Before Windrush Landed at Tilbury Docks


Many people may not realize that prior to 1948 when the first visible wave of Caribbean immigrants landed on British shores, there were black people living in Britain since the 16th century. They however kept a low profile and because there were not many of them, they were not seen as a threat to British society. During World War 2, some black men and women joined the army to fight for Britain which they saw as their country. But it was very difficult for them to get recruited, because it was war office policy that non-whites should not be recruited. However, through perseverance and insistence, and changes that was taking place in society, eventually some were recruited. The women told their stories in a book, British Racism in World War 11. We should remember that those days prior to the 2nd World War, a woman’s place was in the home. This meant that in the armed forces, integration for women was very slow as the profession was governed by paternalistic and chauvinistic forms of authority.

Women’s role was therefore restricted but was much better than it was in peacetime. Since the role for the indigenous women was restricted, it was even worst for Caribbean women as there was a colour restriction in place. After the change came about regarding the use of woman power in Britain in the war effort, it was only after that change that the government could even consider the recruitment of women in the Caribbean and other colonies.

Ade Onibada wrote in the Voice on 19.05.16 that according to Black Chronicles Photographic Portraits 1862-1948, photographs on display will bring together some of the earliest photographs of Blacks and Asian in the National Portrait Galleries collection in partnership with Autograph ABP. It is hoped that these will highlight a complex black presence in Britain prior to 1948. The Curator Rene Mussai wrote that it is important to recognise that cultural diversity is not a new phenomenon, and it is worth acknowledging the many contributions that Black people have made to society. The writer added that it is empowering for people to know about such a wide diversity of experiences.

This touches on the point that I made earlier in my Research on education that Britain as a host nation has accommodated people from all walks of life who has contributed to, an enriched the country with a variety of activities such as arts, music, dance, clothes and exotic foods that people embrace and enjoy