A history of Britain's mixed-race community. George Alagiah tells the story of GI babies and the boom in mixed-race couples following mass migration.
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Cambridgeshire, and a quintessentially English village.
I'm here to tell the story of a boy born back in 1946.
He was a little different to the others, a mass of curly black hair.
That baby was the result of a love affair
between a white mother and a black American GI,
one of almost a thousand or so born during the War and just after.
In Britain, they were called "war casualties",
in America "the offspring of the scum of the British Isles".
Well, I'm on my way to meet that baby now.
Of course, he's in his sixties and his name is Tony Martin.
To me, he's never been a statistic, he's never been a victim.
He's simply the man who married my sister.
He's my brother-in-law.
Seeing him now, you'd never have guessed it,
but like so many other mixed-race war babies,
Tony was put into care by his unmarried mother.
I met my real mother when I was nine, I think. She came to see me.
And I think she asked me if I wanted to go back and live with her,
and, well, I said no, I was happy where I was.
I felt a little sad, I think, you know...
sorry for her that she'd come back for me,
but I felt...where I was was fine.
The Second World War turned lives upside down.
People from different races worked together and played together.
Building this history of mixed-race Britain, the young found forbidden love
and the old...well, they just couldn't understand it.
I do remember my father saying,
"Now you've taken up with this black man,
"you will never get a decent boyfriend. Never".
The decades after the War saw society go from official contempt...
The black man has a different set of standards,
values, morals and principles.
In many cases, their grandfathers were eating each other.
..to grudging acceptance.
I'm not racial, I'm not prejudiced of any kind.
But I wouldn't let my children inter-marry.
Through it all, love across the racial divide would prevail.
To me, it was just wonderful meeting all these different people.
I thought they were beautiful looking, cos I always loved
people with dark skin. They're so attractive and they look so healthy.
I thought I had won the jackpot, I really did.
It was like a new day in my life,
something that I've been looking for and I think I've clinched it.
In the decades after the War, mass immigration meant
Britain would never look the same again.
Mixed-race families were appearing all over the country,
no longer just confined to their little enclaves in port cities.
Behind them, of course,
lay the discredited pseudo-science of racial difference
but ahead of them an almighty battle to be treated like anyone else,
with the freedom to meet, to fall in love and live life to the full.
From the workplace to the big screen,
the '50s and '60s would see the colouring of a nation.
-From the four corners of the earth they come,
men from the British Empire, upon which the sun never sets.
African troops of the desert lands
are in the front line in the defence of democracy.
Black men fighting and dying for the cause -
what better way to show how different we were to the Nazis?
They are not conscripts but volunteers
who have found the Union Jack worth living under and fighting for.
What about back home?
Britain's small mixed-race population
was keen to do its bit for Britain.
But what many mixed-race people discovered
was that being born in Britain or even having a British mother
didn't necessarily qualify them to serve their country.
In 1939, a 22-year-old mixed-race man
made his way to an office in Whitehall.
He'd come to be interviewed
by a recruiting officer from the British Army.
Charles Arundel Moody, loyal to king and country,
thought of himself as perfect officer material.
He wasn't prepared for what happened next.
The recruiting officer told him, "You may have been born in Britain,
"but we can't make you a British officer,
"because you're not of pure European descent."
It was like waving a red rag at a bull.
Charles Moody wasn't a man to take no for an answer,
and neither was his father, Dr Harold Moody,
a Jamaican-born GP who'd married a white English nurse, Olive, in 1913.
In 1931, he'd set up the League of Coloured Peoples,
Britain's first black pressure group.
So when he heard about his son's rejection,
a furious Moody immediately contacted
the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Malcolm MacDonald.
"If the colour bar is not broken down now,
"it will break down the Empire,"
he explained in no uncertain terms.
"We're proud of our heritage
"and do not want to be subjected to any experience
"which will rob us of that pride or which will cast a slur thereupon."
After weeks of lobbying and letter writing, Moody got what he wanted.
At least for the duration of the War,
the Government scrapped the clause in the 1914 Manual of Military Law
which barred people of colour from becoming commissioned officers.
So in 1940, Charles Moody was finally accepted as an officer
in the Royal West Kent Regiment,
the first mixed-race Briton
to achieve this rank during World War Two.
Recruits from the Empire didn't just fight overseas.
Many were stationed here in Britain.
While serving in the RAF, Jake Jacobs from Trinidad
met and fell in love with Mary, a young Jewish girl from Liverpool.
Jake was one of more than 6,000 black servicemen from the Colonies
who came here.
