Claudia Jones, a visionary and pioneer who dedicated her life to the struggle for workers and equal rights in the 20th century. While much of her early work as a feminist, Black Nationalist, political activist, community leader, journalist and communist, which was done in the USA, she is also remembered in the UK as ‘the mother of Notting Hill Carnival’.
She lived in New York for almost 30 years, she became an active member of local Communist politics, and in 1941, at the age of 25, she become the National Director of the YCL. By 1948 Jones had been elected to the National Committee of the Communist Party of the USA and become the editor of’Negro Affairs’ for the party’s paper the Daily Worker.
One of Jones’ best-known legacies is the annual Notting Hill Carnival. She helped launch the event as a response to the 1958 riots, when tensions had turned violent as racist mobs attacked local Black residents. Using the West Indian tradition of carnival, the event was intended to create closer relations between all local communities. The first carnival was held in January 1959 in a local hall.
In the early 1960s, despite failing health, Jones helped organise campaigns against the 1962 Immigration Act. This had made it harder for non-Whites to migrate to Britain. She also campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela, and spoke out against racism in the workplace.
Claudia Jones died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1964, aged just 48. She was buried in Highgate cemetery next to the grave of Karl Marx.
Although many feel Notting Hill Carnival isn’t what it used to be, Claudia Jones efforts brought the culture that many left behind in the West Indies to England in what is now one of the biggest Carnivals in the world.
I found this while I was doing some research – a documentary about Claudia Jones: