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Portrait of a Black Gardener Launch Event: Tuesday 29 October 2013

Portrait of a Black Gardener Launch Event
Tuesday 29 October 2013, 18.00-21.00
Admission free

Portrait of a Black Gardener by Harold Gilman

Portrait of a Black Gardener

Portrait of a Black Gardener

The Garden Museum and the Black Environment Network is pleased to invite you to a launch event to mark the acquisition of a painting by Harold Gilman, Portrait of a Black Gardener. The painting has been acquired in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society and the two organisations will share in exhibiting it.
This painting is a rare example of a portrait of a gardener, yet the pose also suggests that he might actually be an artist’s model. Painted by Harold Gilman in 1905, the identity of the sitter for this portrait is unknown.

The evening will begin with the opportunity to view the painting, and an introduction from Christopher Woodward, Director of the Garden Museum and Wesley Kerr, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund London Committee. Dr Jan Marsh of the National Portrait Gallery will discuss her work looking at the representation of black people in British art and Jeffrey Green will talk about the history of Victorian and Edwardian gardeners of African descent, based on research for his book Black Edwardians. Judy Ling Wong of the Black Environment Network will conclude the event talking about the potential for telling more diverse stories using the collections of the Garden Museum.

Jeffrey Green

Independent historian Jeffrey Green has written on the pre-1940s black presence in Britain for thirty years. His books include “Black Edwardians” (1998) and “Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, A Musical Life” (2011). He has participated in international conferences and contributed to reference books, television and radio programmes including “Swinging Into the Blitz” (BBC TV, 2013).

Dr Jan Marsh

After studying English literature at Cambridge, Jan Marsh undertook postgraduate studies in social studies at LSE, and a PhD exploring poetry and culture 1900-1914 at the University of Sussex. Her first book was a critical biography of Edward Thomas, followed by the cultural history of the late Victorian Back-to-the-Land movement, and then Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, a keynote inquiry into gender relations in the nineteenth-century art world. In 2003-4 she held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship at the National Portrait Gallery, researching the representation of men and women of African ancestry in the 19th century, in preparation for the exhibition Black Victorians (Manchester 2005, Birmingham 2006). Currently president of the William Morris Society, a trustee of the William Morris Gallery and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, her latest project involved co-editing the Collected Letters of Jane Morris.
This painting was bought in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society and with the kind assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Monument Trust and the Art Fund.

We would be delighted if you should like to attend this free event. Please RSVP to Faiza Mahmood:

Kind regards

Emily Fuggle
Collections and Project Curator

Garden Museum
Lambeth Palace Road

T: 020 7401 8865 *825

Posted in Black History Month UKComments (0)

The History of A Black History Website

Over the years, The Black Presence in Britain Website has been through quite a few changes, and as it’s Black History Month, I thought I’d share some of the many different looks the site has gone through, with you, the loyal readers.

The Black Presence in Britain Website was first created back in 1998. I was at University, studying Politics. Part of my course was a history module called The Black & Asian Presence in Britain 1780-1945, Origins, Experiences and Changing Identities. My tutor was Dr Barbara Bush, of Staffordshire University.

Early Black Internet Pioneer

Being a penniless student, some of the textbooks on Black British History that I needed to excel at my studies were rather pricey.  I needed to hit the library, of course though, there were a limited amount of books available on this topic.  My thoughts turned to the Internet, and whilst the internet was still young in those days, I felt sure that I’d find a wealth of information there.  However, the truth of the matter was that most of the black history online at that time, was coming from the United States.

“I decided that I’d make my own website”

I decided that I’d make my own website dedicated to Black British history.  The aim was to make something that might be of some use to other students studying similar courses.  I never dreamed that all these years later, I’d still be writing the site.

Black Presence in Britain website 1998-2000

Built in Netscape Composer, Graphics edited in PaintShop Pro (ouch, those colours)

Back then, I didn’t really know anything about how to host a website. I didn’t even understand the importance of having a proper Domain names or url.

