Claudia Jones (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Claudia Jones, née Claudia Vera Cumberbatch (21 February 1915 – 24 December 1964), was a Trinidad-born journalist and activist. As a child she migrated with her family to the US, where she became a political activist and black nationalist through Communism, using the false name Jones as "self-protective disinformation". Her best known piece of writing, "An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!”, appeared in 1949 in the magazine Political Affairs. It exhibits her development of what later came to be termed “intersectional” analysis within a Marxist framework. As a result of her political activities, she was deported in 1955 and subsequently resided in the United Kingdom. She founded Britain's first major black newspaper, West Indian Gazette  (WIG), in 1958.

United Kingdom career

Claudia Jones arrived in London in December 1955, at a time when the British African-Caribbean community was expanding. However, on engaging the political community in the UK she was disappointed to find that many British communists were hostile to a black woman. At this time in Britain, many landlords, shops and even some government establishments displayed signs saying "No Irish, No Coloured, No Dogs". Jones found a community that needed active organisation. She became involved in the British African-Caribbean community to organise both access to basic facilities, as well as the early movement for equal rights. Jones campaigned against racism in housing, education and employment. She addressed peace rallies and the Trades Union Congress, and visited Japan, Russia, and China, In the early 1960s, her health failing, Jones helped organise campaigns against the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill (passed in April 1962), which would make 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.

West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News, 1958

From her experiences in the United States, Jones believed that "people without a voice were as lambs to the slaughter”.  In March 1958 in Brixton she founded and thereafter edited the anti-imperialist, anti-racist paper West Indian Gazette, its full title subsequently displayed on its masthead as West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News, (WIG). The paper became a key contributor to the rise of consciousness within the Black British community. Claudia Jones wrote in her last published essay, "The Caribbean Community in Britain", in Freedomways (Summer 1964): "The newspaper has served as a catalyst, quickening the awareness, socially and politically, of West Indians, Afro-Asians and their friends. Its editorial stand is for a united, independent West Indies, full economic, social and political equality and respect for human dignity for West Indians and Afro-Asians in Britain, and for peace and friendship between all Commonwealth and world peoples."

In August 1958, four months after the launch of WIG, occurred the Notting Hill race riots and similar disturbances in Robin Hood Chase, Nottingham. In view of the racially driven analysis of these events by the existing British daily newspapers, Jones began receiving visits from members of the black British community and also from various national leaders responding to the concern of their citizens.

It was suggested that the British black community should have a carnival; it was December 1958, so the next question was: "In the winter?" Jones used her connections to gain use of St Pancras Town Hall in January 1959 for the first Mardi-Gras-based carnival. Claudia Jones died on Christmas Eve 1964, aged 49, and was found on Christmas Day at her flat. A post-mortem declared that she had suffered a massive heart attack, due to heart disease and tuberculosis. Her funeral on 9 January 1965 was a large and political ceremony, with her burial plot selected to be that located to the left of the tomb of her hero, Karl Marx, in Highgate Cemetery, North London.

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