They were here to help in the war effort, but they did much more.
Their presence transformed Britain forever.
These young, uniformed men set hearts a-flutter.
Mary remembers what it was like.
Well, it was exciting, because we hadn't seen anybody like that before.
I'd never had close contact with anybody of a different colour.
They were very different from the local boys that we'd seen,
and we were interested to get to know them better.
They were young. They were quite dashing, really.
-Royal Air Force - of course we were dashing!
So, Jake, just describe for me, what were your first impressions
of this woman you would end up living with?
and beautiful eyes.
What else more could you wish for?
He sort of was more friendly with me than the others were.
-I used to quote Shakespeare.
-You used to quote Shakespeare? Wow!
That really got me, because I love Shakespeare.
Just think of it - here's a man,
he's dashing, he's in a uniform and he quotes Shakespeare,
-It's enough to turn any girl's head!
Love affairs like theirs were still relatively rare,
but that changed when our American allies arrived in 1942.
Many more of these mixed-race romances blossomed.
These images of black GIs dancing with English girls
so alarmed the American government
it deemed them "material calculated to unduly inflame racial prejudice".
The publication of any photographs
conveying what was described as "boyfriend-girlfriend implications"
were subsequently banned.
And no wonder - back in the US,
mixed-race marriages were illegal in two thirds of the states.
No such laws existed in Britain,
but here, too, the arrival of black Americans en masse
began to cause concern in some quarters.
Over 100,000 African-American servicemen
were stationed all over the country.
-Anything new in the way of drill is news nowadays,
and a company of coloured troops in Kettering give the town quite a show
every time they march through on their way to chow.
For many Britons living in villages and market towns,
it was the first time they'd ever seen a black face.
And for some, it caused panic.
Take Mrs May, for example, a vicar's wife from Weston-super-Mare.
According to an article in the Sunday Pictorial,
the minute she heard that black American troops had reached her husband's parish,
she called an emergency meeting of the WI to advise local women
about how they should behave towards the black Americans.
Just listen to what she had to say.
"Move if seated next to them in the cinema,
"cross the road to avoid them,
"have no social relationship,
"and under no account must coloured troops be invited
"into the homes of white women."
Unfortunately for the Mrs Mays of this world,
more and more young women were choosing to ignore her advice.
They not only invited black GIs into their homes
but also into their beds.
And now it wasn't only
the self-appointed guardians of British morality that were alarmed.
In Parliament, the Conservative MP Maurice Petherick
warned the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden,
that "The blackamoors consorting with white girls
"will result in a number of half-caste babies when they're gone,
"a bad thing for any country."
But in dance halls up and down the country,
British women made their own choices.
My mother always had a real liking for dancing,
and she would go to the Grafton dance hall,
and that's where my mother and father met each other.
She obviously took a liking to my father.
I mean, he was a very handsome fellow.
I honestly think, looking back,
that she was in love with my father.
# Oh, give me land, lots of land
# Under starry skies Don't fence me in... #
The black GIs had been in Britain for three years when the War ended.
When it was time for them to leave,
many of their girlfriends were distraught.
# Don't fence me in... #
Early in the morning on August 26th 1945,
a bunch of screaming girls descended on a barracks in Bristol
where black American GIs were preparing to go home.
Singing the Bing Crosby hit Don't Fence Me In,
they clamoured at the gates.
Eventually, a fence was broken in
and they ran into the arms of their departing sweethearts.
"To hell with your US Army colour bar,"
a plucky 18-year-old was quoted as saying.
"We're going to give our sweeties a good send-off she said,
"and what's more, we're going to go with them to America."
BING CROSBY: # I want to ride to the ridge
# Where the West commences... #
Sadly, this was rarely the case.
GIs had to get the approval of the US Army to marry,
and permission was usually denied
because of America's attitude to mixed-race marriages.
# Don't fence me in
# Papa, don't you fence me in. #
And it wasn't just heartbroken girlfriends they left behind.
About 1,000 mixed-race babies were now fatherless.
Those earlier warnings about black GIs leaving babies behind
had become a reality.
A concerned Harold Moody sponsored a survey
through his League of Coloured Peoples
to assess the scale
of the "brown baby problem", as it came to be known.
Of the 184 women interviewed,
nearly half had been unfaithful to their British husbands.
The stigma of having brown babies,
plus the fact that they were illegitimate,
turned many of these women into social pariahs.
"I'm shunned by the whole village," wrote one desperate mother.
"The inspector for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
"has told my friend to keep her children away from my house,
"as didn't she know I had two illegitimate coloured children?"
