While finishing up with the Nella Larsen post, I wanted to see if there were any connections between the Harlem Renaissance in America and a British Afro-Caribbean cultural movement here (like carnival for example). So I ventured to Google, searched for ‘carnival’ when Notting Hill Carnival popped up, I admit, I went on the “reliable source”…Wikipedia. I give it credit, the encyclopaedia is a good starting point – I digress. So I read about when it started and then came across who it was started by. In all honesty, I’d never been told about Claudia Jones – the lady who had done so much for black Britons. For a moment, I was sat on my chair like I’d been robbed of some of my British history… So I made an effort to research this lady and write a post about her. She’s important!
Claudia Jones’ resume stretches from 1936 until her death in 1964 where the Trinidadian born political activist and journalist made her mark in history. Claudia fort for black people to have a voice beginning her career in journalism from the late 30s as an active member of American Communist Party and Negro Affairs in the late 40s. Claudia became National Committee of the Communist Party where her political activities got her arrested and sentenced to prison. Having been refused to return to Trinidad, Claudia was given asylum in England, in 1955.
When Claudia came to London, she saw the similarities between New York City and London. In the early 60s, non-white immigrants from other commonwealth countries had a harder time entering Britain and so Claudia organised campaigns against the Immigration Act.
Claudia became the leader of the movement for Black equal rights that was emerging at the time. This movement was supporting many West-Indians who were living in London after the Second World War. Their presence had caused tension within the city and so as a result, West-Indians had struggled with finding housing and employment though this was promised to them before they arrived in Britain.
In 1958, Claudia founded the West Indian Gazette, London’s first newspaper targeted towards the Black community. It was forum that provided a local voice for the West-Indians who were otherwise disregarded by the mainstream media.
Claudia is perhaps widely known for her this legacy: the annual Notting Hill Carnival. The carnival was organised to respond to the riots in ’58 where black residents were attacked. The first carnival event was held in January ’59 where Claudia blended the traditional Caribbean carnivals into the local community.