the case.JudgeEdwardClarkerejected
this and many other defence requests, leading Macdonald to argue in his
summationthat, 'We've been subjectin this trial to spectaclesof nakedjudicial
tyranny. The judge has given the defencesome latitude, but the only alternative
47
down
like
Bobby
Seale'.
Macdonald'suseof the
or to gagthem
wasto sendthem
judicial
'naked
tyr=ny' seemssomewhatharsh.JudgeClarke's statements
phrase
during the trial showthat, while not sympatheticto the defendants,he managedto
found
impartial
judges
in
Power
Black
that
cases
stayrelatively
other
- something
moredifficult to do"
At the end of the trial, five of the defendants- Rothwell Kentish, Frank
Critchlow, RadfordHowe, BarbaraBeeseand GodfreyMillet - were acquittedof
all charges.The other four - Anthony Innis, RhodanGordan,Althea Lecointeand
for sevenof the lessseriouscharges.
RupertBoyce- receivedsuspendedsentences
As the majority of the prosecution's case rested on police testimony, this
representeda clear rejectionby the jury of the police's contentionthat the August
1970marchhadbeena pre-plannedriot. In light of this it wasperhapsunsurprising

47Ian Macdonaldis quotedin 'Blacks in Britain Today', 7 Days,22 December1971, 6.


p.
48Clarke'scommentsare reportedin MEP02/9719: 'Racial incidents:
relationsbetweenthe police
andtheblackcommunityin the Notting Hill area',held at theNA.

187

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
that Judge Clarke gave lenient sentencesto the four people who had been
convicted. He even concededduring sentencingthat some members of the
MetropolitanPolice appearedto hateblack people.'What this trial hasshown, he
9
is
'is
both
hatred
that there
said,
clearly evidence of racial
sides'! The
on
sentencing followed the pattern of Black Power defendants being given noncustodial or suspendedsentences.That a suspendedcustodial sentencewas a form

of social control which placed its subjectat the whim of the police was angrily
pointed out by one of the convicted Mangrove defendants.'I don't want a
suspendedsentence',said RhodanGordanon hearinghis punishment.'If you give
me suspendedsentenceI shall get nicked by police at Notting Hill anywayso you
50
inside'
Gordan'swords were prophetic:two dayslater he
might as well put me
.
was chargedwith assaultinga police officer andcausingan obstruction,after being
askedto move his car by a Notting 1-fill policeman,and the suspensionof his
sentencewasrevoked.
JudgeAlan King-Hamilton, who presidedover the trial of the BLF's Tony
Soaresin March 1973,madeno attemptat impartiality. Soareshad beenindicted
on four separateserious chargesof attemptingto incite the murder of persons
unknown, the manufactureof explosives,the possessionof firearms, and arson.
The basisof the chargeswas that instructionson how to makea Molotov cocktail
had beenpublishedin the September1971 issueof the BLF's newspaper,Grass
Roots. Ihe instructions had been reprinted from an American Black Power
newspaper,The Black Panther, which was already widely available in Britain.
After initially fleeing the countryto escapearrest(to Morocco,wherehe stayedas
49

Ibid" Gordanquoted in a Metropolitan Police


memo includedin NEP02/9719: 'Notting Hill riots,
1959-1978',held at the NA.

188

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
a guestof Black PantherEldridgeCleaver)Soareshadreturnedto Britain in March
1972andbeenarrestedshortlyafterwards.He then spentfour monthson remandin
Brixton and Pentonville prisons before being granted bail. Although the
prosecutioncould not prove that Soareswas Grass Boots' editor, they could
produceevidencethat he hadsenttwenty-fivecopiesof the paperoverseasandwas
thereforeinvolved in distributingthe illegal material.Accordingto the 'dock brief
publishedin Race Today,during the trial JudgeKing-Hamilton repeatedlyasked
defencewitnesseswhether they were communistsand atheists,Special Branch
andan
officers sat at the front of the court noting down their namesand addresses,
IRA-plantedbomb in front of the Old Bailey injured one of the jurors.51At its
had
instructed
jury
if
Soares
King-Hamilton
believed
the
that
they
conclusion,
distributedthe twenty-fivenewspapers
they were duty boundto find him guilty on
all charges.Soareswas eventuallyconvictedby majority verdict on the chargesof
attemptingto incite arsonandthe manufactureof explosives.
To his great surprise,however,Soaresdid not receivea custodialsentence.
This was indeed surprising given the seriousnessof the charges,the fact that
had a previousconviction for distributing leafletsthat incited violenceand
Soares;
King-Hamilton's reputation as a 'hanging' judge. 'It was very, very strange,
remembersSoares,'becausethejudge said to the usherat sentencingtime, there's
an envelopein my safefrom the Home Office, go and get it. He went and got the
envelopeand when he readwhat was in [it] his face went so angry- that's when
this surprisinglymild sentencecameout'.52In the end Soareswas sentencedto 200
hoursof communityserviceandboundover to keepthe peacefor sevenyears.It is
very difficult to corroborateSoares'versionof the sentencing,but whateverKing31'Dock brier, RaceToday5.4 (April 1973)p. 102.
52Tony Soares,interviewedby the author,23 August2004.

189

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
Hamilton's reasons,the sentencefitted the pattern establishedin the previously
has
banishment
'Binding
Black
Power
trials
also
without
activists.
over
cited
of
beenusedto deal with Black defendants',commentedsociologistPaul Gordonon
the GrassBoots case.Soares'sentencewas 'an attemptto curtail future political
53
he
activity', ConClUded.
The manifest injustice of the charges brought against Soares and the
behaviour of the judge in the trial won the BLF much publicity and public
Defence
Roots
Grass
by
the
well-supported
sympathy,which was marshalled
Committee.On the other hand,the time the BLF's linchpin Soares,spentabsent
from the movement and the strain the trial put the BLF under undoubtedly
burdenedthe organisation.SundayTimesjournalist Derek Humphrydescribed,for
impact
Sunday
BLF's
'Headstart'
the
trial
the
the
of
supplementary
example,
on
schoolfor black children. 'Although run from the Front's headquarters... it won
if
approving, discreet,praise from the teachingprofession', reportedHumphry.
'But "Headstarf' collapsedwhen the police begancalling on the Front in a bid to
find who was responsiblefor the bomb article'.54Soares,however,ignored the
his
sentenceand continuedto be an active memberof the BLF until
conditionsof
1977, when he left the organisationfor entirely unrelatedreasons.Grass Boots
continuedto be printed in roughly the sameformat, however,at leastuntil 1988,
55
it
be
fmancial
although regularlyclaimedto on the vergeof
collapse. Overall,the
trial had achievedlittle more than increasingthe black community's senseof
victimisationby the state,at a largecostto the public purse.

53P. Gordon,WhiteLaw. Racismin the PoUcACourtsandPrisons(London,1983),p. 116.


*4D. Humphry,'Black Power.reality andthe rhetoric', TheSundayTimes,30 March 1973,p. 18.
35The IRR holdsa non-continuous
run of GrassRootsspanningfrom 1971until 1988.

190

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
Black people and the police
The relationship between the police and black people from Africa, the Caribbean
1971
The
1970s.
1960s
Asia,
the
throughout
and
steadily worsened
and
Immigration Act, which came into force on I January 1973, classified any nonBritish-born citizen who had neither been naturalised nor could claim a British-

born parentor grandparentas a 'non-patrial' citizen with no right of abode.It also


British
Commonwealth
to
the
as
automatic right of
citizens register
removed
black
five
all
years' residence,and applied retrospectively,putting
citizens after
likely
have
the
Asians
to
start of
after
arrived
who
were
more
particularly
people,
immigration control in 1962, under suspicionof being illegal immigrants.The
illegal
being
to
arrest suspected
able
police were given new powers, such as
immigrants without a wan-ant,making them, for the first time, a branch of
immigration control. To help it ftdfil its new responsibilities,the Metropolitan
Police set up an Immigration Intelligence Unit W,

which quickly gained a

its
Special
Patrol
Group
(SPG).
to
similar
reputation
The deploymentof the SPG in black neighbourhoodsfrom the mid-1960s
increasing
infamous
'Sus' law, which almost always
the
the
of
use
onwardsand
resulted in a chargewhere the only evidenceof wrongdoingwas the arresting
56
irresponsible
brutal
An
statement,
made
policing
seem
corrupt.
officer's
and
Asians
West
Indian
that
and
muggers
men as potential
characterised
young
media

"6 Ile Special Patrol Group was set up in 1961 as a centralised, mobile squad of the Metropolitan
Police designed to respond to serious crime that local divisions could not deal with. From the mid1960s onwards it was used to control demonstrations and police areas with high rates of street
crime. Frequently the subject of allegations of racism, brutality and unaccountability, the SPG was
disbanded in 1986. Ibe offence of 'being a suspected person, part of the Vagrancy Act 1824,
allowed a police officer to arrest someone on the suspicion that they were loitering with the
intention of committing a criminal offence, as long as he had seen them acting suspiciously on a
in
Tried
a magistrates court, if found guilty the defendant could be sentencedto
occasion.
previous
up to three months in gaol. The Isus, law was eventually repealed in 1981. For more information
seeC. DeMuth, 'Sus'A Report on the VagrancyAct 1824 (London, 1978).

191

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
likelihood
immigrants
illegal
the
their
of colour-blind
made
or
co-conspirators,
as
57
did
Black
that
the
police
complained
peoplealso
justice seemevenmoreremote.
investigate
not
crimesagainstthem asthoroughlyasthoseagainstwhitesandoften
arrestedthe black victim who had alertedthem when they arrived at the sceneof
black
brutality
first
1970s
'After
the
the
the crime.
against
police
years of
former
become
in
inner
to
the
wrote
was
commonplace',
cities
so
communities
Black Poweractivist andacademicHarry Goulbourne,'that it waswidely believed
that there was hardly a black family in Britain which had not had a nasty
58
experiencewith the police'.
By 1971,the governmentwas so concernedby the deterioratingrelationship
betweenthe police and black communitiesthat it set up a parliamentaryselect
found
in
1972,
its
look
into
But
to
the
matter.
committee
although report,published
that therewas someevidenceof racial prejudiceamongthe police, it ascribedit to
immigrants,
institutional
Older
Asian
than
cultural misunderstanding
rather
racism.
the report observed,came 'as strangersexpectingto be treatedas such' and saw
Gnoreasonto changetheir style of life', while their view of the police, which
from
'submissive awe' to 'suspicious passivity', was 'conditioned to some
ranged
59
in
by
homelands'.
Other reasonswhy the behaviour of
extent police customs their
the police might have inspired submissive or suspicious reactions from Asians
immigrants do not appear to have been considered. Overall, the report's
recommendations avoided the issue of racism and put the onus on the black
community to behave in a more assimilated way in order to receive better

-" For a more detaileddiscussionof the media's portrayal of young black men seeRunnymede
Trust, Race and the Press (London, 1971) and S. HalL C. Critcher, J. Clarke and B. Roberts,
Policing the Crisis. Mugging,theStateandLaw and Order (London,1979).
51H. Goulbourne,CaribbeanTransnationalExperience(London,2002),p. 106.
39 Select Committee on Race Relations
and Immigratiom Session 1971-1972,
PolicelImmigrantRelations.Volume1: Report(London:HMSO, 1972),p. 67.

192

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
later
The
from
paid equally
the
a
year
response
treatment
government's
police.
little attention to the accusationsof police racism.
Black people often did not experience colour-blind justice in the courts
either. The majority of magistrates automatically accepted the evidence of police
have
later
to
in
they
shown
were
witnesses as truthful and even the cases where
internal
faced
lying,
been
the police very rarely
peury charges or even
disciplinary procedures.Crown court judges were less predictable in their attitude
Police
Yorkshire
West
famous
in
least
but
trial
two
to the police,
one
at
- of
his
judge
homeless
Nigerian
for
killing
the
expressed
the
man of a
officers
distaste that policemen should be facing trial and instructed the jury to dismiss all
the charges except assault, despite the weight of the evidence pointing strongly to
60
it
had
because
force,
Police
Metropolitan
Finally,
the
the pair's guilt.
which,
lived,
the
black
in
Britain
the
was
the
majority
of
where
people
area
policed
highly
It.
to
prevaricated when
was
resistant
criticism.
most
complaints,
of
subject
independent
for
black
hire
complaints
to
calls
an
officers,
opposed
more
asked
process, attempted, where possible, to suppresspublic criticism, and took only the
dishonestly
found
had
been
discipline
to
to
act
officers who
most perfunctory steps
61
or out of racism.
Strong criticism of the police by the black community pre-dated the Black
Power movement and continued long after its end. As early as 1958, black
had
had
Notting
Hill
the
that
to
the
only
police
complained
riots
witnesses

' The five-weektrial of former LeedspolicemenInspectorGeoffreyEllerker and SergeantMark


Kitching for man laughter,peury, grievousbodily harm of David Oluwaletook place in Leeds
Crown Court in December1971. He had beenfound beatenand drownedin the river Aire on IS
April 1969.Kitching and Ellerker were found guilty of nine countsof assault,the only chargethe
jury was allowed to consider.SeeK Aspden,Nationality Wog-the Hounding of David Oluwale
(London,2007).
61For a representativeexampleof police self-exculpationin the caseof a proven miscarriageof
justice seethe caseof SatnamSinghKaneon pp. 241-2.

193

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
intervenedto stop the violenceonceblack peoplehad begunto defendthemselves
Kelso
Indian
West
When
carpenter
successfidlyagainsttheir white aggressors.
Cochranewas stabbedto death on the samestreetsthe following year, after a
failed
had
tackle
fascist
to
heightened
that
the
effectively,
police
activity
periodof
to
fact
black
the
local
that
caught
the
never
were
assailants
the
communityascribed
Conference
Standing
Indian
West
Hunte
Joseph
1965,
In
indifference.
the
of
police
(WISC), published a booklet called Nigger Hunting in England? based on
in
black
from
by
WISC
behaviour
the
community
received
complaintsaboutpolice
London.62A firmly wordedbut soberdocumentthat includedextensivecomment
from the Lambethpolice, the author arguedthat it was neededbecause,'For the
besieged
have
been
in
I
Brixton,
have
been
I
constantly
residing
sevenyearsthat
by membersof the immigrant populationwith mattersof conflict betweenthem
63
Citizenship
Colour
Police
Force.
In
1969,
the
the
and
authors
of
andmembersof
liberties
'all
that,
or race relations
organisations connected with civil
commented
have files full of complaints about police practice', although they added that it was
"
difficult to substantiate such complaints. From the late 1960s onwards, most of
the domestic news coverage in all Black Power newspapersconsisted of articles
during
Finally,
black
the
towards
people.
corruption
and
violence
about police
1970s and 1980s, a number of book-length studies catalogued and analysed

evidenceof racially prejudicedpolice

65
behaviour.

During 1971, the Select Committeeon Race Relations and Immigration


forces,
from
Britain's
than
police
a year collecting evidence
spent more
62J. Hunte, Nigger Hunting in England? (London, 1965).
63lbid., p. 1.
Rose et al, Colour, p. 349.
See J. Lambert, CHM4 Police and Race Relations: a Study in Birmingham (London, 1970), D.
Htunphry and G. John, Because They're Black (Hamondsworth, 1971), D. Humphry, Police Power
and Black People (London, 1972), Hall et al, Policing the Crisis, and Institute of Race Relations,
Policing. 4gainst Black People (London, 1987).

194

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
individual
Councils,
Relations
Community
as
well
as
communityorganisationsand
black people.Its three-volumereport was publishedin 1972and containedsome
damningevidence.The way the evidencewas interpreted,however,was generous
to the police to the point of appearingto have entirely discountedthe perspective
introduced
be
lay
did
The
black
that
element
recommend a
witnesses. report
of the
drew
attention
to the police complaintsprocedureas a matter of urgency and
forcefiffly to the fact that the police's own statisticsshowedthat crime ratesamong
bulk
The
lower
the
than
report,
of
whites.
among
were
non-white populations
however,evadedthe issuesor blamedblack people for their disagreements
with
the police. The following excerptis representativeof the prevaricationand sidebefore
issues
the authorsattributedonly the mostminor
that
took
place
steppingof
black
feet
blame
laid
bulk
the
the
the
the
of
at
of
of wrong-doingsto the police and
doubt,
do
'We
on the evidencebefore us, that nothwithstanding
not
community.
fiwk
be
defence
loyal
to
though
the
quite
of seniorofficers somewereprepared
insensitively
been
instances
have
it
there
and
of policemen acting
about immigrants',
before
the
adding:
authors
eventually
conceded
officiously against
'This is particularly true of young West Indians, whose conduct is sometimes
66
"lose
their cool"'.
calculatedto makepolicemen
The report claimed on several occasions that there was not enough
i
'Ag
it
difficult,
investigate
too
to
allegationsof police racism.
evidence,or was
it is impossibleto know to what extent- therehavebeensomecases- the police
little
is
it
because
black',
black
'There
they
very
youthsmerely
argued.
are
pick on
formal
by
the
about
volume
complaints
made
immigrants
evidence
of
statistical

66SelectCommitteeon Race Relationsand Immigratio,% Session1971-1972,PolicelImmigrant


Relations,Volume1: Report(London:HMSO, 1972),p. 91.

