One of the former homes of the Harlem-bred radical intellectual Claudia Jones was recently honored with an English Heritage blue plaque.
The plaque was mounted on the façade of 6 Meadow Road in the Vauxhall district of London on October 5.
English Heritage blue plaques have been placed on more than 400 historic buildings and sites throughout England to mark locations where important events have taken place. The organization has noted that only 4.6% of their plaques in London commemorate places where Black or Asian people have made history.
The installation of the blue plaque in Vauxhall took place during Britain’s annual Black History Month celebrations. It was meant to commemorate the location where Jones, a mid-20th century journalist and community organizer, lived for nearly four years while in England.
It’s the place where, in 1958, she established the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News, the first major Black newspaper in Britain.
Vauxhall was also where Jones thought of establishing a Caribbean Carnival in London. After a series of incidents culminated in a race riot that saw working class British people attacking African and Caribbean immigrants, Jones thought to feature a celebration of Caribbean culture in the heart of London. “A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom,” she wrote as a slogan for her first Caribbean Carnival celebration, in January 1959. Jones’s carnivals had no direct relation to what later became known as Notting Hill Carnival (NHC), the activist group TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) has pointed out, but were among the first to herald Caribbean culture in Britain—something that is now the norm at NHC.
“Culture––whether music, art, or dance––will always provide opportunity to open minds and drive change, and Claudia saw this better than anyone,” Afro British cultural historian and Blue Plaques Panel member Gus Casely-Hayford said in a press statement.
The Trinidad and Tobago-born, Harlem-reared Jones had been a prominent member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and for years authored the Daily Worker newspaper’s “Half the World” column, where she wrote about African American and other working-class women’s issues.
Jones’s links to the CPUSA led to her being arrested several times. Government authorities questioned her loyalty to the United States and ultimately deported her to England in 1955 rather than to Trinidad, which was still a colony at the time.
Her work in England has led to her being acknowledged as one of the 100 Great Black Britons.