So I found a website that offered free hosting, it was called Geocities. Geocities allowed anyone to create a homepage and host it on the Geocities servers. You could add in extra snippets of code to extend your website’s functionality. Some people added counters and Guest Books. I think the original url of the site was something crazy like

An Age of Black Website Collaboration

In the 90’s a lot of the black owned sites had a better network than exists today. It was the Pre Facebook era and we all collaborated and shared content.  I allowed my site content to be shared on the popular site Blacknet. The pages are still there today, although somewhat tucked away.

By the turn of the Millenium,  the site had taken on a different style. I wanted a three column look to try to emulate the newspaper websites.

Black Presence Website 2000

HTML coding with three columns.


Black Presence 2001

Black Presence 2001


The Black Presence in Britain 2003

The Black Presence in Britain 2003


Black Presence 2004

Black Presence 2004

Black Presence goes Dynamic

Around 2006, the site had about 60 pages. I was beginning to find it almost impossible to maintain the site using just html. I was aware that I could improve the management of the website by using a database and a dynamic website language such as ASP or PHP.

In the end I chose PHP due to the type of web hosting I had. That was quite a learning curve as I’d already learned some ASP and making websites with it at work, but PHP it was. It made building the Black Presence site so much easier, and I quickly increased the number of biographies on the site.

Black Presence in Britain PHP

Black Presence upgraded to PHP. 2006

I also thought we’d have a brief departure from red and run with blue for a while.

Black British Forums

It was at this time when The forums were really busy. We had some really great contributors back in those days, We also had our fair share of Forum trolls too, but they all helped to make the a community pretty vibrant place to be.

Black British Forums

Black British Forums

Sadly though, the spammers got the better of the system that used PHPBB2 they relentlessly spammed the forum, slowly driving the regular users away. In the end I decided to close the Forums, and despite trying to revive them several times the spammers kept getting in. It was time to find a better platform.  I’d been hearing a lot about a platform called WordPress.

Moving Black Presence to WordPress

After playing around with Drupal for a few months, and hating it. I settled on WordPress. I thought I’d download a copy first, and build a test website on my home server. WordPress really was so easy to understand from an admin point of view, and very easy for users to work with I knew that it was the right platform for the Black Presence in Britain. I played around with a couple of themes and looks before I got it to the present look.

First WordPress version

2009 WordPress

Second WordPress version

Second WordPress version

The Penultimate WordPress build

The Penultimate WordPress build 2011 / 2012

The Future for Black Presence?

I work in Web Marketing and I have noticed that lot of the web has come full circle. We are going back to simpler layouts, better text, less flashy stuff, and simple navigation structures. That’s almost certainly going to be the way this site goes. Right now though, that’s taking some serious planning. There are a lot of articles that need to be migrated properly or I risk losing traffic and alienating old visitors.

Ultimately I want to harness the power of our social media following where Black Presence has literally thousands of followers and fans. I always try to put a timescale on these things and life keeps getting in the way. Remember this site is run without external funding or sponsorship.

Whatever happens, I do hope that you have enjoyed the site over the years and that you will continue to enjoy it and contribute to it in the future. Thanks you all, you made this site great.

Please leave a message below if you have been a member in the past or have found the content on this site useful.

Posted in Black History Month UK, Editors BlogComments (2)

Mary Prince A Slave

Mary Prince  - BookMary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.Mary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Brackish Pond, which is now known as Devonshire Marsh, in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.

The parents of Mary Prince were both slaves: her father was a sawyer owned by David Trimmingham, and her mother a house-servant of Charles Myners. When Myners died in 1788, Prince and her mother were sold as household servants to Captain Darrell, who gave Prince to his granddaughter, Betsey Williams.

When she was 12, Prince was sold again to Captain John Ingham, of Spanish Point, but never took easily to the indignities of her enslavement and she was often flogged. As a punishment, Prince was sold to another Bermudian, probably Robert Darrell, who sent her in 1806 to Grand Turks, which Bermudians had used seasonally for a century for the extraction of salt from the ocean.

Salt was a pillar of the Bermudian economy, but could not easily be produced in Bermuda, where the only natural resource were the Bermuda cedars used for building ships. The industry was a cruel one, however, with the salt rakers forced to endure exposure not only to the sun and heat, but also to the salt in the pans, which ate away at their uncovered legs.