So for many of these women, and it didn't matter whether they were married or single,
hanging on to their brown babies in the face of widespread disapproval
was just too difficult.
A shocking number ended up in care.
My mother Sheila had me when she was only 16 years of age,
and the fact that she was from a strict Catholic family
and then of course the fact that she had a baby out of wedlock,
it didn't go down very well.
Shortly after he was born in Liverpool in 1944,
Brian was put into care by his mother.
I think she had this deep-rooted...
conscience about it and never been able to forgive herself.
But I've never been able to blame her, because she was so young.
The thing would have been taken out of her hand by her parents, really.
Brian's mother took him
to one of the few places open to babies like him at the time.
Sheila was just one of hundreds of desperate mothers
who came knocking on the door of the African Churches Mission
here in Liverpool.
It was actually opened back in 1931
to help African seamen who'd fallen on hard times,
but within a few years it was turned into an unofficial care home
for abandoned mixed-race children.
Now, the building itself is long gone,
but memories of the place and the extraordinary man who ran it
are still vivid for many of those who passed through it.
The minister of the mission, Daniels Ekarte,
to me, he was my idol.
He had this African smile.
Once he smiled at you,
you could do anything for him.
It really...motivated you to behave.
Ebony was a very famous magazine for black people in America,
and they did a feature on the home, didn't they?
Yes, they came to the home.
This is Mrs Roberts here.
-She was the housekeeper.
-And this is me in the other bed.
-Oh, in bed!
-This is quite a normal scene, like a mum putting a kid to bed.
So, where are you in this?
Well, this is obviously teatime, and I'm just here.
The cup is nearly as big as my face!
-You were tiny!
I was very tiny, yes.
When you have a look at that picture,
what goes through your mind now?
When I first saw these pictures,
for the simple reason that I saw
how vulnerable I was as a child.
And I never really perceived
how small and little I was.
Pastor Daniels undoubtedly did an enormous amount of good.
But, as the Ebony article made clear,
he simply did not have the money or resources
to take in all those on his waiting list.
The Ebony article really got to the heart of the problem.
What was to be done with the large number
of what it called "brown babies in care"?
Who'd be responsible for them? Who'd pay for them?
It would be, as the writer said,
"a crucial test of Britain's racial liberalism".
Harold Moody argued that they should be treated as "war casualties"
whose care should be jointly funded
by the British and American governments.
Send them to the States
to live with their black fathers or other black families, said others.
But America didn't want its mixed-race war babies.
A Republican Congressman at the time, one John E Rankin,
described them as "the offspring of the scum of the British Isles".
You've got to remember, America had race laws at the time.
So any thought of shipping these children across the Atlantic
had to be shelved because of what the Home Office itself described as
America's "appalling discrimination".
No, this was a problem that Britain would have to deal with by itself.
In the early hours of June 3rd 1949,
local authority health officials, accompanied by the police,
descended on the African Churches Mission.
KNOCKING ON DOOR
They came without any notice.
They locked Pastor Ekarte up in his office
and they forcibly removed us - after a fight, of course.
We were only little children, but we knew these houses back to front.
And when these officials came, well, we gave them the run-around,
hiding in the cellars and the attics and screaming.
I can remember biting a few of the officials
in my struggles for them not to take me, you know?
It's something you never forget.
I mean, I know I was approaching five,
but you never forget those occasions.
-It's on your mind all the time.
-Even now, as though it happened yesterday.
And I'm 66 years of age.
So, you know, you always remember that kind of trauma.
The Home Office had decided it was time to shut down Ekarte's makeshift orphanage.
Brian and all the other brown babies in Liverpool
would be cared for in state-run care-homes from now on.
My brother-in-law, Tony, started his life at Barnardo's - a private charity.
After five years he was placed with a foster family, the Tabors,
who lived in the village of Balsham, near Cambridge.
It was the beginning of a life-long closeness to his adopted sister, Joyce.
-Do you remember Tony arriving at Balsham?
-Yes, I do.
It was like going home from school and finding you've got another brother or sister, it was fantastic.
And Joyce, did you notice that he was different from you?
I mean here was a little brown baby with frizzy hair.
Yes, but no I didn't and it wasn't until we went swimming one day
and I said, "Well why does my hair go like rats' tails? "
And he shook his head and it was dry and I thought wow!
-Was Tony in any way, was he a troubled child?
-He was agitated.
When you say agitated, what do you mean?
But Dad would just cuddle him and that's when he used to say,
"All he needs is loving."
