[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Harriet Sherwood (The Guardian) reports that Trinidad-born journalist, founder of the West Indian Gazette, and activist Claudia Jones is among five women whose life and legacy will be marked by English Heritage. English Heritage usually awards about 12 plaques a year commemorating people of “significant public standing.”
The woman described as the “founding spirit” of the Notting Hill carnival is to be commemorated with a blue plaque at her former London home this year.
Claudia Jones, a feminist, political activist and journalist who was born in Trinidad in 1915, is one of five women whose achievements and legacy will be marked by English Heritage. A sixth blue plaque will commemorate the violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Jones came to the UK in 1955 from the US, where her activity as a member of the Communist party during the McCarthy era led to her imprisonment and deportation. At her sentencing, she said she was committed to fighting “for full and unequivocal equality for my people, the Negro people, which as a Communist I believe can only be achieved allied to the cause of the working class”.
Black people in the US were subjected to “the bitter indignity and humiliation of second-class citizenship, the special status which makes a mockery of our government’s prated claims of a ‘free America’ in a ‘free world’”, she said.
In the UK, Jones founded the first major Black British newspaper, the West Indian Gazette, and addressed union meetings and peace rallies. She came up with the idea of bringing Caribbean carnival to London, with the first event taking place at St Pancras town hall in January 1959. It later moved to the streets of west London and became known as the Notting Hill carnival.
Jones died in 1964, aged 49. Her gravestone in Highgate cemetery in north London describes her as “a valiant fighter against racism and imperialism, who dedicated her life to the progress of socialism and the liberation of her own black people”.
The blue plaque will be erected at a house in Vauxhall, south London, where she lived for four years.
English Heritage will also celebrate two suffragettes, Emily Wilding Davison and Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. [. . .]
English Heritage usually awards about 12 plaques a year commemorating people of “significant public standing”. In 2016, the organisation appealed for women to be nominated as it revealed that only 13% of blue plaques in London were dedicated to female figures.
For full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2023/jan/26/claudia-jones-founding-spirit-notting-hill-carnival-blue-plaque-london-home-english-heritage
For more information on Jones, see books by Carol Boyce Davies, Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment (Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2011) and Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Duke University Press, 2008).
[Photo above: Claudia Jones founded the West Indian Gazette, addressed union meetings and peace rallies after coming to the UK in 1955. FPG/Getty Images.]
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