Mary returned to Bermuda in 1810, but was sold to John Wood in 1818, and sent to Antigua to be a domestic slave. She joined the Moravian Church and, in December 1826, she married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom and worked as a carpenter and cooper. For this impudence, she was severely beaten by her master.

Mary Price in London

In 1828, Wood took her as a servant to London. Although slavery was illegal in Britain, she had no means to support herself, and could not have returned to her husband without being re-enslaved. She remained with Wood until they threw her out. She took shelter with the Moravian church in Hatton Garden. Within a few weeks, she had taken employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer, and Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.

Pringle arranged for her narrative to be copied down by Susanna Strickland and it was published in 1831 as the “The History of Mary Prince”, the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England.

The book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement. Scandalised by its account, John Wood sued the publishers for libel, but his case failed. Subsequent attempts were made to tarnish Mary Prince’s reputation, particularly by James MacQueen and James Curtin, both supporters of slavery. In turn, she and her publisher sued for libel, which suit they won.

Prince remained in England until about 1833.

Related Websites

The History of Mary Prince A West Indian Slave Related By Herself. – eBook


Posted in Black History Month UK, Black Women, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (0)

Books about Black British History

Black History BooksA reading list of books related to the ongoing Black presence in Britain, Slavery, colonialism and black Settlement in the U.K
The list is by no means exhaustive!

Books about Black British History

  • Staying Power-The History of Black people in Britain by Peter Fryer
    (Pluto Press 1984)
  • Black England-Life before Emancipation by Gretchen Gerzina
    (John Murray,1995)
  • Black Settlers in Britain 1555-1958 by Nigel File and chris Power
    (Heinemann,1981; reprinted 1995)
  • Black Edwardians-Black people in Britain 1901-1914 by Jeffrey Green
    (Frank Cass 1998)
  • Wonderful adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands by Mary seacole
    (1857; reprinted by Falling Wall Press,edited by Ziggy Alexander and Audrey Dewjee,1984).
  • Black Londoners 1880-1990by susan Okokon
    (Sutton Publishing Limited, 1998)
  • The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave
    (1831; reprinted by the University of Michigan Press, edited by Moira Ferguson,1993).
  • The first Black footballer-Arthur Wharton 1865-1930 An Absence of Memory by Phil Vasili
    (frank Cass,1998, reprinted 1999)
  • Colouring over the white Line- The History of Black footballers in Britain by Phil Vasili
    (Mainstream Publishing,2000)
  • Breaking Stereotypes-Perspectives of Selected Black and Asian Leaders Edited by Clinton A.Valley,EdD.
    (Minerva Press, 2000)
  • West Indian Women at War-British Racism in World War II by Ben Bousquet and Colin Douglas
    (Lawrence and Wishhart, 1991)
  • Roots of the Future-Ethnic Diversity in the making of Britain
    By Commission for Racial Equality, 1997
  • England Affric-An Ethnological Survey by Ahmed ali and Abrahim Ali
    (Punite Books, 1995) ISBN 0 9518924 4 4
  • A History of the Black Presence in London (Greater London Council, 1986)
    ISBN 0 7168 1679 2
  • Black and white- the Negro and English Society 1555-1945 By James Walvin
    (Allen Lane, 1973)

For a more exhaustive list of useful Books on Black History, you can download a copy of the the Black & Asian Resources available at the British Library.

Posted in African History, Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (3)

Andrew Watson – Black Scottish Footballer


Andrew Watson was the perhaps, world’s first black international football player, capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882 and considered as one of the top ten most important players of the 19th century.Andrew Watson (born May 1857, Demerara, British Guiana; died in Sydney, Australia, date unknown) was the world’s first black international football player, capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882 and considered as one of the top ten most important players of the 19th century.

He was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter Peter Miller and a local girl Rose Watson. At the age of 14, he was schooled at the exclusive King’s College London, where school records show he excelled at sports including football. He later studied philosophy, mathematics and engineering at University of Glasgow when he was 19, where his natural love of football blossomed.

