The ‘Mother’ of Notting Hill Carnival: Claudia Jones
Claudia Jones was a feminist, political activist, visionary, and pioneering journalist. Jones was born in Trinidad in 1915. After living and working in the United States, where she was an active member of the American Communist Party, Jones was exiled to the UK in 1955.
In the UK, Jones continued her lifelong fight against racial inequality and intolerance. She worked with activist organizations to campaign against housing injustices, discrimination in the workplace, and racist immigration policies. Jones was also a staunch champion for women’s rights. She stressed that:
‘no peace can be obtained if any women, especially those who are oppressed and impoverished, are left out of the conversation’.
In 1958, Jones founded the West Indian Gazette (WIG), an anti-racist newspaper campaigning for social equality. This was Britain’s first commercial Black newspaper. WIG sought to unite West Indians in diaspora and to foster dialogue with Black internationalist freedom movements. The paper also highlighted patterns of anti-Black violence, racial harassment and prejudice in the UK.
When violent riots broke out in Notting Hill in 1958, Jones worked ‘to wash the taste of the riots from the mouths of Black people’. In an attempt to uplift Black British communities, she helped to launch the Notting Hill Carnival in 1959. The first carnival took place at St Pancras Town Hall. Televised by the BBC, it was a celebration of West Indian culture and heritage. Today, Notting Hill carnival is the second largest street gathering in the world. It is a meeting place for artists, activists and crowds that are eager to display unity and enjoy music, dance, calypso, steel drums, masquerade, and food stalls.
Claudia Jones not only played a key role in fighting for racial equality in the UK, but she also helped to bring Caribbean culture to the forefront of British life.
by Saima Nasar