The Windrush Generation


Black Cultural Archives

Black Cultural Archives

The arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks, London, in June 1948 has come to symbolise the founding moment of modern, black British history.

It coincided with the passing of the British Nationality Act 1948, which gave right of entry to the ‘mother country’ to the entire population of the colonies. It was hoped this would help hold Britain’s crumbling Empire together.

What happened next took the authorities by surprise. Over the next decade and a half, more than a quarter of a million black British citizens came from the Caribbean.

Most of the immigrants quickly found a job. It wasn't just that people from the Commonwealth wanted to come to Britain. In truth Britain needed them, though many experienced racism from their imperial hosts.

More than 30 years on, Britain is enormously changed. Black people continue to face all sorts of disadvantages - discrimination, high rates of unemployment, higher levels of poverty.

But one barrier that confronted the Windrush generation has been overcome. There are very few people these days who question the idea that it is possible to be both black and British.

This photo was taken for Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016), a BBC series revealing the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and people whose origins are in Africa.

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