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Newham Recorder 50: Racism in the swinging 60s

PUBLISHED: 18:00 13 June 2018

The Recorder reports on the daily prejudices faced by interracial couples, June 1968. Picture: Archant/Newham Archives and Local Studies Library

The Recorder reports on the daily prejudices faced by interracial couples, June 1968. Picture: Archant/Newham Archives and Local Studies Library

Archant/Newham Archives and Local Studies Library

The 60s saw new music, fashions and politics sweep through the borough, yet early editions of the Newham Recorder show many deep-rooted problems remained.

'National Front rally room bookings cancelled', June 1969. Picture: Archant/Newham Archives and Local Studies Library 'National Front rally room bookings cancelled', June 1969. Picture: Archant/Newham Archives and Local Studies Library

Racism reared its head early in the new-look Recorder’s history.

The second edition, published on June 19 1968, told of a failed facist rally in Manor Park.

Members of the far-right National Front, many of whom were from Newham, had bookings cancelled at two halls they tried to use for ‘a show of strength’.

They attempted a last-minute booking at a third venue, the Three Rabbits pub in Manor Park, which has since closed, whose owner’s wife told reporter Terry Chinery she would never have let them in if she knew who they were.

“I had so much on my plate at the time otherwise things might have been different,” she said.

“My husband was ill in bed and I had staff problems.”

One year earlier, a double-page spread in the Recorder noted how racial tensions simmered among seemingly-respectable members of the community.

In the feature on racism faced by interracial couples, the article told the story of Margaret Grant, 27, a woman disowned by some of her family after she married Dennis, a West Indian.

Whenever Margaret left her home in West Ham with her two children — John, four, and two-year-old Tina — passers-by stared.

The piece mentioned “racialist people” hurling insults and kids in the street using the n-word to describe her mixed race children.

She worried of tensions erupting into a “war between the blacks and the whites”, a fear stemming from ongoing violence during the US civil rights movement.

Speaking two months after Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, Margaret said she now preferred the company of “coloured people” to whites.

“I have never found prejudice on their side,” she added. “When I meet them they are nice and friendly, and they welcome me into their homes.”

Also interviewed was Roshan McCarthy, an Indian woman who married and had a son with a white Englishman, Brian.

“Another couple may have completely different cultural backgrounds,” said Roshan. “If some can accept the other’s culture and learn about it, and vice versa, they will have a much better understanding of each other.”

How has racism in the borough affected you? Contact our reporter on 020 8477 3802 or email alex.shaw@archant.co.uk

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