After first playing for Maxwell F.C., in 1876 he signed for local side Parkgrove F.C. where he was additionally their match secretary, making Watson football’s first black administrator. After marrying in Glasgow, he soon signed for Queen’s Park F.C. – then Britain’s biggest football team – and later became their secretary. He led the team to several Scottish Cup wins, thus becoming the first black player to win a major competition.

Black Scottish Footballer

Soon Watson won three international caps for Scotland including captaining them to a 6-1 victory against England on March 12, 1881, making him the first black international player and captain.

In 1882, he was the first black player to play in the FA Cup when he turned out for London Swifts F.C.. In 1884 he was the first foreign player to be invited to join the most exclusive of football teams, a team that only allowed only 50 members of high elite to join – Corinthians F.C. – created to challenge the supremacy of Queen’s Park and the Scottish national side.

Andrew Watson - Scotland Footballer

Andrew Watson – Scotland Footballer

It had been maintained that the first black footballer was Arthur Wharton, until it was only recently noted that Watson pre-dates him by 11 years. One reasons is that when historians consider black footballers, they tend to concentrate on professionals and not amateurs such as Watson. Another is that there are no known written records or match reports that mention the colour of Watson’s skin. One match report is more interested in that Watson played in unusual brown boots rather than the customary black boots of that time.

The colour of his skin was of no significance to his peers and there is no historical record of racism on the part of the Scottish Football Association. As written in the minutes, before one match where Watson was injured and unable to play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged a fellow Scottish international to give Watson his place.

Watson’s entry in the Scottish Football Association Annual of 1880-81 reads as follows:

“Watson, Andrew: One of the very best backs we have; since joining Queen’s Park has made rapid strides to the front as a player; has great speed and tackles splendidly; powerful and sure kick; well worthy of a place in any representative team.”

There is almost no record of his later life; however, it is known that Watson later emigrated to Australia, as he died in Sydney and is buried there.


Posted in Black History Month UK, Black Sports StarsComments (2)

Black Loyalists in 18th Century London


Image: Courtesy of Kurt Miller – KMI Studio Website:

It was during the War of Independence in the colony of America that Britain gained herself these unlikely allies. Black loyalists fought for Britain against the American colonists. Free blacks were joined by thousands of slaves who had been promised freedom and land by Britain if they joined in this battle. The idea of British freedom, i.e. complete freedom in the shortest possible time, was appealing to the escaped Africans who in the 1770s made their way to the British army position to fight for Britain and for freedom.

In September 1783, the independence of the United States and the formation of its boundaries were formally recognised. The new country was founded by an egalitarian movement and based on the philosophy of ‘equal rights’ for all.  After this treaty had been signed, the whole British faction had to leave the United States. In the eight months between April and November 1783, over 3,000 black people leaving the country on British ships for destinations as varied as Nova Scotia, the West Indies, England, Germany, Quebec or Belgium, were recorded in the Book of Negroes .

Black Loyalists in 18th Century London

London had a severe poverty problem in the 18th century. This became more pronounced as growing numbers of African-American loyalists arriving from America ended up living on the streets. The black and white loyalists had all been promised compensation for their losses in the War of Independence, however, the majority of claims from the black loyalists were denied or they were given derisory amounts condemning them to lives of destitution. The Parliamentary Commission Compensation Board reviewing the claims stated, on several occasions, that they believed the black claimants were being deceptive in claiming they were free men with property and should adopt a state of gratitude that they were now at liberty rather than pursue applications for financial assistance. In 1786 there were over 1,000 black loyalists living in London. As the negative sentiment regarding the presence of Africans in England increased there were suggestions of where to relocate these black people; the main areas proposed where the Bahamas, where other loyalists had moved to or Sierra Leone, on the West African coast.

The following year around 200 of this impoverished group migrated to Sierra Leone with government assistance; the government wanted to remove the problem of black poverty and the presence of large groups of free black people from the streets of England. There were 344 poor black people on the ship Myro that sailed from London in 1787.  The plan was to move the burden of the ‘troublesome’ black person from the attention of the public, forever . This was an indication of the racially nationalist philosophy that was to perpetuate the abolitionist movement.


Further reading and research

The Book of Negroes – that listed all the Black Loyalists evacuated from America – can be found in the archives at Kew (Public Records Office).