He needed to feel he belonged. And he did belong.
Describe the Tabors, who brought you up here in Balsham.
My father was very quiet, he loved his dog, a lovely dog,
and my mother was always there for me, she was there for everybody.
We were treated all the same, my brothers and sisters.
It was a happy place, it was a very happy place.
But while Tony settled happily into his new family,
his birth mother clearly had regrets.
I met my real mother when I was nine, she came to see me.
And she asked me did I want to go and live with her
and I said no, I was quite happy where I was.
I felt a little sad I think.
Sorry for her that she'd come back for me.
But I felt...
Where I was was fine.
I was happy living with my family.
Do you think about her now at all?
No, I don't, really.
It's such an awful thing to say.
But I was so ensconced at home
that that was the place I wanted to be.
And what about your father, your natural father.
There were some periods in my life when I would have liked to find out,
when I went to America on business and went to New York and thought, you know...
But as a whole, no, I didn't really, I was happy, my home was in Balsham.
Tony was one of the lucky ones. He'd found his place in a loving, happy family and never looked back.
But for others, not knowing who their real parents were proved to be a more haunting experience.
This little girl's father was one of the thousands of seaman from across the world
who flocked to Britain during the war, but he was never to be a part of her life.
I grew up thinking I'd been deserted.
Our mothers died thinking they'd been deserted,
because they didn't know this story.
What happened here on the streets of Liverpool in the summer of 1946
was one of the most shameful episodes in Britain's postwar history.
In a number of dawn raids, the police descended on the area.
Their mission - to round up any Chinese seamen they could find.
They went from house to house, loaded the men onto trucks which took them down to the docks,
where a boat was ready and waiting for their journey to China.
As a port city, Liverpool had long been a magnet for seamen from all over the world.
But during WW2, there was a huge influx of foreign sailors.
Around 2,000 Chinese sailors settled in Liverpool after serving in the merchant navy.
Many had married local women and had started families,
boosting the city's already established mixed-race community.
They thought they were here to stay.
But the government had other ideas.
Despite their undoubted contribution to Britain's war effort,
ministers decided the Chinese seamen had to go.
It made no difference whether that broke up families or not.
Home Office minutes made their reasons clear.
"The Chinese seamen have caused a good deal of trouble to the police,
"but it has hitherto not been possible to get rid of them.
"Now, however, the China coast is open again and it is proposed to set in motion the usual steps
"for getting rid of foreign seamen whose presence here is unwelcome."
In total, 1,362 Chinese men were forced to leave.
Of those, some 300 were married.
Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 children were left fatherless.
One of these was Yvonne Foley, who grew up unaware of her Chinese heritage.
When I was about seven I made friends with somebody who I thought was a full Chinese boy
who'd just come to live in the neighbourhood.
And I ran home to Mum and said, "Oh, we've got a new lad in the street, he's Chinese."
My mother said, "No, no, no, he's like you, half Chinese - half English, half Chinese."
And I thought, "Huh, what's that about?"
-It really came as a complete surprise?
And I thought, OK, and my mum said, "Well your dad is not your real dad. Your dad is a Chinese dad."
And didn't think anything of it.
And then snippets of information came as I got older.
What Yvonne discovered was that her real father had been a ship's engineer from Shanghai,
who'd met her mother in Liverpool during the war.
But by the time Yvonne had been born he'd disappeared.
I have a photograph of myself as a baby
and I discovered on the back of it is a date.
I was born in February '46 and on the back of the photograph it says,
"March 23rd 1946. To Daddy."
Who'd obviously never got it.
Why do you think so many women, including your mother,
thought they'd been deserted by their menfolk?
Well, I think when they went away to sea,
they would go on long-term contracts, say two years.
They didn't hear from their husbands one way or the other.
And in my mother's case, she had felt she'd been deserted, because she'd heard nothing.
What do you think actually happened to your father?
I'm convinced he's one of the men that were forced back.
I've got nothing to prove this at all, as most of us don't.
We can't find any names on a list.
But I believe he was one of those forced to leave.
The whole murky episode has scarred the families those Chinese men left behind.
Yvonne has talked to others who found themselves in the same position as her.
I actually did an interview with one lady who said to me... It was quite emotional.
What she actually said was...
"It's nice to think at my age of 86 that I might not have been deserted."
And a lot of our mothers went to their graves thinking that they had been.
Ironically, just as Britain was sending some people packing,
others were being welcomed into Britain.
"The arrival of more than 400 happy Jamaicans.
