Britain and America brought Black people over from Jamaica to fight in WW1 and WW2 despite slavery and colonisation, Black Caribbeans served alongside Britain and America
After fighting for America and Britain in one of history’s bloodiest wars. Afro- Caribbeans returned to. a country that refused to recognise their service or their humanity.
After the war Britain sent back these soldiers, the ones who were able to stay considered themselves the “lucky ones”, these “lucky ones” went on to experience extreme discrimination, violence and racism from white Britain.
Many black serviceman and workers found themselves without jobs after a “colour bar” was introduced in many industries, with white workers, often backed by unions, refusing to work alongside black people and were therefore forced into poverty.
When and why did the Race riots take place?
The race riots took place between January and August 1919. WW1 left the Britiain with a labour shortage and shrinking industries in port areas such as Cardiff and Liverpool. White working-class union workers and former servicemen who lacked the resources to challenge shipping magnates, blamed, targeted, and took out their frustrations on blacks and other ethnic minorities who they saw as foreign competitors for jobs
What started as a ‘mere’ joke between black and white seamen looking for a job at a dock in 1919, quickly led to a fight. Far too quickly, white bystanders joined in, using knives and other weapons to attack black labourers. As rioting massively increased in June 1919. And many Black rioters were arrested. Perhaps the turning point was when white rioters lynched Charles Wootton, a young Afro-Caribbean man, and out of fear from their safety, 700 ethnic minorities were temporarily removed from their homes and sought police protection.
While poverty and a lack of jobs were a big factor in the riots, there was also a fear that black men and white women were starting families.
Despite Indian and Black seamen being hired at a considerably lower rate than their white counterparts and had to tolerate much poor working and living conditions, they were still blamed by unions for undercutting the wages of white workers. Black workers were also fired during the riots while black, Arab, and Chinese homes and businesses were damaged or set on fire by angry white rioters. The government often did not reimburse victims for property damages. Police intervention in the riots was often slow in these cases. However, when blacks retaliated against white rioters, the police intervened and arrested them.
The governments response was to intensify its repatriation scheme which had began in February 1919. Between 1919 and 1921, an estimated 3,000 Black and Arab seamen and their families were removed from Britain under the repatriation scheme. Shipping companies that employed Caribbeans also helped the government by firing black labourers and returning them to the West Indies.