There is also a copy available online here

The National Archives contain records, that can only be viewed in the reading room, about the Committee for the Relief of Poor Blacks and their emigration to Sierra Leone; this covers the details of events between May 1786 to April 1787.

This article was contributed by Marjorie Morgan.Writer, Researcher. © 2013 | Blackpresence has special permission to publish this article.

Related Link: Black Loyalists

Posted in African American History, African History, Black Britain, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Black Soldiers, Guest Blog Posts, SlaveryComments (5)

Teaching Slavery in Schools

Teaching Slavery

Teaching Slavery

Tonight I read an article about how a teacher used hands on, unorthodox methods to teaching Slavery in Schools

I used to work in Education and was lucky enough to visit Liverpool’s Maritime Museum with a school trip of 7th grade students. Despite hearing rave reviews about the museum (also know as the slavery museum) I thought the experience in itself was poor.

For me, the museum was laid out all wrong, there was no sense of beginning middle and end, it was merely a collection of artefacts surrounded by facts. I was Bored, the kids were bored.

What’s the best way to Teach about Slavery?

When we got back to school, the teacher was asking the kids about what they saw, they asked me to assist because I was the I.T Instructor, and they had to create presentations on the PC. I couldn’t believe how disengaged the kids were, they literally had no understanding of what had happened in slavery. The worksheet asked them what the triangular trade was, but no one knew.

I decided to shake things up a bit. I split the class into two groups.

Group one I sent out into the corridor to await further instruction. Group two stayed in the classroom. I told them to elect a leader. Every student had to take a role, of man woman or child. They had to pretend that they were a village. This basically consisted of them standing around talkig to each other. (Which in this instance was fine).

I went out to Group 1, I told them that they were to be a group of slavers. They had to go into the classroom and take over. This was all stage managed by me to avoid total chaos. I acted as an intervening narrator/Drama director.

The slavers came in to the room and started shouting, yelling and generally being aggressive. The villagers were scared and shocked. I stepped into avoid confrontation and explained to the whole class what had just happened.You could see that for the first time,  the kids were actually interested.

I explained that the slavers had just come in and taken over the village. I tasked them to seperate the men, women and children, this happened quite quickly and the villagers complied. I asked the villagers how they might feel if this happened to them today. What would they do?

Of course, a lot of kids said “Fight sir, we’d fight” again, I explained that many villages would have fought back but pointed out that the Slavers generally had one major advantage and that was guns.

Continuing the narrative, I told the villagers “You are all tied or in chains, naked, infront of your neighbours. men seperated from women” old people often killed”. I explained that often people would be marched many miles away from the village.

The kids began to ask questions like, what are you going to do with us. “Where are we going?”

Once I had explained that they would be put onto ships and taken to the Americas, they seemed happy, not thinking that it wasn’t the America they are familiar with  today. I reminded them. “You are no longer free“.

The Middle Passage

To illustrate conditions on the ship, I made them lie down on the floor next to each other, all packed in. Again some students were flippant. Until I again reminded them, “you are chained” no one person can move away from the others. I asked the student’s what happens to some people when they get on a boat on the sea? Immediately someone shouted “seasick sir,” .  This prompted someone to ask “what do you do when you want a wee or a poo sir”,. she didn’t like the answer. “you have to go, right where you are”. They didn’t like that much. Then I told them that, the voyage would have lasted several months. They were lying on rough planks, many people would have gotten sick.

they asked me what would have happened once they got to america or the Caribbean. I explained that they would all have been slit up into lots and sold like cattle. Husbands and wives, mothers and children, brothers and sisters all split up. I asked them to imagine what it would be like to be split up from their families, and friends and to most likely never see them again.

At this Point I decided that my part was done, I noticed that some of the girls were quite upset at the very thought of this…I’d gotten them engaged, they wanted to know about slavery, and why this happened, I handed back to the teacher, and it was a different class.

Teaching Slavery should be more interactive

In my opinion, Teaching Slavery should be more interactive. Kids are simply never going to be interested in a lot of dates and facts without being able to put it into context.  Some people may criticise my methods,  but most kid’s today just cannot conceive an event of such enormity without strong narrative.

