In America there has been a long history of civil rights abuse towards African-Americans, but in the UK during the 1950s and 1960s civil rights were also lacking. In 1963 a young black protester in Britain echoed the action of Rosa Parks in America and began a bus boycott that helped bring in Britain’s anti-discrimination law.
Early History of British Immigrants
The slave trade in Britain was first documented around 1562 and by the early 18th century there were 14,000 black people living in Britain. Few had any real freedom, and it was not until the abolitionists began protesting that slavery across all of the British Empire was banned in 1833. By 1892 Britain had its first Indian Member of Parliament, Dadabhai Naoroji. After World War II 150,000 Poles arrived in Britain along with hundreds of men from the West Indies and multi-cultural Britain had arrived.
The Mass Migration
During the 1950s Britain invited workers from the Caribbean especially Jamaica to fill job vacancies such as labourers and transport workers in order to help rebuild post war Britain. As the rise in immigration continued so too did the rise in racial violence in cities such as London, Birmingham and Nottingham. The government began to curb immigration and by 1972 non-whites could only settle in Britain with a work permit or if they had parents or grandparents who were born in Britain. By 1970 the amount of non-white residents in the UK numbered 1.4 million, although a third of this number were born in Britain.
Racial Discrimination in the UK
Racial discrimination in Britain during the postwar period was rife. Many of the immigrants were skilled workers but racism and discrimination meant that semi or unskilled work was the only option. By the 1960s the economy in Britain was declining and black workers were the first to lose their jobs. Those that did manage to keep jobs usually did double the work for less pay. The racism and discrimination in Britain echoed that felt in America at the time, although on a smaller scale.
The Civil Rights Pioneer
There were a number of black people who made a difference to the civil rights of the black population in Britain. One was Paul Stephenson, who in 1963 led a boycott against a racist public bus company. The Bristol bus company operated a colour bar that refused employment to blacks or Asians. Stephenson, a 26 year old teacher, organised the 60 day bus boycott on the city’s buses. Thousands of people supported the bus boycott and the news of the racism made headlines. By the 28 August 1963 the bus company lifted the employment colour ban. This was the same day that Martin Luther King Jr made his “I have a dream speech”.
Mr Stephenson would once again hit the headlines when he stood trial for refusing to leave a pub until he was served a beer. It was not uncommon to see signs in Britain during the 1960s proclaiming, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Both cases helped to highlight the treatment of blacks and Asians in Britain during this period. During Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s term (1964-1976) he introduced tighter controls on immigration but also introduced legislation that made racial discrimination a legal offence.
Racial discrimination is now a legal offence in the UK and these civil and human rights are afforded to every man, woman and child. Racial discrimination includes discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality and ethnicity. It is an offence to discriminate on these grounds in areas such as employment, education, housing, and the provision of goods and services. It is also an offence for public authorities such as the police or government departments to discriminate in its activities on these grounds.
Other Civil Rights UK
Racial discrimination is not the only discrimination that can be pursued as a legal offence. It is also an offence to discriminate on the grounds of religion, sexuality, gender and disability. Discrimination for any of these reasons can lead to legal consequences. It is important that people are aware of their civil rights in the UK as it is the best protection they have against discrimination.
Racial discrimination and the abuse of civil rights did not end when the anti-discrimination legislation was passed in the 1960s. But this legislation did mean that anyone who practiced discrimination could face legal consequences. The fight for equality and freedom has been a struggle in America, Britain and many other countries around world. Hopefully this struggle will help future generations live in a more equal society.
I am a white, English folk musician. There has recently been a debate in the folk world about the tradition of morris dancers who 'black up', in other words, they paint their faces black as part of their dance costume. This tradition is not in any way a racist statement, but goes back to a time when people would beg for money and would disguise themselves out of shame. Others black up as a tradition concerning coal mining. Although this is not meant to be offensive, like minstrel groups of the past, many worry that without knowing the background to these traditions, some people might think this is offensively racist. As most people in the folk world are white, I would like to know how people in the black/ asian communities felt about this?