195

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
67
it
training
In
awareness
the
more
cultural
the
recommended
end,
police'.
against
for the police (including exchanges with policemen from the Caribbean), the
black
be
that
liaison
that
reminded
all officers
officers, and
creation of community
69
In
the
terms
to
than
of
people.
crime
white
pre-disposed
people were no more
black community, it implied that if West Indians could learn to behave in a more
civilised

by
flustered
them and act
the
police would not get
manner

'insensitively'. 69The racism black people had encounteredwas explained away as


to
by
'Past
the
apt
are
police
mistakes
a misunderstanding or an exaggeration.
in
it
'even
legendary
to
areas where they were
noted,
proportions',
grow
70
'We
impressed.
in
Notting
Hill
Black
Power
were not
groups
unconnected'.
intend to exposethis report for what it is', proclaimed an disappointed writer in the
71
hogwash!
-)
lot
Middle-Class
BackayardNews Sheet,'- a
of
.
The government printed its response in a 1973 White Paper that took its

72
lead from the previousyear's report. It usedthe evidencethat black peoplewere,
if anything,more law-abiding than white people to dismissthe claim that there
might be problemsbetweenthem and the police. 'The report rightly stressesthat
immigrantsare not in themselvesa problem to the police', the report affirmed,
ignoring the black community's central allegationthat it was the colour of their
73
it
the
their
that
the
criminality of
community
attracted police's attention.
skin not
black
hinting
the
by
the
that
result
of
was
people
police
prejudice
against
continued
Black
Power
'Only
the
movement.
a small minority of youngcoloured
of
agitation

67Ibid, pp. 70,88.


" Para 243, ibid., p. 71
69Para 338, ibid., p. 9 1.
70Para 339, ibid., p. 91.
71BackayardNews Sheet(week 37), date stamped2 October 1972, p. 4.
72 Policellmmigrant Relations in England and Wales: Observations on the Report of the Select
Committee on Race Relations andImmigration (London: HMSO, 1973).
73IbidL, p. 3.

196

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
people arc affected by ... confrontation with the police,

noted the government.

'Some groups, apparently anxious to imitate the behaviour amongst the black
74
It would
difficulties'
in
the United States, themselves provoke the
community
.
have been extraordinary if the paper had concluded that institutional racism existed
in Britain7s police forces as the government did not even acknowledge the
existence of indirect racism until 1976. Its failure even to consider the possibility
of police racism, however, gave ammunition to its harshest critics. 'The police are
is
immigration-controlling,
the
the
the
enemy,
as
army
of
which
viewed
South-Africa-selling,

friend-of-lan-Smith

British

government',

journalist

arms-toDerek

Humphry had written in 1972.75 The government's published responsein 1973 to


the previous year's select committee findings on 'police/immigrant relations' only
servedto reinforce the impression.
While magistrates' and judges' attitudes to black people and black
defendants differed widely, their view of police officers was generally that they
were honest, trustworthy, tolerant, socially-minded people doing a tough a job in
difficult circumstances. Tliey were inclined, therefore, to believe police officers'
evidence and to give them the benefit of the doubt when their actions were
questioned. 'A series of judicial decisions and police comments seemed to

suggest',comm

d sociologistJohn Rex in 1977, 'that, if anything,the judges

and the police were more concernedwith the threat of Black action againstwhite
76
defence
Black
societythan they were with the
of
civil rights'. Judicial behaviour
in trials of Black Power activists has already been discussed,but those trials
usually took place in the Crown court, where trained barristerswere present,
74

Ibid., p. 5.
75Humphry,PolicePower,pp. 11-12.
76J. Rex, 'Black militancy and classconflict' (July 1977), 22. Spcechbwscript held4
p.
unfiled, at
the EM

197

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
experiencedjudges oversawproceedings,and an entirejury had to be convinced.
The majority of young West Indian men passing through l3ritain's legal system
appearedin magistrates courts charged with petty crimes. Their trials could last a

matter of minutes and often involved no witnessesbeing called, other than the
police officer who had arrestedthem. A 1973 survey into the policing of black
in
people the London borough of Ealing reported that, of twenty magistrates
interviewed, 'Exactly half

in their views of the


were
unequivocal
...
incorruptibility of the British police'.77'Me other half had expressedbroadly the
samesentiment,but in lessemphaticterms.'The generaltenor appearedto be that

JPs [that is, magistrates]and the police were fighting the samecause',the author
78
noted. When askedhow they viewed non-white defendants,the majority of the
magistratesagreedthat they must have 'at least done somethingto be in court in
79
first
the
place'. Although he arguedthat most magistrateswere not consciously
racist, academicStanislausPulI6 concludedthat, in Ealing at least, it was not
possiblefor black peopleto receivea fair trial in a magistratescourt.
If reform would not be imposedfrom other branchesof the British legal
system,there was very little chanceit could come from within the police forces
themselves.The Metropolitan Police, for example,reactedwith indignation to
suggestionsthat an outside body should monitor its practices. When Home
Secretary,and nominal head of the Metropolitan Police force, JamesCallaghan
in
proposed, 1968, to add a clauseto the Police Code making it an offence to
discriminate against black immigrants, the head of the policemen's union, the
Police Federation,declaredthat it was, 'A grossinsult evento suggestit.
The
...
77S. Pulld, Police Immigrant Relations in Ealing (London, 1973), 59.
p.
71Ibid., p. 60.
79

Ibid., p. 62.

198

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
fears
is
the
to
this
of some
misplaced
placate
extra clause
only purpose of
80
fair
immigrant bodies that they may not get
treatment. The Police Federation
into
incorporated
being
independent
the
to
element
was also strongly opposed an
in
keeping
This
was
with many senior officers' siege
police complaints procedure.
for
brooked.
July
1968,
In
in
example,
mentality
which outside criticism was not
its
had
For
Cause
Concern
investigative
BBC
to
air
attempted
series
when the
black
featured
interviews
LawT
Before
The
'Equal
people
which
with
programme
Metropolitan
for
had
the
the
police
malicious
prosecution,
successfully sued
who
Police threatened legal action if it was shown. The programme was eventually
The
from
liberties
civil
aired after protests
and race relations organisations.
Metropolitan Police continued to maintain that the black people in the programme
had fabricated their stories: future Chief Commissioner Robert Mark describedit in
his memoirs as, 'one of the most distorted and inaccurate films ever to find its way
81
Mangrove
When
Judge
Clarke
BBC
the
to
the
of
a
screen'.
commented
end
on
at
Nine trial in December 1971 that there was clear evidence of racial hatred on both
sides, the Metropolitan Police rejected his observation out of hand. 'I believe there
justification
for
Crown,
for
this
the
remark
respecting
was no
witnessesappearing
from
Police
Detective
Inspector
Graham
Stockwell,
'certainly
not
wrote
82
witnesses'. In 1973, the Metropolitan Police objected strongly to a report
in
into
by
Ealing
Community
Council
Relations
the
the
policing
commissioned
borough, which concluded that, 'there are, to put it no higher, elements of doubt
83
by
the
police'.
about the evidencepresented

80SeeC. Worrell, 'Police InsultedMr CallaghanTold: RaceClausePlanAttacked', TheGuardian,


15May 1968,p. 7.
31IL Mark, In the OfficeofConstable(London,1978),p. 100.
82
'Memo from Detective InspectorGrahamStockwell, 21 December1971', in MEP02/9719:
'Notting 1-fillriots, 1959-1979',held at theNA.
a3Pulld,Police,p. 7 1.

199

funding:
the
stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
community
and
'Me Metropolitan Police recruited black police cadetsreluctantly while
black
dearth
that
preventedmore
of suitablecandidates
protestingthat it was the
lack
Black
attainment
becoming
of
educational
candidates'
officers.
police
people
internal
An
be
failure
for
to
their
selected.
was usually cited as the reason
December
from
Police,
Metropolitan
Commissioner
of the
memorandumto the
is,
'The
factors
truth
however,
of course,
1963,
were at play.
showedthat other
that we are not yet preparedto recruit any coloured men', the author candidly
be
to
distant
far
be
unable
'although
shall
the
time
we
when
may not so
admitted,
94
in
born
been
have
down
and educated this country'.
turn
well-qualified men who
The Metropolitan Police managedto procrastinatefor anotherfour yearsbefore
In
in
1967.85
black
first
London's
Roberts
police officer
as
recruiting Norwell
August 1973, Home Office figures revealedthat there were still only sixty-five
86
in
Wales.
England
black police officers the whole of
and

Race Relations Legislation


The 1976 Race Relations Act represented an important advance from its 1968
had
been
by
The
1968
many as a window-dressing
viewed
act
predecessor.
the
its
to
Labour
by
pass
the
scramble
unseemly
government after
exercise
Commonwealth Immigrants Act in March 1968. It had little impact on Black
Power groups because it neither significantly redressedthe issues that led black
for
increased
the
publicly
the
to
risk of prosecution
movement, nor
people support
hatred
incitement
by
Power
to
Black
the
clause of
racial
strengthening
advocating
" The memo is included in NEP02/9854: 'Police liaison with the West Indian communityin
London',held at theNA.
a' Astley Lloyd Blair was Britain's first black policeman. He joined the Gloucestershire
constabularyin 1964.
" PolicellmmigrantRelationsin England and Wales:Observationson the Report of the Select
Committeeon RaceRelationsandImmigration(London:RMSO, 1973),p. 11.

200

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
the 1965 act. The 1976 act, however, had real teeth and representeda more
black
between
British-born
lessen
to
the
thorough
gap
attempt
committed and
people'sexpectationof equalityand their actualexperienceof social, educational
be
it
first
Act
Race
Relations
Tellingly,
to
the
not
was
andeconomicsubordination.
immigration.
black
That
by
legislation
the act was passed
restricting
accompanied
in 1976 was partly attributable to the scale and militancy of black people's
first
during
half of the 1970sand somecredit
for
the
their
equalrights
campaigns
for this shouldgo to the Black Powermovement.The primary driving forcebehind
the act, however,was the needto halt the frightening and socially destabilising
deteriorationof the relationshipbetweenWest Indian youth and the police. The
British governmenthad believed that suppressingthe Black Power movement
it
by
but
1976
in
help
disaffection
black
the
spreading
prevent
community
would
had realisedthat it neededto attackthe causesof this disaffectionrather than its
expression.
Although Home Secretary Roy Jenkins announced the government's
intention to draft a second,stronger Race Relations Act and banned Stokely
Carmichaelfrom Britain on the sameday, the 1968RaceRelationsAct was not a
legislativeresponseto the rise of a Black Powermovementin Britain. Neither did
its eventualpassagein October 1968 have much impact on the movement.The
for
main catalyst the 1968act wasthe publication,in April 1967,of the PEPreport
Racial Discrimination in Britain, which showedthat the 1965RaceRelationsAct
had not come close to eradicatingracial discrimination.Rather,as a later survey
neatly quipped,the PEP's 'situation tests, wherebyit senta white Briton, a white
Hungarian and a black West Indian to apply for the samejobs, housing and
commercialservicesand comparedthe responsesthey received,revealedthat, for

201

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
peoplewith black skin racial discriminationin Britain rangedfrom 'the massiveto
, 87 Ile

the substantial.

casefor strengtheningthe first act was further reinforcedby

the publication of the Street Report six months later. The Street committee
analysedanti-discriminationlegislationin other countries- focusingprimarily on
the United States- andarguedthat the approachfavouredin America,of targeting
discriminationthrough civil rather than criminal law, and choosingconciliation
over compulsion,could also work in Britain. 'Ile accumulationfrom this report,
the earlier PEP studyon discriminationin housingand employmentand Elizabeth
Burney'sstudyof local housingpolicy', reportedthe IRR Newsletter,'has silenced
88
doubters'.
nearlyall the
The RaceRelationsAct that eventuallycameinto force in November1968
was, however,widely regardedas weak and difficult to enforce.It did plug some
of the more obvious gapsof its predecessor:in addition to the 'places of public
resort' covered by the 1965 act, racial discrimination was prohibited in the
provisionof variouspublic services,employment,tradeunions,advertisements
and
housing.The Race RelationsBoard was also given new powersto initiate civil
proceedingsagainstthose practisingracial discriminationand those found guilty
could henceforth be sued for damages.Nonetheless,even those who took a
generousview of the 1968 Race Relations Act thought it was ill-conceived.
Remarkingthat it containeda 'most unusual' mixture of civil and criminal legal
procedures,the authors of Colour and Citizenship concluded: '[W]e fear that
although the new Act is liberal in intention and broad in range it contains
87E. J. B. Roseet al, Colour, p. 414. For a fuller discussionof the weaknesses the 1965
of
act and
the criticismsof it, seechapterone.
1877jeInstitute of RaceRelationsNewsletter(December1967),p. 430. ElizabethBurney
was a
researcherfor the Institute of Race Relationswho wrote a book detailing how some councils'
housingallocationschemesdiscriminatedagainstimmigrants.E. Burney,Housingon Trial. a Study
of1mmigrantsandLocal Government(London,1967).

202

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
in
in
loss
that
a
of confidence the efficacy of
may well result
weaknesses
legislation of this kind'.89 A 1975 governmentWhite Paper on race relations
legislationconfirmedthat confidencein the act had indeedbeenlost - evenby its
Relations
Community
Race
Relations
Board
Both
the
the
and
own employees.
Council,it stated,'have forcefidly drawnattentionto the inability of the legislation
to deal with widespreadpatternsof discrimination... a lack of confidenceamong
in
law,
in
lack
the
the
the
of
credibility
effectiveness
of
a
and
minority groups
Relations
Community
Relations
Board
Race
the
the
the
and
work of
efficacy of
Most disillusioning for black people,perhaps,was the
Commissionthemselves'O
limp and tentative appearanceof the 1968 act in comparisonto the speedand
been
had
Immigrants
Commonwealth
Act
the
pushedthrough
vigour with which
Paul
in
have
Many
the
year.
would
agreedwith sociologist
parliament earlier
Gordon's assessment
that 'It was obvious that the 1968Act would scarcelydent
the surfaceof racism in Britain. It was equally obvious that discriminationcould
havebeendealtwith had the desireand political will to do so existed.71bereality,
91
however,wasotherwise'.
By 1976,the political will to tackle racial discriminationmore effectively
had been created. The Labour government's 1975 White Paper, Racial
Discrimination,which set out its plansfor a new act, gaveseveralcluesasto why.
The fear of socialunrestwas a recurringtheme.I [I]t is vital to our well-beingas a
society', the authorsargued,'to tap those reservoirsof resilience,initiative and
be
in
lie
to
to
to
them
the
minority
racial
groups
or
and not allow
unused
vigour
deflectedinto negativeprotest on accountof arbitrary and unfair discriminatory

" Roseet aL Colour,pp. 686,687.

90Racial DLscrimination (London: HMSO, 1975), p. S.


91Gordon, Mte Law, p. 18.

203

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
2 Without
practices'
making explicit reference to the intense criticism of policing
black
judicial
by
Black
Power
being
levelled
the
the
movement
and
and
practices
community,

it also acknowledged that, 'It is no longer necessary to recite the

immense damage, material as well as moral, which ensues when a minority loses
faith in the capacity of social institutions to be impartial and fair. , 93 Describing
racial discrimination as, 'a form of economic and social waste', it concluded that,
'It is the Government's duty to prevent these morally unacceptable and socially
divisive inequalities from hardening into entrenched patterns. 94

ne section of the White Paper setting out the proposed new race relations
legislation showed how reform of the 1968 act had been precipitated by the
be
Sex
Discrimination
Act.
The
1976
Race
Relations
Act
the
the
to
of
passage
was

fulffinient of the government'spronuse,made in its White PaperEquality for


Womento '"harmonisethe powersand proceduresfor dealingwith sex and race
discriminationso as to securegenuineequality of opportunity in both fields"095
The authors of the Sex Discrimination Act had thoroughly investigatedthe
weaknesses
of the 1968RaceRelationsAct in ordernot to replicatethem.Oncethe
failuresof the 1968RaceRelationsAct hadbeenofficially acknowledged,
pressure
the issue
quickly built up to remedythem.Although the White Paperside-stepped
by
somewhat, arguingthat 'It is not possibleto provide a quantifiablemeasureof
the practicalimpact of the 1968Act, it madeit clear that the Sex Discrimination
Act, ratherthanpreviousracerelationslegislation,wasto be the modelfor the new
law.96 'Except for good reason,the two statutesand the proceduresfor their
92RacialDiscrimination(London:HMSO, 1975),p. 3 1.
" IbidL,p.6.
94
IbidL,p. 3.
" Equalityfor Women(London:HMSO, 1974),
quotedin Racial Discrimination(London:HMSO,
1975p. 11.
" Ibid, p. S.

204

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
forms',
in
fi-amed
be
explainedthe
similar
administrationand enforcementwill
paper7
Impetusfor the 1976act alsocameromthe black community.The persistent
factories
in
from
West
Indian
by
Asian
the
mid-1960sonwards
workers
and
strikes
like Woolf s (1965), ConeygreFoundry(1967),Ford Motors (1973) and Imperial
Typewriters(1974)madeit clearto employers,tradeunionistsandthe government
that that they were no longerpreparedto be usedas sweatshoplabour and wanted
to participateequally in Britain's workforce and trade union movement.Barrister
Ian Macdonaldbelievedthat the 1976RaceRelationsAct wasboth, 'a recognition
'at
justice
the sametime an attemptto preventany such
their
the
case',
and,
of
of
future conflicOs The amountandthe militancy of independentorganisingin black
homeless
black
like
their
youth centres,
peopleset up
own amenities
areas,where
legal
supplementary
schools,
nurseries
and
advice centres, also put
shelters,
fighting
in
initiative
the
to
take
the
promoting equality and
state
pressureon
black
injustice.
increasingly
becoming
It
that
was also
clear
economicand social
in
Groups
from
to
themselves
the
communitieswere organising protect
police.
(for
Brixton
branch
Movement)
Black
Panther
the
the
example,
of
areas
some
formed citizen patrols to watch the police while, in other places,crowdsof local
intervened
spontaneously
people
when they thoughtpolice were unfairly harassing
black people.Police could no longerexpectto makepublic arrestsof black people
bystanders
just
from
but
the
arrestee
without encounteringspirited resistance,not
too. A steadystreamof trials with multiple defendants(and accompanyingdefence
from
black
resulting
campaigns),
people resisting arrest with public help,

97

Ibid., p. 11.