"They've come to seek work in Britain and are ready and willing to do any kind of job
"that will help the motherland along the road to prosperity.
"They're all full of hope for the future,
"so let's make them very welcome as they begin their new life over here."
Now came the years of mass immigration, following a change in the law in 1948
giving British citizenship to anyone from the Commonwealth and the Colonies
and the right to settle here.
Thousands of single men arrived looking for work.
They'd left their families and sweethearts behind.
Inevitably, they found solace in the arms of local white girls
- Britain's racial landscape changed forever.
Amongst those new arrivals was Jake Jacobs, recently demobbed from the RAF.
He left Trinidad for good in 1948.
He headed straight for Birmingham, where there were plenty of jobs.
"He is here because he has heard there are jobs for coloured men in Birmingham,
"a city with a reputation for kindness to its immigrants."
In those days, you had to go to the labour exchange
and fill a form in and they used to pick a job out for you.
And the labour exchange offered me the Post Office or the railway.
What was it like in the early days?
Well, it wasn't easy in the sense... There was a lot of prejudice, with a doubt.
And you you got the dirty jobs, you got the worst shifts as well.
But like everything else, once you make your name you're treated well.
And I went with them and I worked for 38 years, fantastic job.
It wasn't only the prospect of a good job that had lured Jake back to Britain.
All the time he'd been away in Trinidad,
Jake had been writing love letters to Mary in Liverpool.
And now he was determined to pick up where he'd left off.
Was she as pretty as you remembered?
Oh yeah, oh, yes, as beautiful as ever.
What was the day like, from your point of view?
Oh, it was like a new year for me, that's the way I can put it.
It was like a new day in my life.
And that was it.
Something I'd been looking for through my life sort of thing.
And I think I've clinched it.
So how did you go about wooing this woman again?
He said things, what did you say to me, come on?
"To be or not to be, would you please marry me".
That was your proposal?
-Shakespeare came to the rescue.
But though Jake and Mary were sure they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together,
Mary's father was against their love affair.
My father wouldn't acknowledge it.
What do you mean, he wouldn't acknowledge it?
He just didn't look at me, didn't say anything.
And I just didn't know what to do.
What was going through your mind?
I mean, this is your dad, but this is also the man you love.
You're caught in the middle.
Oh I do remember him saying, whether it was at that point or earlier,
I remember him saying, "Now you've taken up with this young man from Trinidad,
"this black man,
"you will never get a decent boyfriend. Never."
Did your father actually say that to you?
Yes, he said, "Don't come back here, I don't want to ever see you again."
And my mother and I were both crying.
And I came away thinking that that was the end,
that I would never see my family again.
Despite that, in 1948 Mary and Jake got married.
No family whatsoever were there.
We had no-one.
It is only friends that were there.
-It's quite a rough way to start a marriage, isn't it?
Without the support of a family.
And it hurts, you look around and think to yourself, well, is this what life is all about?
Mary and Jake were brave enough to follow their hearts.
Others were more timid.
A letter from a "Liz of Cardiff" to a woman's magazine in 1951, sums up the situation pretty neatly.
"I'm very much in love with a coloured man, he's the nicest,
"kindest boy I've ever met and I know he'll make a splendid husband.
"But my parents are against our marriage.
"Can they stop me marrying?"
And the agony aunt's reply?
"Not unless you're under 21, but I hope for your own sake that you think things over very carefully.
"Many coloured men are fine people, but scientists don't yet know if it is wise
"for two such very different races as white and black to marry.
"For sometimes children of mixed marriages seem to inherit the worst characteristics of each race."
In fact such thinking - put forward by the eugenics movement before the war - was outdated.
Now take me, I'm just a plain and simple citizen of Europe,
I can see that this race theory has caused misery and suffering,
but do you really mean that there's nothing in it, it's all a lot of bunk?
In 1950, the UN's education and science agency had ruled that there was
"no biological justification for prohibiting intermarriage
"between persons of different ethnic groups."
This official stamp of approval for mixed-race marriages was soon
to be tested by a very high-profile wedding.
In 1953, the ever so respectable, 32-year-old Peggy Cripps,
daughter of Labour MP Sir Stafford Cripps, got married.
The wedding took place in London's fashionable St John's Wood
and was THE society wedding of the year.
But this was a society wedding with a difference,
because Peggy Cripps's groom was not some British toff,
he was Joe Appiah, a Ghanaian chieftain's son.
"An African with some kind of a snake charm said to bring luck was in the picture at the church."
When a journalist asked her why she was marrying a coloured man, Peggy replied,
"Because I love him and love is greater than colour, creed or race."