Hutchy - 1-Sep-16 @ 6:56 PM
I need advice about the negative treatment I am getting from the social services and the home office after the death of my wife during child birth in Nov 2014.
Mic - 29-Jun-16 @ 9:46 PM
I need to help a friend who is been covert arass is there a law against this.can you please help Thank you.
number one. - 25-Jun-16 @ 9:48 AM
Experiencing racism in a country that claims plain democracy and every man and woman should be treated equally was quite shocking. It was very surprising for me to witness a UK policeman lie in court. I live close to a pub and one day I came from work and parked at the pub. I had a few drinks and as I was going to my flat, I passed by the car to pick my bag from the car. The police then arrived and judged me for attempting to drink and drive. I tried to explain myself but all was in vein. I was breathalysed and surely I was above the limit. I was taken down the police station where I was interviewed and released. Going to court I pleaded not guilty and there was given another court hearing date.
To my surprise, the police man claimed he arrested me driving on the road towards my flat. My solicitor asked them a few questions and demanded for the statement on the arrest day. The police claimed, I was uncooperative and refused to sign any papers. I tried to explain to the judge that it can't be true only to be warned that I will be held incontempt for trying to implicate that the policeman is a liar. I was banned for 18 months and ordered to pay £2000.00 fine. It is very hard to get any justice where everyone you are dealing with in court and the police force are all white, even your own lawyer.
All was well, however, when I let my work place know about the issue, I was dismissed from my work because they deemed I was not going to be productive enough without the driving licence. And yet to my surprise again, a white colleague in the same company was court driving while on a driving ban, he was jailed for 3 months and he still retained his job doing the same work as me. I have come to believe, there is no justice for a black man or woman in a white society. Racism is alive in UK.
Maforo - 19-Jun-16 @ 6:01 PM
How does one fight against what is truly part of society. I am a black man with a mixed family. I have recently experienced true racism. I took legal action. Only to find that the system is corrupt the tribunal led by 3 white middle aged men and naturally the system wonand my allegations of racism were not accepted the only comment they were accepting was out of legal time. Racism is rife in the UK.
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james2267 - 9-Oct-15 @ 10:05 PM
canyou give me a way to cite this page please ..and who the author isif im allowed to cite at all
rob - 22-Apr-15 @ 9:20 PM
I am afraid, knowledge of history and fairness are not author's strong points.
Majority of 150.000 Polish emigrants in UK after IIWW did not arrive after the WAR - they came after the WAR broke out in 1939 and joined allies forced to fight against German invaders.
They contribution was highly recognised and prized in certain quarters. However, Mr Churchill found appropriate thank the Poles, for their efforts in protecting Britain from German invasion, to give Poland (Yalta 1945) to Stalin as a GIFT no less - so hundreds of thousand of Poles became STRANDED in Britain (and elsewhere) as they could not return to Poland in fear of repressions and else from new Poland's owners!!!!!! -
I myself, was born in UK in 1941 to a Polish parents who took part in war actions1939-1945 under British command - and, after the war - we found ourselves being shouted at on London streets: "DONT EAT OUR BREAD, GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY!" - as my father dared to wore his Polish uniform.
