London is the Place for Me
This book rethinks the history of race politics in postwar Britain and offers a fresh perspective on the ways in which Black Britons made meaning of their status as citizens in the imperial metropolis. While the landing of the Windrush passengers at Tilbury Docks in June 1948 has long provided an opening scene for narrating the history of Afro-Caribbean migration to Britain and its impact on race relations following World War II, rather than taking this transatlantic voyage as a starting point for understanding race relations and the formation of postcolonial Black Britain, this book engages Lord Kitchener’s iconic performance of “London Is the Place for me” at Tilbury Docks as a bridge connecting imperial histories of claim making and Black citizenship in the Caribbean and postwar race politics in Britain. In the context of racially charged international developments, including decolonization, the end of Empire, the Cold War, and globalized movements for Black freedom during the 1950s and 1960s, Black Britons made claims about their rights as citizens that recalibrated debates about what it meant to be British. This study demonstrates how Afro-Caribbean migrants’ insistence on belonging as Black British citizens fundamentally shaped the trajectory of race politics in postwar Britain and in official political spheres and beyond. Tapping into a variety of sources with an eye toward highlighting the political expressions of a generation of Black newcomers as they settled and attempted to belong in the midst of racial violence, discrimination, and disenfranchisement, this book tells a story about how race and racism informed the quality of citizenship for Black Britons. Likewise, it draws attention to the strategies that Black Britons used to challenge the state to acknowledge and secure what they deemed to be their rights as citizens.