Race Relations 1940s-1970s


Clement Attlee Prime Minister (Labour)

1945 - 1951



The Ship Windrush arrived in the UK from Jamaica. They were invited to come work in the UK to aid with post WW2 reconstsruction - shortage of labour in the UK. Jamaica had financial difficulties, after the war as well as natural disaster and they had romanticised vision of Mother Britian. Invited to work in NHS, London Transport, Construction and Hotel and Toursim.

Nationality Act 1948


Subjects of the Commonwealth were given citizen status giving them unrestricted rights of entry to the UK. The open door policy on immigration to the UK was needed due to labour shortage and rebuilding after WW2. Result was large numbers of people from Commonwealth migrated to the UK (at the time, a quarter of world’s population part of Commonwealth...)

1950s; Mass immigration & growing racial tensions

1950 - 1960

During the 1950s there was continuous mass immigration from the West Indies. Working class supporters for both Labour and Tory were in favour of restricting ‘coloured’ immigration. Main issue was that whites thought the blacks did not work, collected benefits and were given housing at the expense of the whites, as well as being considered that they were often charged with misbehaviour, especially sexual.

Winston Churchill Prime Minister (Conservative)

1951 - 1955

McCarran-Walter Act


Quota system based on national origins and racial categories for immigration introduced in the US. Biased towards Europeans. Impact on the UK as when Caribbean area hit by financial difficulties, immigration to the UK was the only option for Jamaicans etc.

259,540 Caribbeans migrated from Caribbean to UK

1955 - 1962

259,540 Caribbeans migrated from Caribbean to UK 1955-62

Sir Anthony Eden Prime Minister (Conservative)

1955 - 1957

Although criticising the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 in opposition, when elected start changing policy meaning restrictive immigration policy retained under Labour. However, recognised the following three issues: Poverty, Rising population, Racial conflict.

Harold Macmillan Prime Minister (Conservative)

1957 - 1963

Notting Hill Riots


Three day riots in Notting Hill, sparked off by Teddy boys (9 youths) attacked group of black men. Initiated public debate about scale of immigration.
Although initiated by white men, it was used by Lord Salisbury (leader of the Lords) as a justification for his claim that immigration controls should be imposed.
There had been a growing racial division in the UK but was based on “Moral Panic’ - an exaggerated over reaction by society to a perceived problem.

Committee of African Organisation founded


Campaigned for racial equality (including Black Power); pursued Anti-colonial and Pan-African politics. Initially body representing all coloured student unions, then became principal co-ordinating body of all coloured organisations. Special Branch got involved because of CAO involvement in murder of Kelso Cochrane.

1958 Gallup Poll


Overwhelming majority in favour of stricter immigration controls. Most likely affected by media campaigns

Murder of Kelso Cochrane


Unprovoked murder (stabbed to death) of Kelso Cochrane by a white supremacy group in Notting Hill. Black immigrant from Antigua, living and working as a carpenter in Notting Hill. No one arrested despite fascists openly boasted with the murder. As a response, the first Notting Hill Carnival was celebrated in 1964 as a way to celebrate Caribbean culture in the face of the hate of white supremacist,

1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act


End of open door policy. ‘Colour Bar Bill’ First response to the growing racial divisions. Dealt with stemming immigration. It restricted immigration to Commonwealth citizens which had been issued with an employment voucher from the government. Gave government complete control and over entry (and deportation) of Commonwealth citizens. Considered racists as in order to immigrate you had to prove you could support yourself with house and work, ie poor coloured people discriminated against, unless you had an employment voucher. Implemented by Conservative Home Secretary Rab Butler. Has beeen criticesed as a ‘colour bar’ or form of apartheid and establishing a pattern of state racism
Under the act families were permitted join the settled person; causing major influx from South Asia as at the time the Immigrants from there were mainly young men, whereas the migrants from the Caribbean were balanced already.
Also caused an increase of immigrants in the years leading up to the implementation to avoid the new policy.
The following Race Relations Acts dealt with the racial discrimination itself.
Success of Act? No real reduction at all (unless compared with the three years prior to the act when it was a surge); between 30,000 and 50,000 immigrants/year..

Kenya independent -> Asian migration to UK


Despite the 1962 legislation, Asian Kenyans were able to emigrate to the UK as their passports were issued by London, meaning they were free to enter Britain. As the situation for the large Asian polupation in Kenya was bad, many choose to go to the UK. By 1968, about 80,000 Kenyan Asians had arrived in the UK. This influx of immigrants caused further debate about immigration. Edward Heath, the Conservative leader, warned of ‘serious social consequenes’ if Kenyan Asians were to come ‘at a rate which could not be satisfactorily absorbed’.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home Prime Minister (Conservative)

1963 - 1964

1965 Race Relations Act


Made discrimination a lawful in public places. Many places not covered, such as private boarding houses. The act was criticised for being week and not giving much protection at all. Also, racial discrimination not a criminal offence, only civil, and only the very worst offenders would be taken to county court.

1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act

March 1968

In response to the influx of Kenyan Asians - 80,000 had already entered - the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed (by Labour) in just seven days (hence nicknamed ‘Panic and Prejudice”). It required the immigrant to prove that a parent or grand parent had been born in the UK. In short this act tightened up what had started in 1962. It is considered deeply racist as the ‘old’ (and prosperous) commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand had easier to fulfil the new requirement, but making it harder for the poor developing countries in Africa, ASia and the Caribbean. Skin colour was not mentioned in the act but it was widely accepted that the entrance ban would affect predominantly non-white people.
Criticism from media, politics and public opinion. The cabinet was seriously split over the legislation as well. Strong opposition among the Asian Kenyans; approaches to the Queen and United Nations (establishment of second class citizen). Defended as fair but tough

‘River of Blood’ speech, Enoch Powell

28 April 1968

A speech held by right wing Conservative MP, Enoch Powell referring to the influx of immigrants from Kenya. He spoke of a ‘river of blood’ should immigration continue. There was a public uproar that an elected politician could be so racist and he was sacked from the shadow cabinet as a result. However, he received great support in the media for his views.

1968 Race Relations Act

October 1968

As a responses to the renewed racial tendencies in society and considering that the Immigration act earlier in the year was considered unfair the government issued the 1968 Race Relations Act, arguably to show that although rules on immigration is tough, treatment once here should be fair. The new act made it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to people because of their ethnic background, an important change from the previous act which only addressed public places. However, the public services such as the police, was still outside the scope of the Act. Additionally a Community Relations Commission was set up to promote ‘harmonious community relations’.

1970s: National Front marches

1970 - 1979

1971 Immigration Act


Act made no difference between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth immigrant. Former unrestricted right to enter mother country now gone. Still clause of parental connection existed (patria), creating racial discrimination. Reasons for deportation listed, including when Secretary of State thinks it would be ‘conductive to public good’. Criticised as this public good was not defined. In order to encourage non-partials to return home, the Act gave the Secretary of State powers to provide payments for travel expenses for these to return home or to join family elsewhere. Demonstrations and criticism substantial of the Act

Uganda dictator Idi Amin


Idi Amin expelled the Asian Ugandans, giving them only 90 days to leave. Even as British passport holders they were no longer allowed entry into the UK. In the end UK accepts 28,000 Asian Ugandas. Ie still large immigration in the 1970s

Conservatives win, Margaret Thatcher