Im reflects on the life and legac y of activist Claudia Jones – the ‘mother’ of Notting Hill Carnival
Claudia Jones 1915-1964
Born in Trinidad, Jones was a journalist, political activist and intersectional feminist who established the Notting Hill Carnival and spent most of her life fighting against racial discrimination.
At eight years old, she moved to Harlem, New York with her family. By 1936, she was a member of the Young Communist League USA as she specifically sought out an organisation that supported the Scottsboro Boys (i.e. nine black boys who were falsely accused of raping two white women and faced a death sentence). A year later, she joined the editorial team at the Communist Daily Worker and became an editor for the Weekly Review in 1938, thus allowing her to express her views and concerns about the treatment of women—especially poor women, considering her own experience of living in poverty—and African Americans.
Due to her vocal nature, she was arrested on numerous occasions and eventually deported to Britain for acting ‘un-American’. She arrived during a time when there was great animosity between post-War immigrants and the white British. The Windrush generation, who had travelled to Britain to help solve the labour shortage crisis, faced extensive amounts of racism which Jones battled against on behalf of the Caribbean community. She was particularly critical of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrant Act which limited the number of Commonwealth immigrants allowed to come to Britain.
Claudia Jones established the West Indian Gazette—Britain’s first major black newspaper
In 1958, Claudia Jones established the West Indian Gazette—Britain’s first major black newspaper. It was used to advocate for equal rights for first generation immigrants and highlight discrimination against the Windrush generation in areas such as housing, education and employment.
In that same year, Oswald Mosley and the Union Movement and the White Defence League attacked the black community in Notting Hill, Brixton and Ladbroke Grove. The Notting Hill Race Riots resulted in several injuries as well as 108 arrests. Wanting to diffuse racial tensions, Jones decided to bring people together on 30th January 1959 with an indoor carnival. It was a huge success as the best of Afro-Caribbean talent was broadcasted by the BBC and six years after her death, the carnivals continued and expanded to become what they are today.