Windrush: Voyage to London (Kin - by Blood, by Water)
Britain was in need of a strong labor force after World War II depleted most of its workforce; their goal, to obtain strong, skilled, reliable workers from the Caribbean to cope with the shortage of labor.
Following an advertisement placed in local newspapers for those seeking a new life and work, the "Empire Windrush" sailed away from the Kingston shores on May 24th, 1948 and arrived in Tilbury, near London on June 22, 1948.
On board were students, servicemen, domestic workers, and writers to name a few.
The voyage took just under a month to reach England with about 300 passengers below deck, and 192 passengers above deck.
The First Wave of Writers in London
"Although there had been a long established pattern of African, Indian, Caribbean intellectuals coming to Britain to study, agitate against colonialism and publish their works (CLR James, Jomo Kenyatta, Hastings Banda, Marcus Garvey, and George Padmore had lived in Britain in the 1930s), Jamaican poet James Berry was one of the first writers to come to Britain in 1948, to seize the same sort of economic opportunities that were attracting large numbers of other settlers. As Berry said in an interview:"I knew I was right for London and London was right for me. London had books and accessible libraries."
Like many of their fellow migrants, they were arriving back to the 'mother country' as 'familiar strangers' - familiar with the English landscape, English manners, and culture.
While they were looking back at their countries of origin, these writers were also becoming increasingly preoccupied with the challenges they were facing settling in 1950's Britain. They soon began to address the issues of lack of housing, racial discrimination, the search for dignified jobs, and the open hostility of their new hosts.
George Lamming was first off the line, addressing these issues with his 1954 novel, the Emigrants which traced the journey on a boat over to Britain, and the disappointment of many of the migrants as they struggled to grasp the opportunities and new freedoms represented by Britain."
Photographs by Howard Grey
"The pressures of integration and transformation did, however, eventually explode in the 1958 uprising in Notting Hill, and a deeper despondency was apparent amongst Black British people."
"The increasingly militant nature of the American Civil Rights and Student movements following the assassination of Malcolm X in 1964, began to affect the writing in Britain."
"The Caribbean Arts Movement set up in 1966 by Kamu Braithwaite, Andrew Salkey, and publisher John La Rose, reflected the temper of the times - drawing inspiration from the works of international revolutionary writers such as LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka), Franz Fanon, and Black Power activists."
Rivers of Blood Speech (1968)
"It almost passes belief that at this moment 20 or 30 additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week - and that means 15 or 20 additional families a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen."
"Nothing is more misleading than comparison between the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American Negro. The Negro population of the United States, which was already in existence before the United States became a nation, started literally as slaves and were later given the franchise and other rights of citizenship, to the exercise of which they have only gradually and still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which knew no discrimination between one citizen and another, and he entered instantly into the possession of the rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment under the National Health Service.
Whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration, but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different from another's.
But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country."
continued -- Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood
"On arrival into Britain, ‘shock’ and ‘dismay’ were the words my grandmother used to describe her experience at seeing the racial discrimination; albeit the fact that my grandmother responded to a warm invitation to come to rebuild Britain, she claims it was ironic that the reception from some of the white British people was opposite. Signs on buildings read “No Blacks, No Irish, No dogs” she said that this blatant racism made her feel like returning to Grenada.
Like many other Caribbean people, my grandmother struggled to find housing due to the colour bar in addition to the housing shortages throughout impoverished London. Signs on houses for rent said ‘no blacks’ and ‘no children’. This may indeed be why many Caribbean people like my grandmother ended up taking whatever accommodation they could find, even if it meant accepting to live in rough, crime ridden and slum like conditions which was where she eventually found housing."
"I came here in 1948 my husband sent for me. He and his brother came up a year before. I reached here the 22nd June, it was a lovely day, beautiful, and they were all at the dock waiting for me. I think it was Tilbury, I was very excited. the journey took 22 days, and that was a very long time. We enjoyed the journey, I was coming up to meet my husband, I was very anxious to come and meet him, because when he left we were just married, we got married and he left the following day. Imagine how exciting it was for me."
"Word went round that this boat was taking passengers for a cheap fare £28.10 shillings to go to Britain. It was common knowledge that there was work in Britain, just after the war. The war ended 3 years earlier. So there was a lot of scope. It took me a week to wind things up to travel. I had no ties I wasn't married or anything like that I come from Montego Bay, Jamaica. I knew no one in England, I had travelled before to America and Panama. I had no idea what I was coming to."
"My parents brought me on the Windrush - I had no choice in the matter. They didn't have to - it was obvious they came in search of a better life, better opportunities. It was quite a devastating experience. I was thirteen when I arrived so I wasn't a man, I was a boy. Most of the people on the Windrush were men. I had never been out of Kingston same as for anybody, to go on this big ship, for all those days it was quite an experience.
I went to school in Kings Cross. I never associated with white people in any significant degree, and then school I came across real hostility. I mean to say I had no friends for several years that wouldn't be far from the truth.
I have no significant roots in Jamaica. I have been back to Kingston several times. My circumstances were significantly different to everyone else's, but personally I like England, it's a nice place to live. It's not to say it doesn't have its problems, racism and so on."