98Macdonald, Race Relations, p. iv.

205

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
if
it
did
had
197W9
By
1975,
the
that
the
not
government
realised
punctuated
legislate for black people's rights they would take up the battle themselveson their
legal
in
'To
terms.
without
redress
abandon
a
whole
group
of
people
own
society
leave
discrimination',
White
Paper,
'is
the
them with no
to
unfair
warned
against
too
but
find
to
their own redress'.
option
By the mid 1970s,black people who had been born or brought up in Britain
were having their own children and getting actively involved, alongside their
parents, in their communities and workplaces. It had become obvious, both to the
government and to black people themselves that, whether inadvertently or by
choice, they had become settlers. The 1975 White Paper acknowledged Britain's
multiracialism. This was an important development from 1971, when the
Conservative government's Immigration Act had created a definition of British
citizenship that privileged those with white ancestorsand gave the Home Secretary
power to fund the voluntary repatriation of non-patrials. 'The government's

based
are
proposals
on a clear recognition of the proposition that the overwhelming majority of the colouredpopulation is here to stay', the White Paper
announced,even concedingthat, 'a substantialand increasingproportion of that
101
belongs
to this country'. Having moved black people from the
population
'immigrant
of
category
other' to 'British', it then fi-amedits attack on racial
discrimination as a protection of British rights. I[T]he time has come for a
determinedeffort', it resolved, 'to ensure fair and equal treatment for all our
02
their
race,colour or nationalorigins'!
people,regardlessof
" For examplesof thesenumerictrials, suchasthoseof the Metro 4 (1971), the Oval Four (1972),
the BrockwellPark3 (1973)andthe Cricklewood,12(1974),see'Casesto remembee,RaceToday
(July/August1976),p. 151.
100Racial Discrimirwion (London: RMSO, 1975), p. 6.
101Ibid, p. 2.
102Ibid, p. 2. Italics added.

206

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
Ile major innovationsof the 1976RaceRelationsAct were to: recognise
the conceptof indirect discrimination(wherebya seeminglyfair rule or practice
a specific racial group);give individuals
might inadvertentlyunfairly disadvantage
the power to make direct complaintsabout racial discriminationto an industrial
tribunal or county court; replace the Race Relations Board and Community
RelationsCommissionby the Commissionfor Racial Equality (CRE) andvest this
initiate
investigations
into racial discriminationandto
body
to
the
with
power
new
it
decisions.
its
It
also made illegal to victimise a personwho hadreported
enforce
discriminationunder the RaceRelationsAct. The 1976Act removedmost of the
longer
for
exemptionsthat had appliedto its predecessors
no
example,
allowing,
to
working men"sclubs to reffise black people entry and white ferry passengers
refuseto sharea cabin with a black person.It also madeinciting racial hatredpart
of the Public Order Act and removed the necessityto prove intent, making
prosecutionslightly easier.
The form of the act owed much to American anti-discriminationlaws, as
well as British sexual equality legislation. Although the authorsof the 1976 act
werenot preparedto mandateaffirmative action or ethnicmonitoring- both in use
in Americaat the time - Americanpolitical scientistErik Bleich hasarguedthat it
was studying American legislation that persuadedthem to incorporateindirect
discrimination into the law. Noting that Home SecretaryRoy Jenkins, Street
Report co-author Anthony Lester and members of the parliamentary select
committeeon race relationsand immigration all visited America to consult with
race relationsexpertsin the two yearsbeforethe act, Bleich assertsthat, 'One of
the lessonslearnedfrom U.S. developmentswas that confining the definition of

207

funding:
the stateresponse
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunity
'
03
insufficient'.
Ian Macdonaldalso
discriminationto direct intentional acts was
indirect
incorporation
for
inspiration
the
America
of
the
to
sourceof
as
pointed
discrimination into British law. "The concept ... is derived from the U.S.
judicial
likeness
family
bears
in
1977.
'It
he
to
the
a strong
experience', wrote
interpretationwhich the U.S. SupremeCourt had placedon the anti-discrimination
by
Equal
Rights
1964
Civil
Act
VH
the
Title
the
as amended
of
provisions of
104
Act
1972'.
Opportunities
The last piece of race relations legislation to be passedin the twentieth
improvement
It
its
1976
the
made a
predecessors.
act
was
a
significant
on
century,
impact
discriminatory
in
the workplace and contributed to
practices
on
noticeable
in
belief
black
decline
in
1976.
The
trade union racism after
the sharp
community's
the Labour government's commitment to racial equality continued to be
1976
by
its
for
1971
however,
Immigration
Act,
the
the
and
support
undermined
Race Relations Act did not go nearly far enough in countering racial discrimination
in the most crucial section of society: the police. It did not stop the police from
continuing to think of and treat black people as a social problem, nor did it have
the scope to break 'the familiar cycle of cumulative disadvantage' which the 1975
White Paper had warned that, when combined with racial discrimination, would
lead to a 'vicious downward spiral of deprivation'. ' 05

Conclusion
By using a two-prongedpolicy of harassmentby the police and throughthe courts,
funding
generous
with
of social work projects,the governmentmanaged
coupled
103E. Bleich, 'Continuity as the path to change:institutionalinnovationin the 1976British Race
RelationsAct', unpublishedpaperpresentedto the British studygroup of the Centerfor European
Studies,HarvardUniversity,15March2002,p. IS.
" Macdonald,RaceRelations,p. 13.
105
RacialDiscrimination(London:HMSO, 1975),p. 3.

208

Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
andcommunityfunding:the stateresponse
to disrupt the activities of someBlack Power groupsand depoliticisethe work of
others.Statepersecutionwas a blunt tool, though,and many Black Power groups
capitalisedon the victimisationof their membersto gain publicity, credibility and
treatmentof black youths by the police also served
sympathy.The heavy-handed
like
for
the Black PantherMovementand the Black
tool
groups
as a recruitment
Liberation Front which offered legal advice and representation,not just to
in
but
to
the black community.The introductionof government
anyone
members
funding schemesunderthe UrbanProgrammefrom 1968,and particularlyits 1976
phaseof offering direct funding to black groups, meant that activists in Black
Power groupsin dire needof moneyto continuetheir social welfare programmes
had to make a hard choicebetweentheir work being funded and regulatedby the
state,or spendingmost of their time scrabblingfor donationsfrom an alreadypoor
supportbase.For most of them the price of independencewas too high and they
divorcedtheir socialphilanthropyfiom their political perspectives,the marriageof
which hadbeenat the heartof the Black Powermovement.
During the 1970sthe antagonismbetweenyoung West Indian men and the
police steadily escalated. Although the first generation of British blacks
experienceddiscrimination in education, housing and the job market without
regard to gender,it was male teenagerswhom the police targetedas a social
body,
A
the police were very resistantto the suggestion
self-regulating
problem.
that they sufferedfrom institutional racismor that complaintsagainstthem should
be investigated.Despitea two-year select committeeenquiry into the attitude of
the police to black people, which found they held a prejudiced view of black
criminality, the governmentcontinuedto treat the problembetweenthe police and
By 1976,young Asian men
youngblack men as one of cultural misunderstanding.

209

funding:
Chapter4: Counter-insurgency
the stateresponse
andcommunity
were expressingthe samelevels of fiustration at their communities'treatmentby
the police as their West Indian counterpartsand as a responsethe first of what
becamea nationalnetworkof Asian Youth Movementswas foundedin SoutlWI.
In an attemptto removesomeof the grievancesof the black community,
the goverment passedthe country's fust thoroughand effective Race Relations
Act in 1976.Recognisingthat discriminationcould operateindirectly in policies
and practices,as well as being deliberate,direct and personal,the act represented
important
an
step towards a more equal society, particularly in the field of
employment A watershedyear for all involved in British race relations, 1976
marked the political awakeningof a new generationof Asians, a much firmer
commitmentto tackle discriminationby the stateand a new phasein the resistance
of WestIndian youth to their mistreatmentby the police. In August 1976,Britain's
first major streetbattlebetweenyoungblack men andthe police brokeout, aslocal
youths reactedangrily to a provocatively large police presenceon the streetsof
Notting Hill duringthe Carnivalcelebrations.It wasto be the first of many.

210

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
CHAPTER5
'Here to stay, here to fightll Asian militancy, Black Power and the trade union
movement
Introduction
The history of Asian immigrantsin Britain has often been overshadowedby the
into
fall
is
Caribbean.
It
immigration
from
the trap of
to
the
easy
story of
in
binary,
black
British
the
racerelations
and white Americanmould.
conceiving
Eventhe most integratedand inclusivehistoriesof the black experiencein Britain
have tendedto privilege the African diasporanexperienceover the Asian! Peter
Fryer, for example,whose book Staying Power. the History of Black People In
Britain remains the most useful general history of non-white immigration to
Britain, has beenjustly criticised by Asian academicTariq Modood for his slight
coverageof the Asian immigrant experienceThe dangerof under-representing
the agencyof Asian immigrantsis that they becomeseenas passive,apolitical and
history
in
the
to
of
non-white
people Britain. In defenceof those who
marginal
unwittingly perpetuatethis impression,it must be acknowledgedthat it is very
difficult to weave the Asian, African and Caribbeanstories into one coherent
because
the experiencesand activities of the three groupsoften seemso
narrative
discrete. The enormous differences in language, culture, religion and social
imperialism
in
differing
in
British
the
operated
and
ways
which
organisation
southernAsia, Africa andthe Caribbeanmeanthat few easyparallelscanbe drawn
between the Indian, Pakistani, East African Asian, African and Caribbean
1 It is worth noting that historians'treatmentsof the diasporanAfrican experiencein Britain after
the Second World War have also tended to overlook the contribution of immigrants from
favour
in
Africa
of thosefrom the Caribbean.
continental
2 p. Fryer, Slaying poWer.. the History ofBIack People in Britain (London, 1984). For
a critique see
T. Modood, 'The limits of America: rethinking equality in the changing context of British race
relations', in B. Ward and A. Badger (eds), The Making of Martin Luther King and the Ctvil Rights
Movement (Basingstoke, 1996), pp. 18 1-93.

211

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
between
inter-relationship
By
the
in
Britain.
the
examining
communities post-war
Black
industrial
Asian
the
and
militancy
politics,
seeminglyseparatespheresof
Power movement,however, this chapterpresentsa more integratedhistory. It
disparate
despite
West
Indians,
Africans
Asians,
their
that
goals and
and
shows
in
historical
agents the samestruggle.
methods,wereall
Indians' and Pakistanis'strugglesagainstracial discrimination beganlong
before the industrial action of Asian factory workers caughtthe attentionof the
British mediaand public in the 1970s.The small but historically significantAsian
from
immigration
in
before
large-scale
Britain
the
that
period
of
existed
population
the Indian subcontinentin the 1960sincluded,for example,threemembersof the
House of Commonsand a peer. The active political engagementof the Indian
community representsa thread of continuity between the pre- and post-war
Indian
Workers'
Association
for
The
(IWA),
periods.
example,one of the most
importantand activeAsian organisationscampaigningfor racial equalityin Britain
during the 1960s,was founded in 1938 to campaignfor Indian independence.
During the Second World War several thousand Indian civilians worked
in
join
in
India
Britain
the
to
two
and
over
million
signed
arms
up
manufacturing
British army. Indian soldiersfought in both Europeand South-EastAsia, although
very few werestationedin Britain.
The just under 350,000 Indian and Pakistani immigrants who arrived in
Britain in the first half of the 1960swent through broadly the sameprocessesof
acclimatisation and politicisation that immigrants from the Caribbean had
in
large
from
the mid-195W
numbers
on
embarked

The languagebarriersand

3 For immigrationstatisticssee CommonwealthImmigrants In Britain (London: HMSO, 1967),


p.12. The estimatedtotal numberof immignmtsfrom India and Pakistanto Britain between1960
and 1965(inclusive)was335,653.

212

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
initially
however,
inhibited
differences
that
shieldedthem a
social
contact,
cultural
little from realising the full extent of white British racism, delaying their
disillusionment.Also, as the experienceand impact of British imperialism had
beenquite different in the Indian subcontinentthan in the Caribbean,Asians had
West
Indians.
Compared
Britain
different
to plantation
to
of
expectations
very
its
left
had
largely
India
in
Caribbean,
the
the
peoples'
colonisationof
slavery
intact,
heritages
languages
cultures,
and
giving Asians a much strongersenseof
identity and communitythan West Indians. T'heydid not think of themselvesas
English and did not look on Britain as the mother country. Equally, Indians and
Pakistanisfound WestIndiansandAfricans as culturally alien aswhite Britons and
the greatmajority did not perceivethemselvesas black or identify with the Black
Powerpolitics of the 1960s.
This did not mean,however,that they were not political. The imageof the
Asian immigrant as ignorant, timid and apolitical was a popular misconception
held by many Britons during the 1960s.OnceAsian immigrantsrealisedthat their
in
stay Britain was going to be a long or even permanentone, they startedto
campaignagainsta rangeof domesticinjustices.Asianscampaignedhard againsta
variety of issuesthat specificallyor disproportionatelyaffectedtheir communities,
for exampleimmigration restriction and the right to religious observance.They
issues
both
these
through their own organisations,such as the
on
campaigned
IWAs, and broadergroupslike Birmingham's Co-ordinatingCommitteeAgainst
Racial Discrimination (CCARD), founded in 1961 to campaign against the
CommonwealthImmigrants Bill, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of
Immigrants(JCWI), set up in 1967to provide immediatehelp and adviceto newly
arrived immigrants.Asians also playeda leadingrole in Britain's most ambitious

213

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightl' Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
civil rights group,the CampaignAgainst Racial Discrimination(CARD), founded
in January 1965. Historian Anandi Rarnamurthyhighlighted the significanceof
these earlier political struggles in providing a basis for future, more radical groups,

such as the Asian Youth Movements(AYMs) of the mid-to-late 1970s. The


AYMs, shewrites, 'would neverhavebeenfonned without being able to build on
4
Asian
the struggles of earlier generations of
activists'.

JagmohanJoshi,of the IWA (GB) Dim-Lingham,


leader
Asian
the
with
was
the closestlinks to the Black Power movementsin both Britain and America. A
is

moved to Bi

to train as an accountant,Joshi becamethe

generalsecretaryof the Binningham IWA in 1958. A co-founderof the radical


Black Peoples'Alliance (BPA) a decadelater, he also worked closely with Black
Power groupslike the Universal ColouredPeople'sAssociation(UCPA) and the
Black PantherMovement(BPM) and regularly usedthe numericalstrengthof the
IWA (GB) to bolsterBlack Powermarches.Joshi's widow recallsthat Malcolm X
in
February
requesteda meetingwith the IWA (GB) when he visited Bminmi
gham
1965and that variousAmericanBlack Powerleadersmadepersonalvisits to their
home during the late 1960s.Although politically radical and deeplysuspiciousof
mainstreamBritish politics, Joshiwas not himself an advocateof Black Power.He
did, however,subscribeto the political definition of blacknessthat connectedhis
andotherAsians' struggleswith thoseof immigrantsfrom the Caribbean.
Joshi's outlook was exceptional.Outsidehis orbit the British Black Power
little
had
appealto or impact on Asiansliving in Britain at the time. The
movement
small number of Asian men who had joined Black Power groups after 1967
dwindled aspartsof the movementbecameincreasinglycultural nationalistduring
4 A. Ramamurthy,The Politics of Britain's Asian Youth Movements',Race& Class48:2 (2006),
p. 39.