Sadly, the Slavery Museum did not provide a clear explanation of how slavery had begun, nor how it must have affected the people taken as slaves, or those who did the slaving. The museum could have led the visitors through an engaging timeline, detailing the middle passage with mockups of ships, actors to illustrate the conditions.

The tour could then conclude with the after effects of slavery, and the world we see today. The core components are there already, I just feel they could be layed out more effectively.

Raising Awareness of Slavery

By leading people through each stage, it would make the experience more interactive and visitors could not miss the detail. The Slavery Museum should have the same effect as the Holocaust Museums. This is how I think we could spread greater knowledge aout the transatlantic slave trade. Let’s face it people are woefully ignorant.

One girl in the class had a Jamaican parent. I was talking about the after effects of slavery, pointing out that many black people who live in Britain today have Caribbean ancestry and that those ancestors are directly descended from African slaves. She was incredulous, stating that “I’m not African, I’m jamaican”. Sad really.

Related Links


Posted in Black History Month UK, Editors BlogComments (7)

Harlesden Uncovers Family History

Are you interested in uncovering your family history? If the answer is yes,
A project running in Harlesden might be just the thing for you then. Harlesden Routes is a free family history programme which will run between January to March 2013.

The projects aims to support local people in taking the first steps in learning and researching their family history. We are looking for committed individuals who live, work and/ or have strong family connections with Harlesden. Participants must be willing to develop a case study based on interviews and or research of an aspect of their family history which can be shared with others locally.

Harlesden is a culturally diverse area with many untold stories and experiences of local history and migration which makes the area a positive and inclusive place to live and work. Every Generation mission is to promote the oral and family heritage of the lives and history of local communities.

The Harlesden Routes Course will start on February 6th with all activities taking place on a Wednesday evening at the Unity Centre. In addition there also be a trip to Brent Museum and Archives and the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ family history exhibition at Olympia.

The session will cover different aspects of family history using local records and online archives, using photographs, social history, creative writing, interviewing techniques and the importance of DNA.

Harlesden Routes is a partnership which involves Every Generation, Catalyst Gateway, and Brent Museum and Archives. The projected is funded by Harlesden Community First and LIFT.

To find out more about this project follow this link
Every Generation – Harlesden Routes

Posted in Black History Month UKComments (0)

Jack Leslie

Jack F. Leslie was a former black football player in Britain. He signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking Town in 1921.Jack F. Leslie is a former football player. He signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking Town in 1921. Leslie scored over 400 goals in his career, 134 of those for Plymouth in 400 appearances. He retired in 1935. A call-up to the national team was cancelled when officials realized he was a “a man of colour.

Jack Leslie

Jack Leslie


Despite an impressive 15-year run which saw him playing to crowds of over 40,000 people and notching up an impressive 400 match appearances with over 130 goals, Leslie suff ered catcalls from the crowd, who discriminated against him because he was black.

“I used to get a lot of abuse in matches. ‘Here darkie, I’m gonna break your leg,’ they’d shout.

“There was nothing wicked about it – they were just trying to get under my skin.”

Argyle co-ordinator Peter Hall reminisces about the times he saw Leslie play.


“On August 26, 1933 – I was six years old – we played Manchester Utd and won 4-1. “I always remember that Jack Leslie played a huge part in that win – it was a real treat to watch him play. He was everywhere, his passing was first class, and his shooting power was enormous. If there ever was an Argyle legend, it was Jack Leslie.”

No Black Footballers for England

Leslie proved himself as a top goal-scorer, holding the record for the most league goals scored (35) between 1927 and 1929, but this still wasn’t enough for officials who believed he wasn’t fit to join the esteemed national side.

“They found out I was a darkie and I suppose that was like finding out I was foreign.”

This shattered Leslie’s dreams of an international career.

He famously commented to Pilgrims teammate and later journalist Brian Woolnough,

“They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy.”


Jack Leslie retired in 1934, later he went to work for his local club West Ham United as part of their back room team.

