“SS Empire, the Commonwealth and the Windrush Scandal” (1948-2018) presented by Kwaku

Friday 15th June 2018, 5.00 PM – 7.00 PM @ the Hackney Archives, CLR James Library, Dalston Square, London E8 3BQ

June marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, carrying 492 West Indians who were looking to rewrite their fortunes in a Britain desperate for labour. The Windrush is now so much part of British history that almost instantly it became the shorthand used to describe the generation of black Britons.

2018 is supposed to be a year of celebration, a 70 year legacy of the Windrush Generation. Unfortunately, that has been marred by the “Windrush Scandal”, which is in fact a Commonwealth-wide issue (read my take on this scandal here: Social Commentary No. 13 “CHILDREN OF THE WINDRUSH GENERATION – RUSHED OUT OF THE UK”

But there is another 2018 anniversary that, until last week, might well had passed by quietly, hardly noticed. This year marks 70 years since the passing of the 1948 British Nationality Act, gaining royal ascent in July, as the Windrush pioneers were settling into their new jobs. Although now obscure, it was a law that Enoch Powell once referred to as “that most evil statute”.

The act was intended to reaffirm what many in the late 1940’s regarded as a “time-honoured principle”, the doctrine that all British subjects should have the automatic right to travel to and settle in the United Kingdom.

In this presentation, history consultant Kwaku will address some of the generally held misconceptions surrounding the Empire Windrush’s voyage from the Caribbean to Britain, highlighting some of the British government’s conversations and what it did to limit Caribbean and New Commonwealth migration from the 1940’s to 1960’s..

The presentation is followed by a discussion, which allows the audience to interrogate the issues raised in the presentation.