Edson Burton. Black Activism in Bristol from c1963 to 2021.

Our final lecture this year was a fascinating and informative survey around the History of Black Activism in Bristol

Edson Burton’s lecture covered the small pockets of immigration that existed in Bristol before the Windrush generation.  The first cadre which included many ex-servicemen and the gradual build up of a Black Community of thousands by the 1960’s.  Edson’s research which had included interviews with many of that first and second generation showed the colour bar that excluded many well educated individuals from the West Indies from skilled and professional work.  The Bristol Bus Boycott inspired by the American Black Civil Rights Movement was compared with the St Paul’s Riots of 1980.  The established narrative about the reaction of political parties to the Boycott which appears in school textbooks was challenged.  Edson described the reaction of the generation coming to maturity in the 1970’s who were facing discrimination at school and police harassment on a daily basis and how some were attracted to Rastafarianism.  Black Bristolians felt safe in St Paul’s and they saw the police raid on the Black and White Café in 1980 as an attack on the heart of their community.  In the aftermath of the riots Edson explored how the community had built up its new institutions to service its community and how problems nevertheless continued.  The campaign Justice for Judah for the wrongful tasering of a black community constable in 2017 and the Black Lives Matter Campaign of 2016 involving a younger black community and led by local activists were compared to the 1963 Bus Boycott.  The Q & A which followed led to some sharing of personal recollections about the attitudes of other parts of the city to St Paul’s including the stigmatizing of it as an unsafe crime ridden area, the memories of eyewitnesses in 1980.  Edson’s talk also drew attention to the wider St Paul’s community which included immigrants from Poland and Ukraine and the common ground with other areas of the city like white Southmead. A fascinating end to the term. 

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