214

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fight! I Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
the early 1970s. At the same time, however, a rise in anti-Asian violence,
job
indifference
known
Taki-bashing',
prospects
and
poor
police
as
colloquially
led
by
discrimination,
to the political radicalisation of a
racial
compounded
increasing
During
Asians'
1970s,
Asians.
the
early
generation
of
younger
disillusionmentwith the police providedpoints of crossoverbetweenthem andthe
Black Powermovement.Facedwith the sameproblemsof police harassmentand
inadequateprotectionagainstviolence from assortedwhite racistsand supporters
defiant
began
National
Front,
Asians
to
the
the
anger
young
with
of
growing
react
more normally attributedto their West Indian counterparts.The Southall Youth
Movement(SYM), which emergedas a spontaneous
responseto the Metropolitan
Police's failure to adequatelyinvestigatethe racist murder of a local Asian
teenagerin June 1976,clearly referencedBlack Power.Adopting the black fist as
their logo and basingtheir codeof conducton the strict rules of the Black Panther
Party,the AYMs that sprangup in Asian areasaroundthe countryin the late 1970s
borrowedfrom both the style andthe substanceof the Americanand British Black
Powermovements.
The chapterconcludeswith an examinationof Asian involvementin the
discrimination
in the workplace and the trade union
struggle against racial
movement.The Marxist philosophyof the remaining Black Power groupsin the
1970sdictatedthat black workers should be in the vanguardof the battle against
its
and
progenitor capitalism. (As previously noted, the Black Panther
racism
Movement even changedits name to the Black Workers Movement (BWM) in
1973to reflect this changein emphasis.
) The sectionof the black communityat the
forefront of the working-class struggle in the early 1970s, however, was
industrial
Asian
undoubtedly
workersin the Midlands andthe North. The ultimate

215

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
into
Britain's
be
integrated
however,
to
economic
Asian
these
was
strikers,
of
goal
in
Britain
it.
The
of
basis
to
arrival
the
overthrow
not
of
equality,
systemon
boosted
Asian
1970s
in
Uganda
from
Asians
the
early
thousandsof middle-class
industrial militancy but also reinforcedthe capitalist natureof its aspirations.The
in
began
in
London,
North
film
Grunwick
which
processingplant
strike at the
It
Desai.
Jayaben
Asian
female
Ugandan
by
led
1976,
August
worker,
a
was
its
in
towards
markeda watershedmoment the trade union movement'sattitude
black members,as for the first time a spontaneousstrike of Asian workers was
by
trade
by
the
union
their
whole
supported
union
and
officially recognised
fellow
her
Desai
Power
While
Black
this
and
asco-option,
radicalssaw
movement.
forward
it
step.
as
a
crucial
viewed
strikers

Asians in Britain: a brief history


Indians both lived and were politically

large-scale
before
in
Britain
active

5
War.
The
began
Second
World
from
Asia
the
majority of
after
southern
migration
them were working class - usually either lascar sailors or itinerant peddlers. There
it
they
however,
few
that
Indian
the
seems
upper
class,
and
members
of
a
also
were
African
West
Indian
in
British
that
their
and
society
experienced an acceptance
have
did
Although
to
tiny
they
enjoyed all the
appear
not.
a
minority,
counterparts
in
four
Indian
For
British
their
sat
men
white
counterparts.
example,
privileges of
the Houses of Parliament between 1892 and 1929; Dadabhai Naoroji served as the
Liberal MP for Finsbury Central between 1892 and 1895, Mancheijee Bhownagree
for
Shapudi
MP
between
1895
1906,
Bethnal
Green
Conservative
the
and
was
Saklatvala was elected as the Communist MP for Batterseabetween 1922 and 1929
5 Pakistanbrokeawayfrom India to becomean independent
nationin August1947.lberefore,
fromIndiacanbediscussed.
beforethatdateonlyimmigration

216

Power
Black
Asian
fightV
here
andthe trade
Chapter5: 'Here to stay,
to
militancy,
unionmovement
in
his
death
from
1919
Lords
in
House
Raipur
Sinha
until
of
of
sat the
and Lord
1928. lbough, as David Cannadinehas pointed out, 'individual social ordering
it
is
in
British
the
empire,
often took precedenceover collective racial othering'
to
Indians
three
positions of real
that
elected
popularly
were
still remarkable
6
in
To
imperial
in
this
the
a comparativecontext,
put
metropolis.
political power
7
for
1987
had
the sameopportunity.
descent
African
first
Ws
to
wait until
the
of
in
in
Britain
Indian
by
Extra-parliamentary
the
community
political activity
Workers'
first
Indian
foundation
included
the
inter-war
the
of
the
period
Association (IWA) in Coventry in 1938. Set up to campaign for Indian
independence,
the majority of the IWA's memberswere Sikhs from the Punjab.In
the former
1940, Udham.Singh, a founding memberof the IWA, assassinated
for
Amritsar
in
O'Dwyer,
1fichael
the
Punjab,
Sir
the
revenge
governor of
by
British
dead
during
his
been
brother
had
troops,
1919,
shot
which
massacreof
in
London
hanged
Singh
hundreds
on
was
of other unarmedprotestors.
along with
31 July 1940but Home Office recordsshow that N115continuedto keepthe IWA
for
India
decade!
After
the
the
was granted
rest
of
under surveillance
in 1947the IWA dwindled into obsolescence,
independence
until it wasrevivedas
in
a socialandwelfareorganisation the mid-1950s.
The two million Indianswho fought in the British army during the Second
World War, had quite a different experiencefrom the tens of thousandsof West
Indians who also signed up. In common with Britain's African troops, tens of
thousandsof which fought in Burma,Italy and Germany,most Indian soldierssaw

6D. Cannadine,Ornamentalism:How theBritish Saw TheirEmpire(London,2001),p. 10.


7PaulBoatengandBernieGrantwereboth electedasLabourMPs in 1987.
' SeeHO 45/25460:'Disturbances:IndianWorkersAssociation:"inflammatory"toneofAzad Hind
(Quit India), a bi-lingual monthly in Punjabiand Urdu, 1945-1951',held at the National Archive
(NA).

217

Chapter5: "Hereto stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
active servicein Europeand South-EastAsia, whereasWest Indian recruitswere
9
fulfil
Britain
to
more often sent to
auxiliary roles. Indianswere involved in the
domesticBritish war effort - for example,historianRozina.Visram estimatesthat
therewere morethan 3,000Indian civilians working in British munitionsfactories
by the middle of 1942.10
The majority of thesepeoplehad beenresidentin Britain
before the war, however,and had taken advantageof the wartime demandfor
labour to get better-paidjobs. The number of demobilisedIndian soldiers who
decidedto move to Britain in the decadeafter the war was small though,because
few of themhadany directconnectionwith the country.
After the war, the creationof a National Health Servicein 1948attracteda
number of Indian doctors, although only a small number of Asian immigrants
"
Britain
during
1950s.
Whenimmigrationfrom India andPakistan
travelledto
the
increased
sharply
at the start of the 1960s,its compositionalso changed.Whereas
most Asian immigrantshad previouslybeenyoungmen,the new arrivalsbeganto
includetheir parents,wives andchildren,as peoplerushedto get their families into
Britain before its open door closed. Statisticscompiled by the CentralOffice of
Informationshowedthat, in 1959,16,500WestIndiansbut only 2,950Indiansand
850 Pakistanismigratedto Britain. In 1962,however,hinnuigration
from India and
Pakistanoutstrippedthat from the Caribbean,and by 1963there were more than
12
four timesasmanyimmigrantsarriving from Asia as from the Caribbean.

9 Ministry of Defence figures


state, for example, that 200,000 Indian and 90,000 Aftican troops
fought in Burma between 1942 and 1945. See:
weweredim. defiencedynamics.
mod.uktwewerethere old/infareast.hitml.
10FLVisram,Asians in Britain: 400 Years History (London, iO-02), 268.
of
p.
11Pakistan consisted of two separate territories, East
and West Pakistan, which were part of the
same country despite being ovff a thousand miles apart. In December 1971 civil war in East
Pakistan resulted in some of its territory rejoining India and the rest forming a new country,
Bangladesh.
12CommonwealthImmigrants to Britain (LA)ndon:HMSO, 1967),
p12. The immigration figures for
1963 were 7.928 West Indians, 16,336 Pakistanis and 17,499 Indians.

218

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Most Pakistaniimmigrantsto Britain during the 1960sweretenantfarmers
in
Mirpur
border
battle-torn
from
the
of
regions
or peasants
poor, agricultural,
West Pakistanand Sylhet in East Pakistanand were Muslims. Indian immigrants
Gujarat
industrialised
districts
Punjab
from
the
and
slightly more
of
usually came
(from
Hindus
(from
Punjab)
Sikh
the
with
of
a small minority
and were mainly
Gujarat). Westernand EasternPakistanisand Punjabi and Gujarati Indians all
spoke different languages.Despite these differences the young Indian and
Pakistanimen, who madeup more than three quartersof the initial immigrants,
13
in
sharedthe samegoalsonce Britain. For all of them,their migrationwas driven
by the desireto accrueenoughmoneyto improvethe quality of life andstandingof
their families and communitiesback home.Initially, they did not intendto remain
in Britain once they had made enoughmoney to meet their responsibilitiesat
home.Unlike manymale West Indian immigrants,who had alreadymigratedwith
for
their wives and children by the time the Commonwealth
subsequently
sent
or
ImmigrantsAct came into effect on I July 1962, theseAsian men still viewed
themselvesas temporarymigrantsratherthan settlers.Oncethey realisedthat their
financialambitionscould not be easilyrealisedandthat the stringentrestrictionsof
the 1962CommonwealthImmigrantsAct meantthat if they left Britain they might
not have the chanceto return, they too beganto sendfor their families, who as
their dependents
werestill allowedto enterBritain without restriction.
With the arrival of wives, parentsand children camea tighteningup of the
social mores within Asian communities in Britain. The young single men, who had
been their enjoying fteedorn away from the watchful eyes of their parents and
communities, had adapted their lifestyles to the West. It was not an unusual sight,
'3 Hiro estimates
thatin 1960theratioof maleto femaleimmigrants
was3:1 fromIndiaand40:1
fromPakistan.
SeeD. Hiro,BlackBritis& WhiteBritish(London,1971),p. 108.

219

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
for example,to seePakistaniMuslim men drinking beerin a pub and manyIndian
Sikh men had shavedtheir beardsand cut their hair to makeit easierto find work.
A similar relaxing of religious observance for female Asian IMMI'grants would
have been unthinkable, however, as women were traditionally the bearers of their
family honour, and as such their behaviour was more closely watched and
regulated. Becausethey were often not allowed to work or socialise outside of their
families, Asian women in Britain were more insulated from westernising
influences than men. Religion was often extremely important to them because
displays of piety and religious devotion were one of the few ways they could gain
status and express themselves. Many Asian families in Britain discovered,
however, that they could not make ends meet unless the women undertook paid
work. The 1971 censusrecorded that 40.8 per cent of Indian women and 20.7 per
14
Pakistani
cent of
women earned wages. Pakistani women, who had to follow
more strict religious observances,were more likely to undertake piecework that
be
done
could
at home, which was considered a more honourable solution. Indian

women also labouredat this low-paid and unregulatedhome-work,but also took


jobs in factoriesand laundries.The dishonourof having to work outsidethe home
in an environmentthat included men was lessenedby the fact that whole shifts
wereoften staffedentirelyby Indianwomen.
The Pakistaniand Indian communitiesthat grew in Britain in the 1960s
were concentratedin London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire, with more
Indians living in the South and more Pakistanisin the North.15Whatevertheir
14Statisticsquotedin P. Parmar,'Gender,raceand class:Asian womenin resistance'in Centrefor
ContemporaryCultural Studies, The Empire Strikes Back- Race and Racism in 70s Britain
(London,1982),p. 247.
's Much of the informationin this paragraphis takenfrom Political
a
andEconomicPlanning(PEP)
survey publishedas D. Smith, The Facts of Racial Disadvantage.
- a National Survey(London,
1976).

220

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy,Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
professionshad beenat home,mostAsian men initially joined the British working
badly
jobs
lowest
The
to
them
the
that
paid,
were
usually
were
open
classon
rung.
hours
dangerous
involved
and/or shiftoften
unsociable
and almost invariably
work. To avoid this, a small petit bourgeoisieof shopkeepersand restaurateurs
developed
those
the
widespreadracial
quickly
as
all
who
could
circumvent
discrimination of British employersby working for themselves,did so. Once
establishedin Britain, however,Pakistanisand Indians fared quite differently in
terms of economicadvancement,educationalachievementand social integration.
A 1971 Runnymede Trust survey of 450 young Indian, Pakistani and West Indian

immigrantsnotedthat, 'Clearly most peoplewould considerthe young Pakistanis


to be the worst off. They are almostcertainlythe most circumscribedof the three
groupsin termsof educationalbackground,job statusand,to someextent,housing
16 Alifliough the
conditions'.
survey found that West Indians were most

economicallysuccessfuloverall, it noted that Indians spokemuch better English


than Pakistanisand had higher educationalqualificationsthan either Pakistanisor
West Indians.Of the threegroups,the Pakistaniswerethe leastlikely to stayon at
17
jobs.
likely
in
to work
school after the age of sixteen and the most
unskilled
Furthermore,the surveyconcluded,'Insofar as [political] passivitydoesexist, it is
18
Pakistani
interviewed'.
the
mostcommonamong
youth
The most upwardly mobile group of Asian immigrants did not arri'vemi
Britain until the end of the 1960s.They were African Asianswho arrived eitheras
British citizens or refugeesfrom Kenya, Uganda,Malawi and Tanzaniabetween
1967 and 1976.The 1976 Political and EconomicPlanningsurvey, The Facts of

16P. Evans, Me Attitudes Young Immigrants (London, 1971), 12.


of
p.
17lbid, pp. 1G-12.
11lbid.. p. 25.

221

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Racial Disadvantage,noted that African Asians had the best English language
19
immigrants.
Although
Asian
the
qualifications
of
all
skills and
most educational
they were descendedfrom Indian 'coolie' labourers brought over by British
imperial administratorsin the nineteenthand early twentieth centuriesto work on
in
by
like
Uganda-Kenya
1960s
Asians
the
the
easternand
railway,
projects
southernAfrican countrieswere disproportionatelyrepresentedin the professional
middle classes.It was precisely these Asians' relative financial and social
superiority that leaders like Kenya7sJorno Kenyatta and Uganda's Idi Amin
exploitedin orderto garnerpublic supportfor policies restrictingtheir activitiesin
Africa or expelling them entirely. The majority of the Asians who emigratedto
Britain from Africa in the late 1960sand early 1970shad chosento take British
citizenshipwhen the African coloniesthey lived in gainedindependence
andwere
finding life as foreign nationalsvery difficult underthe Africanisationlaws of the
new independentnations. They were political refugeesrather than economic
migrantsand alreadywell practisedat making the most of living in an alien and
potentiallyhostile country.DespitesuccessiveBritish governments'best efforts to
keepthem out or makethem move to areaswhere there were few fellow Asians,
the majority of the East African Asians eventually settled in London or the
Midlands, where they played an important role in the industrial disputesof the
1970s.

Asian political activity during the 1960s


Asians - particularly Indians - campaigned on a range of issues that affected their
communities during the 1960s, including immigration rules, the infringement of

19Smith, 7le Facts, pp. 44,47.

222

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
their religiousrites, discriminationat work and educationalinequalitiessuchasthe
bussing of their children to distant schools. They also participatedin broader
organisationsfighting for racial equality, even those with radical agendas.The
most active Asian organisationswerethe Indian WorkersAssociations,both those
in the Midlands network that were part of Joshi's IWA (GB) and the separate,
independentIWA Southall. Of all the issues affecting Asians in Britain,
immigrationrestrictionand the tangleof sometimesarbitrary and unjust rules and
practicesthat complicatedtheir passageto Britain and attemptsto settleoncethere,
were the most important. With the possibleexceptionof CARD, all the groups
mentioned at the start of the chapter campaigned hard against Britain's
immigrationlaws.
Foundedin Birmingham in February 1961,CCARD was the first post-war
broad-front, anti-racist organisationoutside of London. Set up jointly by the
BirminghamIWA, the West Indian Workers' Association,the PakistaniWorkers'
Association and the Birmingham University Socialist Union, CCARD was
dedicatedto racial equality. Becauseof its coalitional make-up,CCARD was, in
someways, lessradical than the local IWA, from which much of its membership
came,but it grew from the samepolitical heritage.White CPGB memberShirley
Fossickwas recruitedto CCARD as its campaignsecretaryin 1962and later went
on to marry its co-founderJagmohanJoshi.Shemaintainsthat CCARD's form and
directionwere very much influencedby its Asian membership.'It was born of the
experiencesof a lot of the peoplewho camefrom the Punjab,who werepoliticised
andhad experienceworking in broadfronts in India, shesays.'Pakistaniworkers,
Indian workers were all central
There were other organisationsand trade
...
unionists that were there and alongsideit, but the black workers' organisations

223

Chapter5: 'Hereto stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
British
CCARD,
fbrefront'O
therefore,
civil'rights
early
was an
were at the
dissent
Asian
in
independent
its
had
traditions
of
political
roots
organisationthat
for
andcampaigning equality.
Te fact that CCARD precededthe similar but much higher profile
London-basedCampaignAgainst Racial Discrimination by almost four years
inward-looking
Asian
and
that
communities were
underminesthe assumption
in
West
Indians
Africans
behind
lagged
terms of organising
and
apolitical and
by
Asian
the
being
from
Far
midactivists
apathetic,
politically
againstracism.
1960swere engagedin a heateddebateover the tactics requiredto achievetheir
join
CARD
invitation
The
to
organisations'goalsof economicand social equality.
in
ideological
divide
many organisationsover whether they should
exposedan
follow Joshi's example of independent,grassrootsand increasingly militant
its
lobbying
CARD's
to
trying
the
use
governmentand
policy of
campaigningor
legislation to promote equality. The IWA (GB) had refused to join CARD,
declaring it to be, 'nothing but a middle-classorganisationtrying to eliminate
discriminationsuperficiallyand without any backingof the threemajor immigrant
'
join
its
invitation
led
by
declined
CCARD,
Joshi,
to
on
also
communities'!
been
had
however,
influential
large
IWA
Southall,
The
and
similar grounds.
instrumental in setting up CARD and the National Federation of Pakistani
Organisations(NFPA) and the Indian Social Club were also among its member
22
Hamza
Pakistani
Furthermore,
Asians,
academic
several
such as
organisations.
Alavi, RanianaAsh, the RunnymedeTrust's Dipak Nandy and IWA Southall
leaderVishnu Sharma,servedon CARD's executivecommittee.
20ShirleyJosK interviewedby the author,2 November2004.
21Undateddocumentheld in the IWA archive,at BirminghamCentralLibrary.
22The NFPA, founded in 1963, was itself an umbrella organisationrepresentingover twenty
Pakistanigroups.