What she was saying so simply yet so eloquently was that love could cross all racial barriers.
Actually, their wedding said even more than that.
It showed that mixed-race relationships were happening at all levels of society.
For left-leaning liberals, Peggy and Joe's union symbolised the ideal of a multicultural society
But when their wedding photos were syndicated around the world, many were outraged.
Charles Swart, South Africa's Justice Minister
and one of the architects of the country's apartheid system,
brandished their wedding photograph in parliament and declared,
"It's a disgusting photograph of a wedding between the daughter
"of a former British cabinet minister and a black native.
"If such a thing were ever to happen in South Africa, it would be the end."
Of course, the reaction in Britain was nowhere near as extreme,
but neither were we quite ready to welcome this couple with open arms.
"After the ceremony the happy pair smilingly faced the cameras once more.
"It is understood Mr and Mrs Appiah, after spending their honeymoon in Paris
"intend to live on the Gold Coast."
When the couple announced they planned to start their new married life together in Ghana, not Britain,
you could virtually hear the sighs of relief.
The problem of this high-profile mixed marriage was about to be exported.
But the problem, as some saw it, wasn't really going away.
Far from it. Across country it was getting bigger.
"Lambeth and Brixton have been much in the news recently following the controversy
"that has raged over the immigration of West Indians to this country."
On average, 12,000 West Indians were entering Britain each year
and more and more were settling down with local women.
"To help solve the problems raised when white and coloured people live in the same neighbourhood,
"the Borough of Lambeth organised a 'no colour bar' dance."
By the time this film was made in 1955,
the total black population in Britain had risen to 125,000,
but the sight of mixed-race couples on the dance-floor was still something that caused a stir.
"East had met West on common ground, few were wallflowers for very long.
"The rhythm of the Mambo was doing its bit towards racial unity!"
Officially, scientific racism had been rejected,
but amongst the general public, prejudice was still widespread.
Mary, dancing was a big part of your courtship in the early years of marriage.
When you went to dance halls were you free of discrimination?
No, no, you weren't.
If you danced with a black man you were discriminated against, because people didn't like it.
Did you feel people were making a judgement on you because you were on the arm of a black man?
And were you aware that people might be looking at Mary and making a judgement about her?
Oh, yes, I mean some people used to more or less come to your face and tell you straight.
Without a doubt.
Tell you straight what?
What you going with that black bastard for?
-Really? Language like that?
People would comment, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself" as you walked past.
People my mother's age, I suppose, would be thinking,
"I wouldn't like my daughter to do what she's doing."
Mary and Jake's experience was not unique.
But it didn't deter the growing numbers of mixed-race couples.
I am married to a coloured man and I am proud of him.
Cos he helps me with all my work, he helps me to do the washing.
He's very good to me and my baby. I wouldn't find it in an Englishman.
And as more and more of the new arrivals from the West Indies
settled down with local white women,
Pathe news was on hand to reflect just how fundamentally
British families were changing.
In what are clearly outtakes, there's no sound,
you see these young white women with their black husbands,
with their happy little children,
the fathers and mother engage with the kids.
They were intended to show this is ordinary.
It's an ordinary, everyday thing that's happening here.
It's like any other married couple.
They probably have their ups and downs,
but at heart, they're a loving couple.
In many respects, it's a kind of antidote
to some of the forms of stigmatising of these relationships
and saying, "look, it's ordinary, what are you worried about?"
But apparently, plenty of people were.
A poll taken by a Vicar in his north London parish at this time
had asked the question,
"would you approve of your sister or daughter marrying a coloured man?"
91% had said they wouldn't approve.
Shortly afterwards, the vicar, Reverend Clifford Hill,
who was also a part-time sociologist,
made his way to the British Broadcasting Corporation
to give a radio interview about his findings.
When the Reverend himself was asked by the radio interviewer
if he'd mind if his own daughter married a black man, he said,
"I wouldn't worry if my grandchildren were half-caste."
"I wouldn't mind at all."
The next day, the words, "nigger-loving priest"
and "race-mixing priest" were daubed on the pavement outside his house.
Sadly, that might have been the real Britain speaking.
Mixed-race relationships had become an issue of national debate.
ITV pitched in.
People say that the colour bar is beginning to fade.
But I wonder if it is.
I think if we were honest with ourselves,
we'd admit it would be a bit of a shock
if we were told that our sister or daughter
was going to marry a coloured man.
Conservative parliamentary candidate, James Wentworth Day,
certainly had strong feelings on this matter.
