Friday 22 June 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the landing at Tilbury Docks of the Empire Windrush MV on 22 June 1948 with 492 Jamaican passengers.
People of African heritage have been in Britain since Roman times in the 3rd Century. Up to the mid-20th Century, the African presence was maintained by migration, forced and voluntary, from the African continent, the Americas and the Caribbean; fuelled by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, and World Wars 1 and 2.
Britain’s post-war national rebuilding programme necessitated invitations to citizens of British colonial outposts to come to the Mother Country’s aid. The landing of the Windrush was to become symbolic of this fresh wave of voluntary economic migration. According to Fryer, ‘ten years after the Empire Windrush there were in Britain 125,000 West Indians who had come over since the end of the war’. Mike and Trevor Phillips allude to this as the start of ‘the irresistible rise of multicultural Britain’, whilst noting the warning of an MP that Britain was not going to be ‘a paradise’ for the newcomers and that they should expect ‘difficulties caused through ignorance and prejudice’