224

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy,Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
The numberof Asians in leadershippositions in CARD led Black Power
in
1967.
its
it
denounce
Asian-dominated
third
to
conference
annual
at
as
activists
Although, in reality, it was not, 'The story was widely believedthat CARD had
been taken over by a sinister coalition of whites and Asians', former CARD
23
first
Convention
Dummett
'The
Michael
the
was
session
of
recalled.
member
from
in
hysteria,
fanned
by
which
of
abuse
atmosphere
personal
conducted an
insulting racial epithets - directed against Asians as well as whites - were not
4
absent'! The Black Power activists' main objection to the perceived Asian overin
in
CARD,
leadership positions
Asians
that
they
those
was
viewed
representation
as being middle-class government apologists. This impression was partly basedon

CARD vice-chairHarnzaAlavi's decisionto agreeto be co-optedonto statutory


body,the National Committeefor CommonwealthImmigrants,in September1965.
Another factor was the reputation of the IWA Southall, which was seen as a
middle-classorganisationwith conservative,integrationist,aims.
Foundedin May 1957,the IWA Southall supportedthe CommunistParty
of India (CPI) and its leaderVishnu Sharmawas a lifetime memberof the British
Communist Party (CPGB), even sitting on its National Executive from 1971.
Representingone of the largestsettlementsof Asians in Britain, the IWA Southall
welcomedPakistanias well as Indian members.it was well funded, collecting
it
fiom
dues
Dominion
to
the
membership
enoughmoney
cinema,which
purchase
transformedinto an Indian film house,as well as a meeting spacefor all black
people. It campaignedagainst the CommonwealthImmigrants Bill in 1961,
'3 M. Dummett,'CARD Reconsidered,RaceToday5:2 (1973)p. 44.

241bid,p. 43. Dimmett'sarticlewaswrittenasa riposteto fellowformerCARDmemberMarion


happened
Gleanwhohadarguedin a bookreview- M. Glean,'Whatever
to CARD?', RaceToday,
5:1 (1973)- that therewasno antipathybetweenAsiansandWestIndiansin CARD in 1967.
Dummett'sargumentis the moreconvincingof the two, especiallyas Gleanhadleft CARDby
1967anddid notattendtheconference.

225

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightl' Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
in
1965
factory
local
Woolf
for
food
the
s
andmoney striking workersat
provided
found
Standing
Conference
West
joined
forces
Indian
to
the
in
1967,
the
with
and,
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. (An organisationthat campaigns
direly
immigrants
for
better
the
treatment
needed
a
and
provides
of
effectively
)
JCWI
for
the
them
the
still exists.
ports of entry,
at
welfareand advocacyservice
In 1969 the IWA Southall also joined the campaign against Ealing borough
25
bussing
discriminatory
black
policy of
schoolchildren.
council's
These campaigning activities notwithstanding, the accusation of
issues
from
in
hard
favour
was
conservatism and shying away
politics
of cultural
levelled against the IWA Southall by other Indian and Black Power groups in the
1960s and 1970s. "Apart from one major demonstration against the Immigration
Act of 1972 [sic], into which the IWA [Southall] leadership was forced, it has done
absolutely nothing', thundered a pamphlet published by another Southall group,
the Indian Workers' Front. 'Most of the time this gentry are happy to act as the
26
Front's
Home
Office'.
The
Workers'
Indian
the
the
of
main source of
stooges
hatred of the IWA Southall, however, stemmed from the latter's continued support
of the 'fascist' Congress Party of India, not its conduct in Britain. Politics in the
home country clearly still shaped political allegiances in the metropolis, even as
late as the mid-1970s. It was certainly the case,though, that the IWA Southall was
not as radical as the Birmingham branch of the IWA (GB), particularly with regard
25In 1963, in responseto complaintsfrom white parentsin Ealing that they did not want their
childrento be educatedin classeswith a majority of 'immigrant' (that is, black) pupils,the borough
council askededucationminister EdwardBoyle to visit Ealing's schoolsand advisethemwhat to
do. Boyle's solution was to suggestthat a quota be introduced, restricting the number of
'immigrant' childrenper classto a third. Thosethat exceededthe quotawould be bussedto a school
with fewer 'immigrant' pupils. This stigmatisedblack childrenandtook awaytheir choiceto go to
a local school.They also firequentlyfound that they were very unwelcomeat the schoolto which
they had been bussed.White children were never subject to bussing.The 1965 White Paper,
ImmigrationJrom the Commonwealth,recommendedthat all schoolsuse a quota systemfor
'immigrantchildren' and,hence,bussing.
26Indian Workers' Front'On the lap-dogsof IndianFascism:an exposureof the leadingclique of
the IWA (Southall)',undated,p. 2. Held, unfiled,at the Instituteof RaceRelations(IRR).

226

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightt' Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
has
IWA-Southall
Party.
'Though
Labour
its
the
the
to
to
willingness work with
has
in
'it
1969,
DeWitt
John
Labour
the
government',wrote sociologist
criticized
27

it
in
Ultimately,
British
Labour
was
elections".
candidates
consistentlysupported
this willingnessto collaboratewith the statethat underminedthe IWA's reputation
in many eyes.Assessingthe legacyof the leadersof the IWA Southall,academic
HarwantBains concludedthat, althoughit achievedmany things, 'Unfortunately,
they also succeededin openingthe back door to forms of statesponsorshipwhich
destroyedthe very principlesof autonomousorganisationfor which they formerly
stood's Bains' assessmentthrows up superficially striking parallels with the
transformationof severalBlack Power activists into government-sponsored
social
Southall
in
but
IWA
Urban
Programme,
the
the
the
mid-1970sunder
workers
be
be
its
to
should
part of a radical movementand achievements
neverprofessed
judgedwithin its own frameof reference.
Asiansdisplayedgreatmilitancy in defendingtheir cultural rights andthese
by
defining
be
should not
overlooked
political activity solely in narrow party or
organisationalterms.Religiousissues,in particular,shouldnot be consideredapart
from their political and social context. Many Indians and Pakistaniswho did not
think it an appropriateuse of their time to protestagainstthe attacksof far-right
politicians like Enoch Powell and Duncan Sandys,were quick to demonstrate
in
felt
freedom
being
For
their
threatened.
they
religious
when,
example,
when
was
August 1967, the transport departmentof Wolverhamptoncouncil threatenedto
bus
Sikh
conductorif he did not shavehis beardandreplacehis turbanwith
sacka
a cap, it sparkeda two-yearcampaignof resistance.The actionstaken includeda

27D. John,Indian Workers' Associationsin Britain (London,1969),p.159.


,23It Bains,'SouthallYouth: an old-fashionedstory' in P. Cohenand H. Bains,(eds),Multi-Racist
Britain (Basingstoke,1988),p. 241.

227

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
1968
in
Febnu-try
Wolverhampton
Sikhs
5,000
through
and
silent march of
himself
Jolly
leader
Sohan
Singh
local
in
committing
culminated sixty-six-year-old
to ritual self-immolationif turban-wearingwere not allowed by the Sikh new year
in 1969.Jolly's way of showinghis resistanceto cultural imperialism was more
29
had
in
thaneventhe mostextremeBlack Poweractivist Britain
everproposed.
Although the Sikh bus staff s grievanceswere ostensiblyreligious, their
West Indian co-workersviewed their campaignas also againstracism, despite
local MP Enoch Powell's dismissalof the dispute as nothing more than Indian
30
in
1968
February
Gcommunalism' a
speech. In a union ballot on whether to
support Sikh bus staff s demands,West Indians voted with the Asian members.
'The result was clearly unexpectedby the union leaders,who imaginedthe West
31
West
dispute.
Indians would vote with the whites', explained a study of the
Indianworkersbad noted,however,the ugly racisttone of the public oppositionto
the Sikh workers' cause.Wolverhamptoncouncil eventuallybackeddown on 9
April 1969,to avoid putting Jolly's ultimatum to the test and becausethe Sikh
communityshowedabsolutelyno sign of weakeningits stance.
In 1967the issueof primary immigration becamea centralissuein British
facing
Asians
British
thousand
politics once again as several
passport-holding
in
The
from
Britaim
Kenya
to
take
their
attempted
expulsion
up
right of abode
length to which the British governmentwas preparedto go to preventmore nonwhite immigration shockedand in many casesradicalisedthose Asians already
living in Britain. On I March 1968, the CommonwealthImmigration Act was
voted into law by an overwhelmingmajority of MPs, after only oneweek's debate.
29The informationabout the Wolverhamptondisputeis taken from D. Bentham,Transportand
Turbans:a ComparativeStudyin Local Politics (London,1970).
30Extractsftorn Powell's speechat Walsall in Febniary 1968are includedin H. Bains, 'Southall
Youth: anold-fiLshioned
story' in CohenandBains(eds),Multi-RacistBritain, p. 56.
31Bentham,Transportand Turbans,p. 44.

228

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
'By far the most disturbingand demoralizingexperiencefor Pakistaniand Indian
32

Hiro.
Indian
Bill',
Immigration
1968
the
commentator
concluded
settlerswas

Having beenportrayedas little betterthan a plagueof locustsduring the run-up to


the 'KenyanAsians' Act, Asiansprovidedthe backboneof the campaignagainstit.
SeveralAsian organisationsalsojoined the new Black Peoples'Alliance (BPA), in
had
that
never taken government money and whose
which only groups
In
bodies
did
to
a
participate.
were
allowed
representatives not sit on government
tone-settingact of defiance,the foundingconferenceon 28 April 1968washeld in
a housein LeamingtonSpathat had previouslybeenattackedby a British branch
of the Ku Klux Klan. Severalof the original twenty membergroupsadvocated
Black Power.

Asian militancy and Black Power


Although some Asian individuals and organisationsdid participatein the Black
Powermovement,it held little appealfor their wider communities.Patternedafter
American Black Power,the British movementfocusedon issuesthat were much
more relevant to people of African than Asian descent.Black Power's central
emphaseson self-determinationand cultural nationalism were non-issuesto
Indians and Pakistanis.European imperialism had subjugatedand indentured
Asians in the countries it administered,but not enslaved them, deliberately
dismantledtheir family structure,or tried to eradicatetheir indigenouscultures,as
it had in the Caribbean.Asian communitiesin Britain were imbuedwith traditions,
customsandreligionsthat stretchedbackthousandsof years- cultural nationalism
to themwasnot a goal to aspireto but a daily reality.
32

Ibid., P. 144.

229

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Recallinghis visit to London in July 1967,StokelyCarmichaelwrote that
he had beenpleasantlysurprised,'to hear Black Power resonatingand to seethe
33
TUS
in
fists
Pakistani
Asian
the
youth
communities,especiallyamong
raised
.
in
indifference
immigrants
Pakistani
the
general
anomalousstatement,given
of
Britain to Black Power,on eithersideof the Atlantic, canprobablybe explainedby
the visits between1964 and 1966 of outspokenand charismaticNation of Islarn
(NoI) proselytisers,
Malcolm X and MuhammadAli. Despiteits name,the Nol was
not recognisedasa religiousgroupby orthodoxMuslims (andin fact wasregarded
asheretical),but this did not stop someyoungBritish Muslims being fascinatedby
its spokesmen.Former second-in-command,
Malcolm X, was invited to speakat
Islamic studentsocietymeetingsat the universitiesof SheffieldandBirminghamin
December1964 and February1965 and did so to packedaudiences,althoughin
Sheffield, at least, the majority of attendeeswere white. By December 1964
Malcolm X had left the Nol, become an orthodox Sunni Muslim, and was
attempting to formulate a new global political movement of oppressedblack
people.Unfetteredby the political conservatismof the Nol, he could havebecome
a powerfid radical Muslim leader.His untimely death on 21 February1965,cut
shortthis potential.
Wildly popular with Muslim and non-Muslim black people alike, world
heavyweightboxing championAli visited London twice in 1966 to fight British
boxers.On both occasionshe was chaperonedby Michael X and 'made a point of
34
into
Muslim
the
reaching out
communities'. Furthermore,in April 1967, the
news that Ali had refusedto answerthe draft to fight in the Vietnam war, on

33S. Cannichaelwith E. NL lbelwelL Readyfor Revolution:the Lire


and Strugglesof Stokely
Carmichael(KwameTure)(New York, 2003),p. 576.
34
Ibid, p. 276.

230

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
him
forfeiting
his
the
title
earned
and risking prison as a result,
religiousgrounds,
In
1971,
black
Muslims
the
a surveyof young
world.
across
people
and
respectof
immigrantsrevealedthat when askedwhom they most admired,most Pakistanis
5
devoted
Malcolm
Y,
Ali
Muhammad
Ali?
Unlike
memberof
a
was still
named
the Nol when he visited Britain. But although it was bracketedwith the Black
Powermovementby white Americans,who found its members'advocacyof selfdefenceand disdainfor white societyequally frightening,the Nol was in fact not
interestedin challengingthe statusquo. Espousinga millenarian eschatology,it
deliberatelyabstainedfrom earthlypolitics, and thus would neitherhavesoughtto
encourageMuslim immigrants in Britain to take an interest in Black Power, nor

desirable.
Nonetheless,Ali's radical stand against
viewed such an outcome as
in
his
imperialism
the
version of Islam was a powerful exampleof
nameof
white
political radicalism to young Muslims.

Although British Black Power theoretically embracedall oppressednonwhite people as politically 'black', in practice this did not always reflect the
feelingsof its advocates.ThoseBlack Power groups,suchas the Black Liberation
Front (BLF), that tended more towards cultural nationalism, found that their
emphasison constructinga positive black identity via a closer identification with
and celebrationof African culture and history had limited appealfor their Asian
?6
members Groupswhich definedoppressionin classterms,like the Black Unity
and FreedomParty (BUFP) and the Black PantherMovement (BPM), found it
easier to bridge ethnic divisions. This was demonstratedin 1968, when the
expulsionof thousandsof Asians from Kenya presenteda potential challengeto
33EVans,,
YoungImmigraw, p. 26. West Indiansput Ali in joint first positionwith Martin Luther
King, whereasIndiansplacedhim third, after MahatmaGandhiand, somewhatmore surprisingly,
HaroldWilson.
36For a fuller discussionof this seechapter3.

231

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
the unity of Black Power groups. A statement from the inaugural meeting of the

BPA in 1968, made referenceto the sometimesantagonistic interests of its


between
descent.
'Further
African
Asian
the
appear
contradictions
and
membersof
have
have
been
They
sometimes
suspicious
of eachother and
nationalminorities.
it
but
interests
Kenyan
Asians',
the
their
add4
read,
conflicting, e.g. over
seen
hopefully, 'Tbis meetingis one of the most concretesignsof us overcomingthese
differences'7An article in the journal of the BPA-affiliated Black Revolutionary
Action Movement(BRAM), showed,however,how a class-basedanalysiscould
be used to overcome nationalist divisions. Criticising both the policy of
Afficanisation for being 'bourgeois nationalism' and the behaviour of East African

Asians as 'collaboratingwith imperialism at every level', it explainedthat, 'the


is
for
Asian
to
the
true
the Asian working
solution
only
and everlasting
problem
classandAfrican workersandpeasantsto overcometheir racial bigotry, realisethe
is
bourgeoisie
African
a common enemy to both and ... establisha truly
new
38
socialistsocietyabolishingthe exploitationof man'. In 1973,however,the issue
of EastAfrican Asiansagainshowedup divisions in the Black Powermovement.
A BPM 'Statementon the UgandanAsian situation' from September1972noted
that, 'We can seethat the UgandanAsian issueis having the effect of deepening
the suspicionsthat exist betweenblack peopleof African origin and black people
39
Asian
of
ongm'. Despite BRAM's exhortationsto join together in a socialist
utopia, classantagonismsand a degreeof mutual suspicionstill existedbetween
peopleof African andAsian descentin the Black Powermovement.

37'Black Peoples'Alliance: documentedand adoptedat the inauguralmeeting28/4/68'. Document


held in Tony Soares'privatecollection.
38'The problemof Asiansin EastAfrica', 7heBlack Ram 1:5 (November1969),p. 5.
39Black PantherMovement,'Statement UgandanAsian Situation, II September1972, 1.
on
p.
Held in Tony Soares'privatecollection.

232

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
The overwhelming majority of Asians were highly suspiciousof Black
Power groups, even those promoting a racially inclusive socialist agenda.The
media and politicians' depiction of Black Power as an anarchisticrevolutionary
movement,or the black equivalentof the National Front, worried most Asiansjust
as much as it did white Britons. A 1971 survey, which asked young Asians
whetherthey should 'be preparedto fight for [their] rights as a black man', found
that 91 per cent of Indiansand 71 per cent of Pakistanisagreedto someextenOO
Asked, additionally, if they thought they shouldjoin a Black Power group, the
overwhelming majority, however, said they did not - although Indians were
41
being
idea
keener
Pakistanis.
Joshi encouragedmembers
the
than
on
reportedas
of the IWA (GB) to think of themselvesas 'black' as well as Asian. 'Peoplelike
Joshi were very clear that they were black and took on that identification',
remembershis widow. 'If some of the elementsin some of the Black Power
organisationsamong the African-Caribbeancommunity would say, "no you're
not", Joshi's position was we're in a commonstruggle,let's not fight over who's
black'.42 He took greatpains,however,to justify to IWA membershis decisionto
align the associationwith Black Powergroupsin the BPA, finessingthe definition
of 'Black Power' to suit their proclivities. 'Some of the organizationswhich we
worked with in the Alliance belongedto the Black Power Movement and we
thereforefelt it importantthat we shouldclearly defirteour attitudeto black power
[sic]', he explainedto the IWA (GB)'s 1970nationalconference.
The only generaldefinition we can acceptis one which definesblack people
in terms of their classbasis, as workers, peasants,capitalistsetc. and then
proceedsto explain black power as the control of the state by the great

40Evans, YoungImmigrants, p. 25.


