Legendary anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass (pictured) once wrote that ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand’. He was spot on.
One hundred years ago, an arts movement was forming in a mainly-black district of New York City. Later known as the Harlem Renaissance, it was primarily cultural but also inescapably political. Literature, poetry, jazz, theatre, sculpture and more articulated the lives and demands of African-Americans no longer willing to be grateful that they were no longer enslaved.
O black and unknown bards of long ago.
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel’s lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long.
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?
James Weldon Johnson
This story of colour bars in the UK railway and bus industries begins after the Second World War, when Britain had a labour shortage and people moved to Britain in increasing numbers from Caribbean countries and elsewhere.
NUR Opposes Racism
Letter published in Solidarity 567:
The editorial of Solidarity 566 rightly called for a big expansion of public-sector jobs to tackle the Covid-related economic crisis, through both the creation of new jobs in existing public services and through nationalizing corporations that threaten job cuts.
This article was published in RMT News, September 2020.
By Janine Booth, Chair of RMT National Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee
One hundred years ago, two hundred and fifty blind people from across the UK marched from Newport, Manchester and Leeds to London in protest at poverty and poor working conditions.
I have contributed this short article to Black History Month activities where I work.
Poems of the Harlem Renaissance
- recommended by Janine Booth
- published in Solidarity 564
British courts’ application of ‘joint enterprise’ is unjust, and criminalises black and working-class youth.
‘Joint enterprise’ is a common-law doctrine that allows courts to convict not only the person who carried out a crime, but others who helped them to do it. In principle, that sounds reasonable. But since 1984, British courts have used it to convict people who they think knew the crime was going to happen, even if they did not help carry it out.
A TUC report, Dying on the job: racism and risk at work, has revealed the deep-seated racism that underlies the higher impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic (BME) people, but its proposals fall well short of what is needed.
In the early days of the pandemic, it became clear that BME people were dying at a significantly greater rate. Compared with white people, black people are more than four times as likely to die from Covid-19, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people more than one-and-a-half times as likely.