Related Links

BBC – Footballer Jack Leslie
Wikipedia – Jack Leslie




Posted in Black History Month UK, Black Sports StarsComments (0)

Carmen Bryan and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962

As an insight to the 1960s was a period of rapid social, political and moral change I have written about a case that changed the political landscape of 1960s Britain. The case for the deportation of Miss Carmen Bryan under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962.
Carmen Bryan had been living in the UK for 2 years when she was convicted of petty larceny – shoplifting (value £2) and for this minor misdemeanour she was given a conditional discharge, however, she was also sentenced to deportation and therefore held in prison following her appearance in the London magistrates’ court.

Commonwealth Immigrants Act

In 1962, in the initial seven weeks following the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (CIA) by the Conservative Government, there were in excess of eighty recommendations for deportation from the UK – many for misdemeanours. When deportation orders were initially discussed in Parliament relating to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill specific assurances were given that such orders “would not be made in the case of Commonwealth immigrants for relatively trivial offences and the powers sought were for only serious offences”.

The incumbent Home Secretary at the time, Henry Brooke, was criticized for his decision to deport one particular woman: Carmen Bryan. This case brought into focus the integrity and good faith of the government. On 2nd June 1962, the day after Part II of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into operation, Bryan, a 22 year old Jamaican who had been living and working in England since 1960, pled guilty to petty larceny (she shoplifted goods worth £2) and as a result of this plea at Paddington magistrates court she was given a conditional discharge, without a fine, and an additional recommendation for deportation to Jamaica. This was the first case under the CIA (1962) to have come before the particular magistrate and he decided that Bryan had not settled down in the UK successfully so it would be better for her if she returned to the Caribbean. Since her arrival in the UK in 1960 Bryan had been working in a welding factory, however, following a bout of illness and a subsequent operation she was unable to resume her employment there. Consequently she had attempted to obtain clerical work but was unsuccessful in obtaining employment in any other field.

Carmen Bryan sent to Prison

Despite the conditional discharge Bryan was subjected to detention in Holloway Prison pending her removal from the country. The magistrate’s court had the power to release her pending the confirmation of deportation but they did not choose to do so notwithstanding the petty offence she had committed. Whilst detained in prison for six weeks – without any conviction – Bryan was not offered any legal advice nor did she have access to the Jamaican High Commission for over four weeks. Bryan was also denied contact with friends within the UK: for over a month she remained totally isolated within the prison system.

Bryan’s deportation proposal was confirmed by the Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, who agreed with the sentencing of the local magistrates and as a result of this decision there was a political and media outcry. In July 1962 the Home Secretary was subsequently questioned by Sir Eric Fletcher (member for Islington East) “Is it the intention of the Government to treat Commonwealth immigrants, as regards deportation, worse than aliens and to use their powers in respect of trivial offences of this kind— on a first offence?”.

Brooke argued that his conviction regarding the deportation was partially because Carmen Bryan had expressed a personal desire to return to Jamaica as she was unemployed and had no relatives in the country. The member for Islington East (Sir Eric Fletcher) explained that Bryan had not been given the opportunity to appeal because she had been incorrectly informed that any appeal could potentially lead to an indefinite long-term sentence in Holloway Prison followed by inevitable deportation. After four days Henry Brooke withdrew his recommendation and Carmen Bryan was freed from prison and allowed to remain in the UK.

Deportations Suspended

As a result of this change in decision deportations for misdemeanours were accordingly suspended. Many discussions on this matter followed in the Houses of Parliament#, where it was suggested by some members that if the principle of deportation for a minor offence was established then there was a possibility that people wishing to be repatriated to their countries of origin would be encouraged to commit petty crimes to facilitate free transportation.

The concerns raised in the Carmen Bryan case were that Bryan’s was not in fact an isolated case: in July 1962 there were already around 50 cases of deportation pending. This particular case served to highlight several serious and grave principles of procedure and application of the CIA(1962). It was suggested, by George Brown MP, that, contrary to the Government’s stated intention of the CIA(1962), the judicial benches were applying the recommendation to deport Commonwealth immigrants as a matter of course and – other MPs agreed – that the law may have been applied in a harsh and vindictive manner. George Brown suggested that the preponderance of deportation sentences were a result of decent people being misled and becoming full of hate and prejudice#.


This article was contributed by Marjorie Morgan.Writer, Researcher. © 2013 | Blackpresence has special permission to publish this article.

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