"Injustice on Their Backs and Justice on Their Minds"
: Political Activism and the Policing of London's Afro-Caribbean Community, 1945-1993

  • Christopher Fevre

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Sir William Macpherson’s conclusion - following his public inquiry into the racist murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 - that the Metropolitan Police was ‘institutionally racist’, was a seminal moment for policing in Britain. The publication of the Macpherson report in 1999 has been rightly regarded as a victory for the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign (SLFC), whose activities had been crucial in building pressure on the newly-elected Labour Government to hold a public inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s murder investigation. However, to focus solely on the Lawrence case, and the SLFC, is to obscure the existence of a longer struggle waged by black Londoners to expose the racism that had affected their experience of policing since the Second World War.

    This thesis explores the development of grassroots political activism within London’s Afro-Caribbean community around the issue of policing from 1945 to 1993. Using material from local community archives, this thesis represents the first attempt at documenting the history of race and policing in London from the perspective of the capital’s Afro-Caribbean population. Moreover, by taking the end of the Second World War as its starting point, it also breaks new ground in charting the way Afro-Caribbean people in London organised politically in opposition to racist policing prior to the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

    Ever since people of Afro-Caribbean descent began to settle in London in increasing numbers in the aftermath of the Second World War, they have continually expressed concern about the way they were policed. While opposition to policing initially emerged in a highly unorganised form, this was fundamentally altered by the arrival of the British black power movement in the late 1960s. Despite its short existence, black power’s emphasis upon independent black grassroots political activism outlived the movement and became a feature of the way black Londoners’ challenged racist policing during the 1970s and 1980s. Therefore, this thesis contends that the grassroots political campaign that developed around the case of Stephen Lawrence cannot be viewed in isolation from the historical efforts of black people in London to expose racism within the Metropolitan Police.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorZoe Colley (Supervisor), Anja Johansen (Supervisor) & Matt Graham (Supervisor)


    • race
    • Policing
    • political activism
    • London
    • Afro-Caribbean
    • twentieth-century

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