41lbid., p. 26.

42ShirleyjoShLinterviewedby the author,2 November2004.

233

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
lands
in
in
black
the
which they
and
peasants,
workers
people,
ma.onty of
liv 3

Joshi's defuition of Black Power stemmed from an unusually intimate


knowledge of the movement. He had had as much first-hand experienceof
American Black Power as any of the London Black Power groups' leaders.
Malcolm X had arrangeda meetingwith the IWA (GB) leadershipduring his visit
to Birminghamin Febmary1965.His was not the only visit. Shirley Joshirecalls:
can rememberthe press campedout in our front gardenbecausethere were
from
Joshi
Black
Power
One
944
organisations
and
visitors
was
carrying
a
gUn!
...
the IWA (GB) also had a close relationship with British Black Power groups.

'Toward the end of the 1960s leading members of the IWA talked about
themselvesas black and madethoseconnectionswith the progressiveelementsof
5
Black
Power
Shirley
Joshi!
The connections were not just
the
movement', recalls

leaders.
level
file
in
Rank
IWA
(GB)
the
of
and
at
members- sometimes their
thousands- regularly constituted the majority of marcherson demonstrations
organised by Black Power groups, just as they had for more moderate
in
organisations the 1960s.After a BPA demonstrationin 1969,Earl Corlis, leader
BRAK
'to
my African and West Indian brothersand sisters',
made
an
appeal
of
that, 'in future we hopeto seemore of Lyou]on the streetdemonstratingandnot to
dependon our Asian brothers and sisters and our white liberal friends'.46The
following March, when another BPA-organised demonstration outside the
Americanembassyin London, againstthe prosecutionof AmericanBlack Panther
43MS 2141/2:'Reportof the GeneralSecretarypresentedby J. Joshlat the NationalConferenceof
the IWA (GB), 7/1InO-811InO, in Nottingham',p. 18. Held in the IWA archivein Birmingham
CentralLibrary.
44Shirley Joshi, interviewed by the author, 2 November 2004.
43lbidL

" Earl Corlis, The Black Peoples[sic] Alliance. Report of meeting, The Black Ram 1:3 (15
February1969), p. 4.

234

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
(GB)
IWA
being
in
the
Bobby
Seale,
arrested,
protesters
resulted several
chairman
took a leading role in a solidarty protest outside the embassythe following week.
Joshi explained that they were protesting, 'Not only at racism in the US and in
behaviour
disgraceful
but
Seale,
Bobby
the
of the
treatment
the
also
at
of
particular
47
Asian
in
Britain'.
The
IWA(GB)
black
the
only
towards
was
not
workers
police

The
in
involved
Power
Black
directly
become
the
to
movement.
organisation
London-based,revolutionaryPakistanProgressiveParty (PPP)gavethe Universal
ColouredPeople'sAssociation(UCPA) and its successorthe BUR materialhelp
such as printing its leaflets and the Pakistani Workers' Union (PWU) also
48
UCPA
BUFP.
andthe
collaboratedwith the
Other Asian groups that did not see the relevanceof the Black Power
behaviour
to
their
compatiblewith
members,
unintentionally
promoted
movement
its principles.'The Black Powerconceptis seento havetwo basicelements:racial
in
1971.
integrity-,
Hiro
and
and
racial
ethnic
wrote
or
self-help',
andcultural pride
'In that context many Asian settlers show a remarkable(albeit unrecognised)
9
it'!
immigrants
frequent
One
Asian
the
with
of
rapport
most
complaintsabout
madeby white Britons was that they did not try to integrate;that is they continued
to dress distinctively, eat exotic food and speak foreign languages.This was
by
Black
Power
British
the
trying
to
the
manufacture
exactly effect
movementwas
the adoptionof African dress,the openingof soul food restaurantslike the Back-aYard and the Mangrovecaf6sin Notting Hill and the use of Jamaicanpatois and
African Americanslang.
47

MS 2141/2:'Report of the GeneralSecretarypresentedby J. Joshiat the NationalConferenceof


in Nottingham, p. 22. Held in the IWA archivein Birmingham
the IWA (GB), 7/lino-sh
ino,
CentralLibrary.
" The front page of the first edition of UCPA newspaperBlack Power Speaks,for example,
declaredit was 'Producedby P. P. P.', and other UCPA and BUFP documents,suchas flyers for
meetings,held at the IRR bearthe initials of both the PPPandthe PWU.
49Hiro, BlackBritish, p. 148.

235

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Asians' deepreligious commitmentscould also be a sourceof strengthand
Hindu
Muslim
Sikh
in
and
mosques
gurdwaras,
cohesion secular activities.
templesprovidedpublic spaceswhereblack peoplecould gatherprivately, out of
in
just
African
American
hearing
the
churches
as
many
of white society,
sight and
Deep South had done during the civil rights movement.Shirley Joshi saysthat
IWA membersreceiveda great deal of support from Birmingham's gurdwaras.
'They'd pay for coachesdown to demonstrations,provide food for peopleon the
50Gurdwarasand mosques
demosand give a platform to people', sheremembers.
also took collectionsfor striking Asian workerswho were not unionisedor whose
instigate
institutions
These
did
their
action.
religious
not
union was not supporting
in
but
did
discrimination,
to
they
neither
refim participate
campaignsagainstracial
them. Even when strict codesof behaviour,dress and decorumwere traversed,
bodies
during
by
Indian
Grunwick
dispute,
the
such as
women strikers
religious
backing
to
them
their
continued
give
moral
andmaterialsupport.
often
By the late 1960sthe popular perceptionof Asian people as meek and
submissivewas increasinglyresultingin Asian men being targetedfor violenceby
in
'Paki-bashing'
gangs.
white skinhead
was reported as a new phenomenon
British newspapersafter a spateof attackson Asian hospitalworkersand the fatal
stabbingof kitchenporterTosir Ali in EastLondonin the first weekof April 1970,
but in fact anti-Asian violence was not new. During the 1958 Notting Hill and
Nottinghamriots, which took place beforewide-scaleimmigrationfrom India and
Pakistan had started, the tiny Sikh population of the St Ann's district of
Nottinghamwastargetedby local teddyboys.The Indian communityrespondedby
foundinga branchof the IWA in Nottinghamat the end of 1958,but they did not
" ShirleyJoshLinterviewedby the author,2 November2004.

236

Chapter5: 'Hereto stay,hereto fight! ' Asian militancy,Black Powerandthe trade


unionmovement
in
Hill.
West
Indians
Notting
had
West
Indians
fight
back,
unlike many
physically
impression
if
likely
defend
to
themselves
reinforced,
an
attacked,
were seenas
bigots,
Violent
Black
Power.
by
therefore,
1967,
the
white
of
advent
after
increasinglychoseto targetAsiansinstead.
Young white racists also felt themselvesantagonisedby Asians' cultural
differencesin a way they werenot by the youngergenerationof West Indianswho
were much more British in outlook.

in March 1970 a World In Action

documentaryabout the relationshipbetweenwhite and black youths in the East


End of Londonwas airedon television.It containedinterviewswith variousyoung
he
Explaining
white men.
why got on betterwith West Indians,one said, 'They're
just like otherEnglishblokes,you cantalk to them,you look at the way they dress,
51
learn'.
Asked why 'white toughs' did not
there's things about them you can
target West Indians,anotherreplied, 'Becausethey'd get a right tasty beating ...
[T1he white boys are going to pick on the Pakistanisbecausethey know the
Jamaicanboy is going to fight back. That's why they pick on the Pakistanis,
becausethey know they'rethe weakestrace'.52
In 1967, a spate of assaultson Pakistanisin the King's Cross area of
London promptedthe Pakistani Workers' Union to set up defencepatrols and
53
Concerning
The
Memorandum
London.
A
Attacks
Pakistani
People
in
publish
on
patrols quickly put an end to the attacks in King's Cross, but political
developmentsat the endof the 1960sboth alienatedAsiansfrom white societyand
increasedtheir chancesof being physically assaultedby white people. Such
developmentsincludedthe scaremongering
that precededthe passageof the 1968
'11Transcriptof WorldIn Action, 'Trouble Down East', broadcaston ITV on 9 March 1970,p. 23.
Held at the MR.
32Ibid., p. 23.
53pakiStaniWolrkerSs
Union, A MeMorandUMConcerningAttackson PakistaniPeoplein London
(London.1967).

237

Power
Black
fightV
Asian
here
andthe trade
to
Chapter5: 'Here to stay,
militancy,
union movement
CommonwealthImmigrants Act, Enoch Powell's inflammatory speecheson
immigrationfrom April 1968onwards,andthe rising popularityof far right groups
54
The most important factor in the rise of
Front.
National
like the newly created
however,
during
the
Asians
this
police's apparent
was
period,
violence against
55
I
Asian
'Many
Asians'
inability
women
to
assailants.
catch
unwillingnessor
have
it
from
to
for
essential
racial attacks was
protection
spoketo told me that
Asian neighbours',recordedAmrit Wilson in 1978.'Calling the police hadproved
56
This
that
be
the
the
to
meant
police
on
part
of
reticence
useless'.
againandagain
fear
Asians
felt
they
of arrest or prosecution.
without
could attack
white racists
Conversely,manyAsiansfelt therewas little point in evenreportingattacksasthe
in
involved
for
been
having
do
them
a
worse,
arrest
or,
nothing
either
would
police
fight. The relationshipbetweenthe police and the Asian communitieswas further
down
break
during
by
to
track
to
up pickets
strikesand
strained the use of police
illegal Immigrants. The 1971 Immigration Act chargedpolice with the latter
by
do
it
this
that
they
means
would not
responsibilityand although was promised
homes
impromptu
invasions
1972
'fishing
of workplaces and
raids', after
of
becamea feared and unpleasantpart of many Asians' lives. The Metropolitan
Police's newly formed Immigration Intelligence Unit, which mastermindedthe
in
illegal
for
immigrants the capital, quickly came to occupy a similar
searches
level of notoriety amongAsian communitiesas the SpecialPatrol Groupsdid in
WestIndianneighbourhoods.
After 1970,therefore,Asians were being forced to take a position on two
issuesthat hadbeenaffectingWestIndian andAfrican immigrantssincethe 1950s:
"4Ile NationalFront was a coalition of the Leagueof Finpire Loyalists,the British NationalParty
Society.
Racial
Preservation
the
of
a
and section
53For numerousexamplesseeL. London, 'The EastEnd of London:Paki-Bashingin 1970', Race
Todco5:11(1973),pp. 337-41.
'6A. Wilson,Finding a Voice.
- Asian Womenin Britain (London,1978),p. 19.

238

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
force.
The
the
by
responseof
police
white people and racism in
anti-black violence
Panther
Black
in
the
that
Asian
of
every way as militant as
groups was
some
Movement or the Racial Adjustment Action Society: vigilante groups were formed,
IWA
(GB),
The
the
were
condemned.
police
retaliatory violence was promised and
for example, publicly expressedits disillusionment with the police and its support
for the use of violence in self-defence at its annual conference in November 1970.

'The black communityhave[sic] little faith in the processesof law in Britain. They
have fi-equentlyfound themselvesat the end of discriminatorybehaviourby the
57
Joshi.
police', explained

But the black workersare now standingup to defendthemselves.When the


recent wave of skin-headattacks began the Indian Workers' Association
immediatelycalledupon its membersin all cities andtowns to take whatever
including
formation
the
of self-defence
measures were necessary,
lives
Executive
Indian
The
Central
to
and
property.
committees protect
Committeeof the Indian Workers' Associationalso promisedfinancial help
to Indians involved in court casesarising out of their self-defence.The
in
immediate
have
been
the
and
as a result
silenced
skin-heads
responsewas
58
Indian
live.
the majority of townswhere
workers
This statementrepresenteda significant changefrom the IWA (GB)'s position in
1966,and makesit clear how disillusioned with the police the organisationhad
becomein the interveningfour years.Reportingthe IWA's responseto the violent
by
local
Smethwick
harassment
member
whites,the 1966executivecommittee
of a
in
letter
'A
Watch
Committee
the
that,
to
the
was sent
police and
report recorded
law
demanded
by
IWA
the
the
the
the
of the
protection
of
minorities
racial
which
if
further
It
that
stated
adequateprotectionwas not given then the racial
country.
in
minorities would set up vigilante committees different areasto protect their

57

MS 2141/2:'Report of the GeneralSecretarypresentedby J. Joshiat the NationalConferenceof


in
in
BirrninghamCentral
IWA
21-22.
Held
the
archive
the IWA (GB), 711lnO-Sllino,,
pp.
Library.
" lbid, p. 22.

239

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy,Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
59
communities'. The threat of the local community taking the law into its own
hands appearsto have galvanisedthe police into action. 'After this the police
increasedits [sic] patrol and the attackerswho were at large for two weekswere
arrestedin 24 hours', the report notedo Although the IWA (GB) was willing to
bypassthe police and resortto self-defenceas early as 1966,by 1970it had given
law
idea
to
the
the
the
police
uphold
and assumedthat Asians
up on
of petitioning
would be prosecutedfor defendingthemselves.
JagrnohanJoshi's views on police racismin 1970were not representativeof
those of most Asians. A Runnymede Trust survey of young immigrants' attitudes
in 1971 showed that 66 per cent of young Indians and 75 per cent of young
Pakistanis agreed with the statement that the police dealt fairly with their ethnic
61
group. The same survey noted, however, that of the young Asians and West
Indians it interviewed, 'The most militant have had most encounters of an
62
kind
unpleasant
with the police'. Events such as the widely publicised case of
Satnam.Singh Kane were very damaging to the police's reputation. Nineteen-yearold Indian Kane was arrested in March 1973 and confessed in Southall police
station to stealing f.50 from his employers, an Ealing petrol station. In court he
his
changed
plea to not guilty and said he had been beaten and threatened into
confessing, and when the missing money was subsequently found by his
employers, Kane's case was thrown out and an inquiry ordered into how he had

" 'Indian Workers Association Great Britain, Birmingham Branch. Report


of the Executive
Committee,from V May 1963 to V April 1966', p. 2. Documentheld in IWA archive at
B irminghainCentralLibrary.
` Ibid, p. 2.
61Evans,YoungImmigrants,p. 28.
'62lbid, p. 27.

240

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
been persuaded to plead guilty. In October 1973, however, an internal
63
involved
inquiry
MetropolitanPolice
of wrong-doing.
clearedall the officers
By 1976,in Southallat least,the cumulativeexperienceof white racismand
in
The
Asians'
had
Kane's
young
attitudes.
causeda sea change
casessuch as
direct
for
more
radical,
action organisations,was the
of
wave
a new
catalyst
IWA-owned
Singh
Chaggar,
Gurdip
Indian
the
teenager,
outside
murderof another
Dominion cinema, by a gang of white youths on 4 June 1976 and the police
Commissioner
Robert
it.
Metropolitan
Police
Mark
When
to
publicly
response
discountedracism as a possiblemotive for the murder,young Asians in Southall
took to the streetsin protest,clashingviolently with the police. Ignoringthe wishes
did
direct
IWA
Southall,
the
not
support
action, the youths marchedon
which
of
the local police stationand stageda sit-in, demanding(and securing)the releaseof
two Asianswho had beenarrestedduring the protests.The next day, at a meeting
64
Youth
Southall
Movement
formed.
Dominion
was
cinema,the
at the
Taking as its logo a clenched, black-gloved fist, the Southall Youth
Movement instantly paid homage to the American Black Panther Party (BPP).
Future Asian Youth Movements (AYMs) followed the blueprint of the BPP more
deeply. 'If you consider how the Black Panther Party emerges, AYM was very
Birmingham
'We
a
organiser.
also adopted many of the rules
similar', explained
65
drew
The
SYM
black
British
panthers'.
the
the
the
also
on
radical
politics
of
of
Black Power movement, particularly in its appeal to Asians on secular, inclusive
Youth
1970s
Movements
1980s
'[T]he
Asian
the
and
of
were powerfid
grounds.
influenced
by
black
that
movements
of
political
were
politics', wrote
examples
63SeeL Mackie,'No charges
over"confessioe',TheGuardian,8 October1973.

" Details of the formation of the SouthallYouth Movementtaken from CARF/SouthallRights,


Southall.,theBirth ofa Black Community(London,1981),p. 5 1.
" BirminghamAYM memberBhopinderBassiquotedin Ramamurthy,'The Politics', p. 45.