So, we went back in 1946...And,don't ask me how I feel about the English, you would not like the answer..... Thank you
don't eat our bread - 26-Mar-15 @ 8:47 AM
@Bronco. You are entitled to contact you local elected members for assistance with certain issues. Contact your MP with problems such as: tax/HM Revenue & Customs (but not council tax), benefits, pensions and national insurance, hospitals/the NHS, Home Office/immigration, School closures etc. Contact your local councillor (county, town/borough or parish) for local issues such as housing, planning, rubbish collection, the local environment, local schools issues, transport and roads, emergency and social services, libraries etc You cannot contact them randomly for issues such as political harassment or sales etc
CivilRightsMovement - 2-Mar-15 @ 11:28 AM
Hi My local parish council is indicating that I am out of order in contacting their elected members directly.In Dave Cameron,s constituency. Can they do this?LOG
Bronco - 25-Feb-15 @ 9:35 PM
I had a disposal hearing on 1st October 2013 at 11.00am at Wolverhampton County Court Pipers Row.WV1 3LQ. I can not get any Solicitors in the westmidlands or uk to represent in court for my Personal Injury. Lansdowne & Co solicitors had represented my claim from 8th Dec 2009 up and till 16th september 2013 and has terminated representing me as i still have on going problems with my back, neck, and shoulder. I seek immediate Legal representation. once again iv been let down in representation at Court. All correspondence have been with- Litigation Executive Lansdowne & Co. At the hearing on 1st October i went in person with out representation.Wolverhampton County Court have now set the hearing of this case with in the next 28 days because i have no legal representation. - THIS CASE IS STILL ON GOING - i have called and email all over the westmidlands and within the uk law Solicitors to seek representation, from the 16th September. I would appreciate any advice.
max - 10-Apr-14 @ 2:38 AM
The blanket termination of bank accounts of Iranian nationals by HSBC is discriminatory under UK equality act 2010 and a gross misapplication of US sanctions targeting Iran.
ahmad - 6-Apr-14 @ 1:51 PM
Dark days of discrimination are back in UK. This time Iranian national are the victims, and what is so interesting is nobody cares. Please notethat once we have discrimination in our community , you never know who is going to be next.
hamid - 13-Mar-14 @ 1:21 PM
HSBC bank in UK has terminated the bank account of many Iranian customers. If you have a Iranian name HSBC will close your bank account. If this is not discrimination could you tell me what it is? Would you please investigate what HSBC is doingto Iranian
nationals. Ordinary Iranian are being punished because sanction which are supposed to be targeting Iranian government. This collective punishment policy by HSBC bank is immoral, and inhuman. Please call any HSBC branch and tell them you would like to open a bank account for a friendwho is Iranian ,and see what they say. Please help and putstop to this type of discrimination.
nas - 13-Mar-14 @ 12:36 PM
It is time we called emergency troops germans go to war with EU Brussels end the EUROPEAN UNION entry to Blacks, romainians pakistans, polish now Bulgarians allow to flock flood Britian by secret coach loads to harm the econemy,british nationality, weakening the pound, dollor, it's time to call the 1960 PROCLIAMS COLOUR entry not allowed into this country under EU union lawless games on our status, housing, benefits after 4 weeks settled here migration tighter better in Australia law even airports thousands turned back not easy daily basis there needs to happen in France ports, & Britsih to do that or time for world war killings black sheep, dogs traders out of britian like Americian Banned laws did some time ago even on Irish Migration enough is enough get more MPS to stop these happening referedum votes Britain out of EU not meant ever to get the go ahead 1000
British Queen - 14-Mar-13 @ 12:40 AM
Hi: I'm an Occasional Teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. We have been having on-going problems with our board hiring family members who have just graduated from teacher's college for contract positions and full-time, permanent teaching positions. The board hasn't even advertised many of the contract positions the past few years. Our union and our local say there's nothing they can do. When I contacted the Ontario Human Rights Commission they said that it is perfectly legal for the board to do that because the Ontario Human Rights Act allows them to do it, it is not against the law. I was shocked. The legal department of the Ontario Human Rights Commission says it's obviously unfair but to remedy the situation you have to get the act changed. Do you know what the situation is in the U.K.? Any help or direction you can give will be appreciated.
Canteach - 26-Sep-12 @ 6:07 PM
Hello All,You might be interested in reporting on this. Leading pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca from Luton,600 Capability Green,have been taken to the Employment Tribunals this week for racial discrimination. It is taking place right NOW (19.05.11) in Bedford. Regards,Tricia