A multiracial community of activists began organising public meetings and rallies in the 1930s, paving the way for the Pan-African Congress of 1945, writes Daniel Whittall.
Prejudice often intruded into the private lives of non-white people in 1930s Britain. The Trinidadian George Padmore was relaying an experience familiar to many black people in London when he wrote in the US periodical the Crisis in 1938 that 'few Negroes in England, I imagine, have not passed through the bitter experience of looking for apartments and being told constantly: 'We do not take coloured people'. In five weeks of flat hunting the writer learned to find his way competently around London'.
In the face of such prejudice, some black activists made it their priority to ensure that they raised public protest against such practices, bringing questions of race and racism into public view and attempting to situate them at the heart of debates around world politics. The impulse to speak out publicly in order to confront racism was one of the driving factors in the flourishing network of organisations, periodicals and public gatherings led by black activists, which blossomed in the 1930s. Indeed, thanks in part to the contribution of non-white activists, that decade can be seen as the one in which an anti-racist social movement that had long been gathering momentum first began to break into wider public view.