241

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightl' Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Asian historianAnandi Ramamurthy.'For the AYMs the term "black!' denoteda
denying
Asian
African
between
the
those
and
origin,
without
of
political allegiance
66
black
definition
This
differences
was
of
group'.
political
of
each
specificcultural
a direct legacyof Britain's Black Powermovement.It was not surprisingthat the
AYMs replicated,in places,the ideologyof Black Power,becausetheir formation
inspired
that
the creationof thosemilitant
to
the
sameconditions
was a response
organisationsin the 1960s.'The deathof Chaggarmay havebeenthe incidentthat
into
Campaign
Asian
themselves',
the
the
youth
organising
concluded
spurred
Against Racism and Fascism(CARF), 'but the basis of their militancy was the
67
in
jobs'.
in
for
racismthat they experiencedat school, the streetsand the search
Their specificexperiencesof British racismdictatedthe focus of the AYMs' direct
head-on
Ramarnurthy,
'The
SYM
Hence,
to
tackled
what young
according
actions.
Asians perceived as two central issues: popular racism and police racism'.69
Almost nine yearsto the day after the fust Black Power organisationwas formed,
Asian youth beganto fan the embersof radical black politics andvowed to remain
'hereto stay,hereto figh09

Asian workers and the trade union movement


Asians took the lead in industrial militancy among black workers from the mid1960sonwards and were the driving force behind their struggle to participate in the
trade union movement. Although the ultimate goal of most striking Asian workers
into
integration
the mainstream economy, to achieve this they had to first
was
tackle the racism of the trade unions, employers and the state. 'Indians cannot
"Ibid., p. 39.

67CARF/SouthallRights,Southall,p. 54.
" Ramamurthy,The Politics, p. 42.
69'Here to stay,hereto fightl' wasa popularsloganof theAYMs.

242

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fight! I Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
interests',
defend
for
their
to
the
to
out
and
white workers come
wait
afford
Workers,
'Indian
British
Industry
(GB)
1968
IWA
the
andthe
pamphlet,
explained
Trade Unions'.70 The affival of middle-classAsians, with higher expectations,
from the EastAfrican countriesof Kenya and Ugandain the late 1960sand early
1970sreinforcedtheir efforts. 'At the bottom of the hierarchyof the production
be
have
to
crushed,
come a new army of
are
assumed
structurewhere spirits
workers - fresh, vivacious and increasinglyangry', wrote Amrit Wilson of the
impact of (female)EastAfrican Asian workers on industrial militancy in Britain.
'Their expectationsare high becausemany of them have, until recently had a
because,
life
British
the
and
outlook
and
unlike
middle-class
working
class,
...
they have not been ground down and prepared for their jobs by the British
71
educationsystem'. In August 1976, a pivotal strike was initiated by Jayaben
Desai,a UgandanAsian femaleworker at the Grunwick film-processingfactory in
North West London. The Grunwick dispute marked a turning point in the trade
black
to
attitude
workers and obliteratedthe image of Asian
union movement's
women as submissiveand downtrodden.Asian women had initiated industrial
however,
before,
as early as 1967,when forty female cleanersworking at
action
Heathrowairport struckover low pay. Inexperienced,lacking goodEnglishand illsupportedby their union (the TGWU), their protest simply resulted in all forty
72

beingsummarilysacked.

Hailing from countries with strong ft-aditions of trade unionism and


successfulstrike action, Caribbean,African and Asian immigrantsmadejoining a
tradeunion a priority as soonas they securedjobs in Britain. A governmentsurvey
70IWA (GB), 'Indian Workers,British Industryandthe TradeUnions' (1968),p.9.
71Amrit Wilsonquotedin H. Mirza (ed.), Black British Feminism:a Reader(London, 1997), 3 1.
p.
72Seeletter from Ealing CommunityRelationsCouncil to A. Wallis Johnsonof the Joseph
RowntreeTrust 14March 1973,p. 2. Held in the Black documentsfile at the IRP-

243

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
from 1976 showedthat the incidenceof trade union membershipamong black
maleworkerswasconsistentlyhigherthan that of their white counteqmrts,andthat
black
white
and
women was roughly equal. 'Among
membership
among
union
men from minority groups who are in employment', stated the report, '61 per cent

73
41
are membersof a trade union, comparedwith
per cent of white men'. Even
black
immigrants,
it
very recent
male
showed,were as likely to be union members
74
aswhite workers. Theseblack workerssoonfound,however,that evenwhenthey
joined a union, active membershipwas discouragedand their grievanceswere
ignored.The same1976surveythat recordedblack workers' enthusiasmfor trade
unionism also noted that union leaders,'had not generallytaken stepsto ensure
that they got to know aboutcasesof discriminationwithin the union, nor had they
alwaystakendecisiveaction to combatdiscriminationwhen they had got to know
about it'. Furthermore, 'Little had been done to induct the new minority
75
into
history,
the
membership
purposesandpracticesof the movement'. The IWA
(GB) had reachedthe sameconclusionat the end of the 1960s.'In the earlieryears
of this decadethe main task of our Organisationhas beento organisethe Indian
workers into trade unions and to fight againstthe discriminatorypolicies of the
employers',explaineda 1968pamphlet.'In the last few years ... Indian workers
have found it increasinglynecessaryto also combat the racialist attitudes and
behaviourof the tradeunions'.76
Henceblack workers often initiated industrial action without going through
union channelsand directed strikes againstunion racism as much as employer
discrhnination. Their ability to organise independently was facilitated by
73Smith,TheFacts,P. 115.
74Ibid., p. 117.
73Ibid., p. 115.
76IWA (GB), 'Indian Workers,British Industry
andthe TradeUnions' (1968),p. 1.

244

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
discriminatoryhiring practicesand the unwillingnessof white workers to do the
lowestpaid, most inconvenientand dangerouswork, which meantthat, althougha
factory's workforce might be racially mixed, black workers were often
in
departments
or on specific shifts. This defacto segregation
concentrated certain
discrkninate
it
black
to
against them becausetheir
workers made easier
of
differential treatmentcould plausibly be explainedin terms of their specificjob
descriptionor shift pattern.On the other hand, it also meant that black workers
could come together more easily to recognisetheir grievancesand organise
independentlyto remedythem. In Divided WeStand: American Workersand the
Struggle for Black Equality, American historian Bruce Nelson relates the similar

77
in
facing
American
African
1950s.
Noting their
steelworkers the
situation
concentrationin the lowest paid and mostjunior jobs and how the leadershipof a
comparativelyprogressiveindustrial union, the United SteelWorkers of America
(USWA), failed to honour its commitmentto racial equality in the face of the
oppositionof rdnk and file white members,he concludesthat African American
steelworkershad little choice but to organiseseparate,racially-definedunions.
'[11he movetoward black self-organisationin the mills and otherwork-placcs',he
78
it
inevitable
4was
as
as was necessary'. In the context of Britain in the
argues,
1970s,however,fortning separateblack unions was neitherpossiblenor desirable
for Asian workers.
The first nationallysignificantstrike by black workersin Britain took placeat
Courtauld'sRed ScarMill in Prestonin May 1965,but industrial action becamea
more urgentbattle at the start of the 1970s.This was a result of the slowdownof

" B. Nelson,Divided WeStand:Black Workersand the Strugglefor Black Equality (Princeton


and
Oxford,2001).
73
Ibid, p. 220.

245

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
the British economy,which disproportionatelyaffectedblack workers who were
impact
fired,
first
hired
last
the
the
of the
as well as
combined
and
usually
Immigrationand Industrial RelationsActs of 1971 and a campaignof shop floor
its
formed
Trade
Union
Association
Front,
by
National
the
own
which
recruitment
in 1973.The combinationof the IndustrialRelationsAct and the ImmigrationAct
Relations
The
Industrial
in
black
position.
precarious
workers a particularly
put
Act made it illegal for non-registered trade union officials to call spontaneous

black
As
took
action
over
workers' grievancesand even
rarely
very
unions
strikes.
lessoften supportedtheir independentprotests,this gavethem no legal recourseto
industrialaction.Furthermore,asthe termsof the 1971ImmigrationAct stipulated
that immigrantswithout residentialstatuscould be deportedif they either lost their
jobs or got into trouble with the police, inunigrants who participated in
79
far
losing
jobs.
Nonetheless,a number
unauthorisedstrikesrisked
morethantheir
in
for
Crepe
in
1971,
Sizes
Nottingham
1972
Birmid
at
example
and
after
of strikes
Qualcastin Smethwickin 1973,highlighted the willingness of black workers to
Without
for
the supportof their white co-workersandunions,
their
rights.
up
stand
however,thesestrikesalmostalwaysfailed.
Tensionbetweenmilitant black activists who wanted separateunions and
the majority of black workers,who did not, had first arisenduring the disputeat
Courtauld'sin 1965.The strike of severalhundredAsian and WestIndian workers
formed
Racial Adjustment
the
the
attracted
attention
of
recently
over pay rates
Action Society(RAAS), whoseleadersMichael X and Roy Sawhsoughtto make
dispute.
Travelling to Preston,Sawh and Michael X
the
of
out
capital
political
idea
the
meetings,
suggesting
of separateblack unions and
spoke at strike
"'Me 1971ImmigmtionAct cameinto forceon I January1973.

246

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
highlighting the racial elementsof the strikers' grievances.Drawing attentionto
the racial compositionof the strikerswas a double-edgedsword, however,which
could be usedfor or againstthe workers' cause.A BPM pamphletfrom May 1971
noted that the Courtauldworkers' legitimate grievance,that their workload had
been increasedwithout a commensuratepay raise, had been dismissedby their
union, the TGWU, becausemost of the striking workerswere black. The TGWU,
therefore,'stigmatisedit as a "racial" strike, the pamphletreported,'because,they
80
involved'.
black
RAAS's presenceat strike meetings
workerswere
said,only the
and Michael X's talk of separateblack unions helped the TGWU and did not
reflect the wishesof the strikers,who consistentlyprotestedthat their grievances
in
Reporting
Institute
the
economic.
were
of RaceRelationsNewsletterthat both
MichaelX andRoy Sawh'talked consistentlyin racial termsaboutthe black man's
burdenand the white exploiter', white socialist Paul Foot noted that, ITbey were
respectedby the strikersfor their interestand wish to help but their views did not,
in general,impress'.81
In the early 1970s,many Black Power groupstrainedtheir focus on black
In
March
1971,the Black Workers' League(BWL, also known as the
workers.
Black Workers Defence League or BWDL) was formed in London from an
amalgamationof the Black Power Party, the CaribbeanWorkers' Union, the
Committeeof Afro-Asian Peoplesand the Pakistani Workers Group.82In 1973,
partly to make it more appealingto Asian workers,the Black PantherMovement
changedits nameto the Black WorkersMovement(BWM). 'Workers from Asia,
soBPK The Positionof Black Peoplein Britain Today', May 1971, p. 8. Pamphletheld,
unfiled,
at the IRR.
81P. Foot, 'Ile Strike at Courtauld's,24 May to 12 June 1965', TheInstitute RaceRelations
of
Newslettersupplement(July 1965),p. 4.
u See'Black MKTationin Britain: Black Workers' LeagueManifesto', TheBlack Liberator 1:2/3
(Winter 1971),pp. 75-9.

247

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightl' Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
issue
in
immigration
lines
by
the
on
and
with
us
picket
side
side
while marching
...
the communities against racist attacks, regardedus as an Afro-organisation',
in
BPM's
Panther
'The
the
the
newspaper,
change
on
name
an
article
explained
93
'.
nameseemedto excludethem...
Very few British Black Poweractivistsbelievedit was possibleto organise
jointly on the shop floor with whites, although their reasonsfor thinking this
differed greatly. The Black Liberation Front believed that racism was a much
greatersourceof oppressionthan class and thereforecollaborationswith white
people,especiallythe white working class,which it identified as the most racist
sectionof society,were ill-advised. 'Nobody can tell a Black worker that he must
him
back
tells
to
time
the
the
white
when
all
worker
get
unite with a white worker
to where he came from', thundereda BLF pamphlet from 1971.84The BLF's
reasonsfor not wantingto work with whites did not just havetheir basisin theory,
but were a reaction to white working-classand trade union racism. 'Organised,
its
Enoch
Powell',
progressive
workers
and
so-called
supported
militant
pamphlet
85
explained. The Black Unity and Freedom Party (BUFP), on the other hand,
following a strict Marxist-Uninist

philosophy, believed in the primacy of class

it
for
that
was
essential white and black workersto work together.
oppressionand
The BUFP concluded,however,that asthe white working classhadbeencorrupted
by the bourgeoisbelief that their skin colour conferredhigher status,it was up to
black workersaloneto take on the role of revolutionaryvanguard.I [Tjhe working
its
historic mission, explained one BUFP
has
temporarily
abandoned
class,
document.'In effect, the working classhasjoined forceswith the ruling class,in
23'Black PantherMovementto Black Workers Movement, FreedomNews, 9 June 1973, back
page.
BLF, RevolutionaryBlack Nationalism',1971,p. 3. Pamphletheld,unfiled, at the IRR.
lbid, p. I

248

Chapter5: 'Hereto stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
86
Nonetheless,
BUFP,
interest
Black
the
the
peoples'.
of
against
alliance
an unholy
lessen
'could
that
the
strikes
all
white-led
supported
as a matter of policy,
[or]
between
Black
the
could
neutralise
more
overt
and
white
cont-adictions
...
87
racist'.
Although the BWM, BUR and BWL tried to supportstriking black (and
holding
by
their
strikes
and
support
publicising
sometimeswhite) workers
base
in
little
impact
had
the
they
no
workforce
and
or
no
on the
virtually
meetings,
tradeunion movement.This would not haveworried the BWL, which declaredin a
1971 leaflet that, 'We have no time for trade union or parliamentaryforms of
88
action'. It did not offer an alternativevision of how black workerscould achieve
their goals outsidethe trade union movementthough. 'We needorganisationsfor
the politicisation of the mass of black workers', it argued, but what these
89
be
went unspecified. To the industrial workers in the
organisationsmight
Nfidlands,Yorkshire and Lancashire,who were forcing the tradeunion movement
to re-examineits practices in the 1970s, the theoretical exhortationsof such
Londongroupswereirrelevant.
The issueof separateblack unionsrevealeda fundamentaldifferencein how
Black Power activists and Asian workers perceived themselves.Asians saw
themselvesas workers first and foremostand had enoughfaith in the trade union
systemto attemptto reform it from within. When given the genuinebacking of
their union and the supportof the tradeunion movement,as they were during the
Grunwick strike, Asian memberswere preparedto work within the trade union
system.Writing aboutthe Chunwickstrikers,A. Sivanandancommentedthat, 'In
16Untitled BUR document,dated2 May 1%9, heldunfiled,at the IRR.
BUT, 'What is the B.U.F.P [sic], 3 May 1974,p. 46. Heldunfiledat the IM
Untitled documentby the Black WorkersDefenceLeague,datedMarch 1971,held in the IWA
archivein BirminghamCentralLibrary, p. 2.
" IbidL,p. 2.

249

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
line
losing
the
they
also accepted union
the courseof acceptingunion support,
...
90
black
in the processthe lasting supportof the
community'. His interpretation
that the Grunwick strike was another example of the state co-opting and thus
however,
by
been
have
black
contested,
strike
political strugglewould
subvertinga
leader JayabenDesai. She counted Asian workers' incorporation into the trade
is
bringing
dispute
'This
benefits
the
the
us so
strike.
of
union movementas oneof
in
journalist
in
1977.
'Before
'
the
trade
this
told
things,
unions
a
she
many good
interested
here
People
feeling
that
was
not
coming
our community
countrywere
...
from all over the countryareseeingus aspart of the workersnow''
To others,including sociologistsRobert Miles and Anne-Marie Phizacklea
Britain
(CPGB),
Great
Party
Communist
which waged a prolonged
the
of
and
in
1970s,
the
the
the
trade
of
universalisation
racism
union
against
war
propaganda
be
fight
black
To
to
workers
a
was
significant
victory.
able
of
problems
black
backing
than
the
as
workers,
with
workers,
rather
of a
simply as
management
its
to
that
membersregardlessof their skin
effective
representation
provided
union
colour, was a large part of what the strikers at factories like Mansfield Hosiery
Mills and Imperial Typewritershad beenprotestingfor. A pamphletpublishedby
the IWA (GB) in the late 1960sacknowledgedthe doublediscriminationimposed
fight
but
by
its
their
trade
as an economicrather
union
racism
saw
members
on
than a racial one. 'In a numberof factoriesand foundriesall over the country', read
the pamphlet,'Indian workers have been forced into militant activity to defend
their interestsas workers'2 Although more reticent about social integration,
" A. Sivanandan,From Resistanceto Rebellion Asian and Afro-CaribbeanStrugglesin Britain
(London,1986p. 144.
91B. CampbellandV. Charlton,'Grunwick women- why they arestriking andwhy their sistersare
supportingthem, SpareRib, 61 (August1977).p. 7.
" IWA, 'Indian workers,British industry and the trade unions', undated,p. 1. Documentheld,
unfiled,at the EML Italics added.

