Founder of Britain’s first black weekly newspaper “The Westindian Gazette”, also known as the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival
Claudia Jones, feminist, black nationalist, political activist, community leader, communist and journalist, has been described as the mother of the Notting Hill carnival. The diversity of her political affiliations clearly illustrated her multifaceted approach to the struggle for equal rights in the 20th century.
She was born in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1915 and at the age of eight moved to Harlem, New York with her parents and three sisters. Her education was cut short by Tuberculosis and the damage to her lungs as well as severe heart disease plagued Claudia for the rest of her life.
For over 30 years she lived in New York and during this time became an active member of the American Communist party, an organisation in which her journalistic and community leadership skills were maximised. By 1948 she had become the editor of Negro Affairs for the party’s paper the Daily Worker and had evolved into an accomplished speaker on human and civil rights.
In 1955 she was deported from the US and given asylum in England, where she spent her remaining years working with London’s African-Caribbean community. She founded and edited The West Indian Gazette which despite financial problems remained crucial in her fight for equal opportunities for black people.
Claudia Jones lasting legacy is undoubtedly the Notting Hill carnival, which she helped launch in 1959 as an annual showcase for Caribbean talent. These early celebrations were held in halls and were epitomised by the slogan, ‘A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom’.