My view is this,
that no first-class nation can afford to produce a race of mongrels.
That is what we're doing.
Too much mixed blood.
Look at the other angle, the black man -
and I refuse this humbug of talking about the coloured man.
He's black and we're white, has a different set of standards,
values, morals and principles.
In many cases, their grandfathers were eating each other.
In some inner-city areas,
prejudice was being fuelled by tension over jobs and housing.
On Friday August 29th 1958,
there was a petty domestic dispute between Jamaican, Ray Morrison,
and his pregnant Swedish wife, Majbritt in London's Notting Hill.
The rowing couple were seen by a crowd of white Teddy boys
who started to heckle Ray.
They were about to go even further,
but were shocked by Majbritt's reaction.
She shouted at them and told them to leave her husband alone.
The next night, and it was after pub closing time,
the gang spotted Majbritt again.
She was out on her own.
"There's goes the black man's trollop," they shouted.
They chased her and she was hit with an iron bar.
Over the next few nights,
violent scenes erupted all over Notting Hill.
A fear that West Indians were not only taking their jobs and housing,
but their women as well,
led to vicious "nigger hunts" by white Teddy Boys.
In the early Sixties, a rash of British feature films
tackled the racial prejudice
that had been so graphically exposed by the '58 riots.
In Roy Ward Baker's 1961 film, Flame in the Streets,
the Teddy Boy thugs are lifted straight from the streets of Notting Hill.
Hold up, that'll send 'em crackers!
But the real focus of the film is the interracial relationship
between factory worker Gabriel Gomez and his pregnant wife, Judy.
You all right?
-How you feeling woman? You ain't sick?
-No, just tired.
I feel like I'm carrying an elephant.
I'll get your tea.
No, you stay there.
This film was truly groundbreaking.
It was the first time cinemagoers would've seen a black man
kissing a white woman.
All those fears about the perfect British family being invaded,
they were being played out on the big screen.
Listen, from now on, I do the shopping, see?
I ain't let you carry them heavy loads up the stairs.
Actor, Earl Cameron, was himself in a mixed-race marriage
when he appeared in Flame in the Streets.
For him, the film was just a mirror of real life.
That kiss that you gave your wife, Judy,
that was a pivotal moment, wasn't it?
I suppose so.
On the set, it didn't mean anything.
We didn't rehearse it, it just came natural, I just did it.
That kiss that has since been looked at over and over again,
that's a first screen kiss?
That wasn't in the script?
No. In fact, I thought afterwards
I should've kissed her a little stronger.
It's a natural thing for me to have kissed the girl.
Well, it's happening every day in life, isn't it?
Since the late '50s, progressive young white people,
trend setters, if you like,
had immersed themselves in black music and culture.
And mixing was by no means limited to the dance floor.
London at that time was very mixed. I mean, the clubs and so on,
A lot of society women would come to places like the Caribbean Club
just to mix with black men.
Very high-class women from time to time.
It was all rather decadent, to be honest.
But that's what the '60s was about.
In the early 1960s, any self-respecting bohemian
would've come to The Caribbean Totobag club here in Notting Hill.
Now it didn't look like much, but it was the cool hangout
for the likes of author Colin MacInnes or pop star Georgie Fame.
# Walkin' the dog
# Just a-walking the dog
Legend has it that other regulars would be aristocrats
from the very top of society.
They would rock up in their Rolls and leave their chauffeurs outside.
Inside, they would mix with men like Alfred Harvey.
He was a tall, handsome Jamaican,
who also answered to the name, King Dick.
Good sex was the thing that really attracted them to us.
Sex played a great part in it, the stamina, you know,
that's why they call me King Dick.
Well the Dick's gone now but the King still remains.
In the mid-sixties, the sight of a mixed-race couple kissing
would still have been offensive to many.
But what about beaming it into the nation's homes?
In 1964, ITV set the nation's pulse racing with a television first.
For weeks, the story of the relationship
between Dr Mahler and Dr Farmer,
had been building to this critical moment.
What are you doing?
I want to kiss you.
Oh, that's better.
Emergency Ward 10 was one of Britain's most popular soap operas,
regularly pulling in audiences of 15 million
and up to 24 million at its peak.
The film, Flame in the Streets,
had already featured mixed-race relationships three years earlier.
But this was the first time a mixed-race couple was actually seen
kissing on British television.
This was different.
This brought the issue right into people's living rooms.
Early call for me tomorrow.
Yes, and me.
I remember it at the time and I remember the huge furore.
There were headlines in the newspapers the next day
about this kiss.
