Mother of Nottingham Carnival
The next woman for this month is one who was prosecuted for her politics, which led her to found one of the world’s biggest carnivals.
Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad. An island colony off the South American coast. Jones emigrated to the United States after World War 1 crushed the Trinidad economy. She excelled in education, winning the Theodore Roosevelt Award for Good Citizenship in middle school. She graduated high school while suffering from Tuberculosis. Despite her excellence in education, her options were limited. She could not afford college, and being an immigrant limited her options for careers.
Jones found her role as an activist and journalist in 1936 when she looked for organizations supporting the Scottsboro Boys, a group of black teenagers and young men, who were victims of racism in the legal system after being falsely accused of rape. Jones joined the Young Communist League. Jones worked as an editor for the Communist paper the Daily Worker. Jones continued to rise in the Communist Party, rising to the position of executive secretary for the Women’s Commission. Jones also became an elected member of the National Committee of the party. She was imprisoned in 1948 for her role in the Communist Party under the McCarren Act because she was an immigrant and had joined the Communist Party. She was ordered to be deported, however, Jones suffered a heart attack and was convicted of “un-American activities” under the Smith Act. Jones was eventually deported in 1955 to the United Kingdom.
Jones quickly joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and settled down in Brixton, a south London district with a large Afro-Carribean Community. She started the West Indian Gazette, Britain’s first black newspaper. The newspaper served the Afro-Carribean community in London. Four months after launching the paper, racial tensions in London exploded.
After World War II, Britain’s population was devasted by the casualties of the war. The English’s solution was to offer citizenship and incentives to members of their former colonies. This saw an increase in Afro-Caribbean immigration. The arrival brought racial tension from White Englishmen. This opposition to black immigration was stoked by Fascist groups like Oswald Mosely’s Union Movement and the White Defense League, where they would regularly go on “N****r Hunts.” This culminated in the 1958 Nottingham Hill Race Riot, where 300-400 white Englishmen attacked the homes of black Englishmen.
Jones organized the Caribbean Carnival in 1959 in response to the riots. The event was started to improve race relations in Britain at the time and was televised on the BBC nationally. This carnival would go on to become the Notting Hill Carnival. The second largest Carnival in the world. The attraction sees over 2.5 million people over two days. A celebration of Caribbean culture that brings people from every background to Nottingham every year.
Jones passed away on Christmas Eve in 1964 at 49. A combination of heart disease and tuberculosis caused a heart attack. She was buried in Highgate Cemetery in London, buried next to her hero Karl Marx.