“A love of freedom and a hatred of oppression”

by Nicholas Laughlin on July 19, 2010

Claudia Jones

Claudia Jones, editor of the West Indian Gazette

The black press has a long and courageous history. The first newspapers in the form of leaflets in prose and poetry, protesting against slavery, economic exploitation and global injustice appeared in the early part of the 19th century. This continued sporadically throughout that century and well into the twentieth century, reaching its nadir after the settlement of the Windrush generation.

The earliest newspapers, like the African Times, the Orient Review, the Pan African and the African Telegraph, were of the highest journalistic standard with some fine writers who could match the best of those in the white media. They were also the first representatives of what I would like to call the idealistic period in journalism which survived well into the late 20th century.

The papers of this period lacked capital, had no advertising hinterland and had, of necessity, a rudimentary distribution system. They were clearly not out to make a profit. Many of the publishers, largely professional men, met printing and running costs from their own pockets. Their writers, again mainly doctors, lawyers and businessmen, passionately driven by a love of freedom and a hatred of oppression, toiled for free. They scorned Dr Johnson’s famous adage that “only blockheads wrote for nothing.”

— From Robert Govender’s article “The Trials, Traumas, and Triumphs of the British Black Press”, published in The Colorful Times. Govender highlights the crucial roles played by West Indian publisher-editors like Trinidadian Claudia Jones, Kittitian Aubrey Baynes, and Guyanese Arif Ali and periodicals like the West Indian Gazette, The Caribbean Times, and The West Indian World in exposing racism and advocating civil rights in postwar Britain.

(For more on Jones, see Jeremy Taylor’s review of a recent biography in the May 2008 CRB.)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan Ali July 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Claudia Jones is profiled in a recent film, Hidden Herstories: Women of Change, which features portraits of a number of “forgotten” women from London’s history. Also profiled in the film is Amy Ashwood-Garvey, Pan-Africanist and the first wife of Marcy Garvey. The film will be screened at the trinidad+tobago film festival later this year.

Clyde Job July 11, 2012 at 11:57 am

The late Aubrey Baynes was not a Kittitian but a Vincentian

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