I think it was partly because this was coming into people's homes,
the TV is always much more intimate, isn't it?
All of a sudden, you've got this intrusion
that you hadn't expected or anticipated.
Emergency Ward 10 proved to be right on the button.
By the mid '60s, the NHS was playing match maker.
Mixed-race romance was blossoming in hospitals
up and down the country.
Maureen Walsh, from County Clare in Ireland, was just 18 years old
and working as a trainee nurse at Burnley General Hospital
when she met her future husband.
We had a wonderful social life, as we thought then in the '60s.
We may have had a party once a year.
That's when I first met him.
I think he asked me to dance.
Was it love at first sight?
Well, I did think he looked very nice.
My heart used to miss a beat.
-When you saw him?
-Yes, it did, yes, it did.
What did you think, Bez?
To me, when I met Maureen, I thought she's beautiful girl,
beautiful mind, I fell in love.
-At that first meeting?
I've only just found that out now, I didn't know!
By the mid-'60s, Britain's immigrant population had expanded.
As well as West Indians and Africans,
over 100,000 Indian and Pakistanis had entered the country,
despite the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act
which sought to stem the flow.
Some were young Asian doctors who, like Dr Bezboruah,
had come to Britain to find work in the expanding NHS.
Can you remember your first day,
what it was like being amongst other members of staff?
Yes, I enjoyed it straight away
because doctors, nurses, consultants, they're all friendly,
they all knew each other.
We all lived in, so the hospital was like its own community
and we felt like brothers and sisters.
The NHS was a magnet for people of all nationalities,
many of whom were still a novelty
for the young English and Irish nurses like Maureen.
So what attracted you to these Indian doctors, people like Bez?
I thought they were beautiful looking.
I always loved people with dark skin,
I think they're so attractive and look so healthy.
-Was there a sense of excitement meeting people like that?
They looked different, they acted different, they cooked different.
It was wonderful.
We were trying things we'd never tried before or heard of before.
You make it sound like a really exciting period.
It really was, it was so simple but it was so exciting.
After a two-year courtship, Maureen and Bez got married.
He was very well received by my family,
but my father, he was concerned
in case there would be any repercussions from people
because of a mixed marriage, he was obviously protecting me.
What about your mum?
My mother said to me,
"Maureen, I married the man I loved and you must do the same".
She said she didn't want me to go through life
and not have married the man I loved and perhaps be unhappy for ever more.
She said she couldn't live with that.
What a mum to have.
Yes, she's still alive at 89.
Once you married and had kids, was that a challenge at all?
I didn't think so.
No, it never worried me, never.
We had wonderful neighbours, nobody looked at my children.
Maybe I wasn't looking, because I was so happily married
with my baby.
She looked beautiful, her colouring was gorgeous
and I was so proud of her.
By 1968, there were two Race Relations Acts
which outlawed discrimination in jobs and housing,
protecting the rights of immigrants
wanting to make a life for themselves in this country.
Prejudice amongst the public had certainly not been eradicated,
but a new liberalism was in the air.
The late '60s saw the Summer of Love,
the questioning of old ideas and changing attitudes towards sex,
gender and race.
In 1968, the BBC screened this pioneering documentary.
Donald Raymond, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife,
to live together after God's ordinance
in the holy estate of Matrimony?
Another screen kiss,
but unlike all those fictional clinches
in the films and soaps that went before it,
this was the first time a genuine kiss had been seen on British TV.
These weren't actors going through the motions,
this was a real couple in love.
The editor of the Radio Times magazine
refused to use a photo of the couple kissing to publicise the programme.
He said it was too provocative.
Instead, he opted for this.
But despite the flurry of headlines this caused in the popular press,
the programme itself was well received.
It attracted huge viewing figures
and the broadsheets called it moving and compassionate.
By the late 1960s, Britain had undoubtedly changed.
We'd gone from calling children like my brother in law, Tony,
to having mixed race relationships on primetime television.
Postwar Britain was finally coming to terms
with just how diverse it had become.
The new race relations legislation was a sign of that.
But, in many ways, this was still tolerance rather than celebration.
It would be some time before we really embraced
the idea of a mixed Britain.
That would not come till the '70s and beyond,
when I started to make my way in this country.
In the next programme, aristocratic adoptions, rock star marriages,
the search for identity and forbidden love.
Subtitles by Red Be Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
In the second of this three-part series, George Alagiah tells the story of the GI babies labelled war casualties, the boom in mixed-race couples following mass migration and how sixties trendsetters crossed the racial divide.