250

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
Asians thought their econonuc interests would be best served as part of an
integmtedworkforce.
The relationshipbetweenthe TUC, individual trade unions and their black
by
been
has
in
the
the
subject
of
many
articles
post-war period
members
Satnam
Virdee.
At
Miles
the
Phizacklea
end
more
recently,
and,
and
sociologists
joint
based
Phizacklea
two
Miles
1970s
on previously
papers,
published
and
of the
from
TUC's
the
annual congresses,which gave a convincing
records
unused
black
between
between
TUC
the
the
and
workers
changingrelationship
analysisof
1954 and 19703 Maldng an important distinction between the attitudes of the

Council
General
TUC,
individual
the
the
trade
of
which spoke
unions
and
myriad
Phizacklea
Miles
that,
for
the
trade
and
showed
until
union
movement,
officially
1973, the TUC, while regularly passingresolutionscondemningracism, largely
blamed its existenceon the failure of non-white immigrant workers to integrate
into British society. Bruce Nelson's descriptionof the United Steel Workers of
Ameri&s 'glacial incrementalismand hollow declaratiosof good intent', in
94
in
history
in
Even
black
TUC
its
Britain.
the
the
echoes
members,
of
respect of

had
been
leaders
USWA's
convinced that they neededto addressracial
after
inequality within their union, Nelson writes tha4 'they wanted "the Negro" to
in
defer
duly
to
to
to
authority
and
act
ways that were
constituted
remainorderly,
95
USWA's
senseof propriety and principle'. In a similar
consistentwith the
fashion,the TUC condemnedblack workersfor not waiting for the backingof their

R. Miles and A. Phizacklea,The TUC Black Workersand New CommonwealthImmigratjoP;


1954-1973,SSRCWorking Paperon Ethnic Relations,no. 6 (Bristol University, 1977).R. Miles
U.
black
1974-1976',
T.
C.
British
Journal
'T'he
Phizacklea,
A.
workers,
and
of industrial
and
Relations16 (1978).Thesetwo paperscontinueto providethe fi-dmeworkfor morerecentanalyses
like radical historianRon RamdiWsTheMaking of the Black WorkingClass in Britain (London,
1987)andVirdee'swork in the 1990s.
Nelson,Divided,p. 186.
Ibid., p. 244.

251

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
but
did
before
the
time
taking
at
same
action,
strike
not recognisewhite
unions
factor
its
discrimination
to
a
contributing
as
members
among
working-classracism
in the workplace,opposedthe introductionof racial equality legislationin the field
immigration
control. It recognisedblack workers as
of employmentand supported
having racially specific problems only as far as languageand cultural barriers
in
fully
from
them
participating trade union activity and assimilating
prevented
into British life. The TUC, therefore, took a strong stand against racism in
left
black
but
in
but
to
which
workers
with
practice
no
option
principle
not
challengeit.
Both Miles and Phizackleaand SatnainVirdee have singledout the agency
factor
TUC
its
black
the
that
to
the
caused
change
as
main
of
workers
policy on
racism and racial discriminationbetween 1973 and 1976. Miles and Phizacklea
pointed particularly to the '[n]umber of industrial disputes which were
by
black workers of discriminationmade against
complaints
...
96
trade union officials'. Twenty-five years later Virdee also concluded that
distinguishedby

'[c]ritical were the independentstrugglesthat had beenwagedby black workers


for almost a decade prior to the mid-1970s'.97 The foremost examples of
independentblack strikes given by Miles and Phizacklea were those at the
MansfieldHosieryNfills in March 1973and at Imperial Typewritersin Leicesterin
May 1974, which both involved accusationsof discrimination against the

96Miles andPhizacklea,'1974-1976', P. 195.


97S. Virdee, 'A Marxist critique of black radical t1mries of tradeurtion
racism', Sociology34
(2000),p. 558.

252

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
factors,
Other
be
the
to
workers8
the
representing
employersand unionssupposed
for
far-right
targeting
their
groups
unions
such as trade unionists' uneaseover
TUC
increasing
the
to
ftom
1973,
on
actively campaign
pressure
put
recruitment,
but
it
beyond,
the
in
trade
the
and
was
militant
movement
union
against racism
balance.
Grunwick,
The
fmally
the
tipped
at
that
strike
Asian
workers
agency of
impact
how
demonstrated
the
for
lasted
much
greater
two years,
powerfidly
which
it
by
be
by
industrial
Asian
supported,
only
could
when
was
not
workers
action
of
it
Although
but
trade
the
movement.
ultimately
union
entire
their own union,
also
failed, this was - for the first time - not becausethe trade union movement had
black
industrial
The
for
Asian,
its
the
action
of
workers.
mainly
support
withheld
female employees lost their struggle against the management at Grunwick because
director
George
intransigence
the
of
company
extraordinary
of a combination of
Ward who refused to accept the conciliation of industrial arbitrators ACAS, the
interference of the hard right Conservative anti-union organisation the National
Association for Freedom (NAFF), and the weakened position of trade unions
in
high
Social
Contract
Labour
time
the
of
government's
a
operating under

" Seeibid, p. 200. The MansfieldHosieryMills strike startedafter a finding by the EastMidlands
ConciliationCommitteethat both the employerand the National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear
Worken (NUHKW) had discriminatedAgainstAsian employeeswhen decidingwhom to promote
to the better-paidknitters' jobs. Although both promised to stop discriminating,when Asian
NUHKW
the
the
wasreluctantto give them strike pay and refusedto ask
matter
on
workersstruck
Typewriters
dispute
by
The
Imperial
Asian
join
the
to
was
started
strike.
workers
workers
white
by
disproportionately
bonuses
the
the
set
management
rates
and
and
work
small
unhappyover
by
Transport
General
Workers,
Union
the
their
taken
Asian
union,
and
on
stewards
shop
of
number
(TGWU). The Asian workersfelt that the TGWU stewardswere makingdealson work conditions
Asian
their
memberswho constitutedmuchmorethanhalf the
without
consulting
with management
workforce.

253

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
r
both
however,
doing
In
they
the
overturned
expectation,
so,
unemployment.
Asian
be
that
society,
women
would
wider
within their own communitiesand
brought
Most
though,
they
the whole trade
crucially,
submissiveandeasilycowed.
join
black
be
in
to
workers'
equal
right
of
support
and
union movementout
break
the
This
by
with
past.
significant
a
represented
protected a union.

Conclusion
Although the overwhelming majority of Asian people in Britain were neither
interested in nor affected by the Black Power movement, in various ways their
lifestyles fitted with its credo. Asian immigrants' commitment to upholding their
inadvertent
in
Britain,
languages
them
made
cultural
traditions,
and cultures
in
discrimination
By
the
the
trade
workplace
and
racial
challenging
nationalists.
fiffilled
they
union movement

aspects of the vanguard role prescribed for black

Marxist
A
Power
by
Black
the
philosophies.
small number of
movement's
workers
Asians participated directly in the Black Power movement during the 1960s, most
notably Ajoy Ghose, Roy Sawh and Tony Soares, who between them held
leadership positions in several organisations. There was a symbiotic, if
intermittent, linkage between Asian organisations; like Jagmohan Joshi's IWA
(GB) Birmingham and Black Power groups, with the foirmer donating manpower to
Black Power marches and the latter supporting the industrial action of Asian
had
Asians
been
bom
When
the
of
young
who
new
generation
or
workers.
" The SocialCont-dctwas drawn up betweenthe new 1AVur governmentand the TUC in 1974
during a time of massiveindustrialunrest.In return for promisingto increasespendingon social
Conservative
hated
housing
1971Industrial
the
schools
and
replacing
party's
and
as
such
services
RelationsAct with a numberof new lawsthat protectedvariousworkers' andunionrights,the TUC
agreed to accept caps on wages and to exhaust governmentconciliation proceduresbefore
beginningindustrial action. Black workers were a fly in the ointmentof this deal betweenthe
because,
feel
did
they
trade
the
they were f,*Iy
union
movement
as
not
and
government
incentive
little
for
by
there
themto cooperatewith the tradeunions,
their
was
unions,
represented
not to call wildcat strikes.
agreement

254

Chapter5: 'Here to stay,hereto fightV Asian militancy, Black Powerandthe trade


union movement
break
decided
in
Britain
to
with their parents' political forms and create
educated
their own Youth Movements,their choice of self-presentationand organisational
both
British
from
influences
American
Black
Power
the
and
clear
structureshowed
movements.
Ultimately, however, the Asian workers who challengeddiscriminatory
trade unionists and exploitative bosses were not seeking the revolutionary
overthrow of Britain's economic systemthat Black Power activists advocated.
Asians fought to be treated equally in the workplace largely becausemcial
discrimination hamperedthem from pursuing conventional goals of economic
advancement.When the trade union movement finally overturned decadesof
in
in
its
1976
to
out
supportof striking Asian
come
neglectof non-whitemembers
dispute,
during
Grunwick
thoseworkersreadily allowed themselvesto
the
workers
be subsumedinto a broader trade union campaign.Having demonstratedtheir
during
decade
determination
a
of unofficial industrial
collective strength and
action, after 1976 Asian workers and their communitiesfinally beganto move
towardstheir goal,not of overthrowingthe system,but of integratinginto it.

255

Conclusion
CONCLUSION
This study has exploreda facet of recent British history that has not previously
beengiven seriousconsiderationby historians.The historical myopia that has so
black
history
just
British
but
to
the
of
people
contribution
not
even
often obscured
their very presencein the country,has meantthat althougha sizeableamounthas
beenwritten aboutthe post-warmigration of Britain's former colonial subjectsto
the metropole,little of this literaturedealswith the independentpolitical activity of
the black immigrants.This thesishas chronicledone of the most militant political
institutional
individual,
immigrants
black
the
to
racism
and state.
responsesof
in
Britain.
they
encountered
sanctionedBetween1955,when the governmentstartedmonitoring immigration from
the predominantlynon-white countries of the New Commonwealth,and 1962,
imposed
immigration
Immigrants
Act
Commonwealth
the
control on those
when
Britain
foundations
laid.
the
multiracial
modem
of
were
countries' citizens,
Working hard to establishthemselvesfinancially in Britain and not intending to
immigrants
black
during
that period did not, at
the
of
who
arrived
majority
stay,
faA pay much attention to British politics. In 1958, however, white-on-black
face
11ill
Notting
in
Nottingham
the
ugly
and
violent
of white
and
exposed
rioting
British racism, disabusingWest Indians in particular of the romantic notion of
being welcomedto the mother country. More important for the politicisation,of
black immigrants,however, was the transmigrationof British racism from the
began
book,
that
to
the
with the Conservativegovernment's
a process
statute
stred
1962 CommonwealthImmigrantsAct, resurfacedduring the generalelection of
1964,and was completedwhen the labour Party tightenedimmigration control in
the 1965White Paper,Immigration From The Commonwealth.Between1962and
256

Conclusion
1965, Labour shifted its position from one of outright opposition to immigration
its
it
Although
to
active
promotion.
through
acceptance,
was the
grudging
control,
Labour government which took the first legislative steps to combat racial
discrimination with the Race Relations Act of 1965, this did little to lessen black
from
began
betrayal.
Alienated
they
to
mainstream
politics,
of
sense
people's
realise the needto form their own political organisations.
The Black Power movement, which started in London in June 1967 and
impact
had
in
1970s,
British
its
its
the
than
a
greater
on
society
early
peak
reached
lifespan
On
short
political
suggest.
and
a micro-level the
small membership
difference that participating in a Black Power group could make to the lives of
individual members was often tremendous. Former Black Power activists who
discipline
intense
to
their
and
programmes
organisations' strict codes of
submitted
it
One
to
transformative
testify
what
a
experience
was.
study
of the central
of
tenets of Black Power was self-determination: that black people should take
level
lives.
On
this encouragedagency and social
their
personal
own
a
control of
impressive
An
number of Black Power activists went on to have
engagement.
highly successful careers in academia, the media and local politics, among other
in
have
Black
Power
living
Even
that
a
group
an
area
contained
could
areas.

material benefits. The movement's emphasison self-help, self-sufficiency and


in
Power
Black
groups providing nurseries,
resulted
action
community
for
hostels
homeless
the
andother socialwelfare amenities
schools,
supplementary
in which they wereactive.
in the neighbourhoods
On a macro-level,Black Power underminedthe stigma attachedto being
black by reclaimingthe identity and injecting it with a much-neededsenseof pride.
In a time when black immigrantswere treatedas ipsofacto a social problem in

257

Conclusion
Britain, Black Poweridentified white racism,not black immigration, as the cause
black
It
people to actively asserttheir equality rather
strife.
encouraged
of racial
be
it
for
to
to
the
than apply
endowedLIn the processit contributedto
government
the radicalisationof the race relations industry, the white liberal practitionersof
which startedto considerwhethertheir researchwas in the interestsof its black
had
impact
blackness
The
a
psychological
of
on
positive reconfiguration
subjects.
black people, but also an important political impact. The re-assertion of a political
definition of black that encompassedall non-white people who were oppressedby
white western societies provided a way for the heterogeneouspost-war immigrant
in
it
Britain
to
together
work
when
was politically expedient to do so.
communities
Calling oneself black did not mean ignoring the substantial differences between
Britain's immigrant communities and their multiplicity of ethnic and religious
identities - one could still be Sikh Indian and 'black". Rather it overlaid these
identity
identities
that was used as the basis for
common
political
with a
personal
from
late
1960s
the
onwards.
anti-racism campaigns
Its creation of a black political identity notwithstanding, the Black Power
failed
biggest
largely
immigrant
to
the
engage
post-war
movement
groups in
Britain: Indians and Pakistanis. They found many of the movement's concerns
irrelevant - for example Indian and Pakistani communities had always enjoyed
strong independent cultures and young Asian men did not face nearly as much

in
1970s
late
from
1960s
the
the
as their West Indian
and
early
police
antagonism
counterparts.Asianslargelyconcentratedtheir political activities on fighting racial
discriminationin the areasof immigration and trade unionism.Their hard-fought
battles against economic super-exploitation by their employers and for
by
jobs
that
them
threat
to
viewed
unions
as
a
white
and were
representation

258

Conclusion
reluctant to support their grievances,eventually paid off during the Grunwick
strike in 1976.In the sameyear, the reactionof a younger generationof Britishborn Asians to the murder of an Indian teenagerby a white gang and the
subsequentindifferenceof the police revealedthat Black Power had been more
influent al on them than their parents.The SouthallYouth Movementwas the first
of %%bat
would becomea nationalnetwork of Asian Youth Movementswhich all
adoptedthe Black Powerlogo of the black-gloved,clenchedfist.
The British Black Power movementonly had critical mass as a political
for
movement a shorttime and by the mid-1970sno longer representedthe cutting
edgeof black protest.This was due both to the movement'sinternal weaknesses
its
the
visited
upon
constituent organisationsand
substantial rpression
and
I

by the state.Poor leadershipand a lack of ideologicalfocus in the early

in
the 1970sto an ever hardeningschism.On the one side was
way
gave
-stages
inflexible Marxism Leninism, which pushed groups' focus away from race in
favourof classoppression.On the otherwascultural nationalism,which eventually
alienatedpotential Asian membersand gave its memberslittle hope of effecting
in
positive political change white capitalistBritain. The Black Powermovement's
decline was compoundedby a sustained and very successful campaign of
harassmentagainstits activists,by the police and through the courts, often using
the legislativepowerscriminalising incitementto racial hatredintroducedby the
1965 RaceRelationsAct. Black Power activists' habitual use of violent rhetoric
and calls for revolutionandtheir deliberateidentificationwith the AmericanBlack
Power movement, whose members were armed, did little to assuagethe
goverment's fears.Evenso, the state'sresponsewas disproportionateto the threat
presentedby Black PoN%-cr
-a movementthat was neverarmedand was partly in

259

Conclusion
failure
legislate
to
to
effectively against racial
governments'
successive
reaction
discrimination before 1976 or acknowledge the vindictive and racist behaviour of
the police towards young black men. Show trials of Black Power activists, such as
the Mangrove Nine trial in 1971, only served to further convince black people that
they lived in an unjust, racist state.
Rather than contributing to the deterioration of the relationship between
young black men and the police, which finally boiled over into open street battles
had
Power
Black
Hill
Notting
1976
the
actually provided a constructive
carnival,
at
but militant channel for black fiustration and anger. Its legacy was visible in the
in
defence
the 1970s and 1980s that highlighted
campaigns
rise of well-organised
the injustices black people faced at all stages of the legal system. Black Power's
emphases on black self-determination and self-help were also reflected in
increasing political activity at the community level throughout the 1970s.
Ultimately, the Black Power movement's most crucial and long-lasting legacy was
the senseof self-worth it instilled in black people who, rather than keeping their
headsdown or petitioning the state for reform, held their headshigh and demanded
equality as their right.

260

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DPP 2/4890: 'Rupert JamesFrank, Leonard Anderson, Edmund Lecointe and Keith
Spencer(Black PantherMovement members) riot and incitement on August 3 1,
1970 in SEI 1. Convicted'
DPP 214910:'ELLERKER, Geoffrey and KITCHING, Kenneth (ex-Police
Officers): murder of David OLUWALE on 4 May 1969 by drowning in the River
Aire in the City of Leeds. Convicted. Main file'
DPP 2/4911: 'ELLERKER, Geoffrey and KITCHING, Kenneth (ex-Police
Officers): murder of David OLUWALE on 4 May 1969 by drowning in the River
Aire in the City of Leeds. Convicted. Brief
DPP 2/4912: 'ELLERKER, Geoffrey and KITCHING, Kenneth (ex-Police
Officers): murder of David OLUWALE on 4 May 1969 by drowning in the River
Aire in the City of Leeds. Convicted. Brief'
FCO 7/859: 'Civil rights and race riots'
FCO 7/860: 'Civil rights and race riots'
FCO 7/862: 'Race riots and spreadto Caribbean'
FCO 7/863: 'Black Power movement'
FCO 7/865: 'UK representationat funeral of Martin Luther King, 1968'
FCO 23/20: 'Labour and trade union affairs: Mr Walcott condemnsthe TUC over
Enoch Powell and dockworkers who came out on strike in support of Enoch Powell'
FCO 44/195: '"Black Power"political activities'
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F
in
1945-5
Punjabi
Urdu,
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a
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1,1961-Dec
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