Skip to main content

Post-Windrush: Afro-Caribbean migration between 1948-1957

In the years following the Second World War, the British government encouraged the migration of workers from Commonwealth countries to help reduce the British labour shortage and rebuild the war-damaged country. The arrival of nearly 500 passengers from the Caribbean on the 'Empire Windrush' ship at Tilbury Dock on 22 June 1948, has become one of the symbols of this migration. These primary sources look at different responses to increased Afro-Caribbean migration after the Second World War.

Click on the images to read the documents in full.

The colour problem in Britain and its treatment'The colour problem in Britain and its treatment', July 1948

Confidential memorandum written by K. Little for the Labour Party Advisory Committee on Imperial Questions. It includes an outline of the "four main occupational categories" of "coloured people in Britain", gives examples of the types of discrimination that may be encountered, and suggests methods of tackling prejudice.

[Included in a file on "Colour Problem: Race Relations", 1944-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.9/1]

The colour bar in BritainThe 'colour bar' in Britain, 1954

This letter was sent to the Trades Union Congress by a West African student living in Britain (no name is given). The writer talks about the "many problems [which] have arisen recently about the employment of coloured workers in Britain, due to the increase in the inflow of West Indians into this Country", and comments on how discriminatory treatment in Britain could lead to anti-British repercussions when West African countries became independent members of the Commonwealth.

[Included in a file on "Colour Problem: Race Relations", 1944-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.9/1]

Memorandum on coloured workersMemorandum on "coloured workers", 15 April 1955

This document on the employment of "coloured workers" was produced by the Trades Union Congress, and is based on a memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Labour Staff Association (this organisation represented people who worked in what are now called Job Centres). It includes sections on the reasons for West Indians to emigrate to Britain, their condition on arrival, attitude towards work, and the attitudes of the employers and Ministry of Labour towards the immigrants.

[Included in a file on "Commonwealth Workers in Britain", 1954-1957, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/2]

Problems of coloured people in London'Problems of coloured people in London', 27 September 1955

Report of a joint sub-committee of the London Labour Party Executive and the London County Council Labour Party set up "to consider problems arising out of the recent influx of coloured people into London". It includes sections on the "size of the problem" (and reasons for migration), employment, housing and welfare services.

[Included in a file on "Commonwealth Workers in Britain", 1954-1957, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/2]

Coloured people in Nottingham'Coloured people in Nottingham', March 1956

Report of a conference convened by the Nottingham Consultative Committee for the Welfare of Coloured People to look at ways to improve integration and combat social problems caused by the "rapid increase in the rate of arrival" of "this body of new citizens". Subjects covered include housing, employment, social activities and personal and family life.

A programme and questions for submission for the recall conference on "Coloured people in Nottingham", held in April 1957, are also available online.

[Included in a file on "Commonwealth Workers in Britain", 1954-1957, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/2]

Employment of coloured workers in the Birmingham area'Employment of coloured workers in the Birmingham area', 1956

Draft of a report produced by the Race Relations Group of Fircroft College, Birmingham, under the sponsorship of the Birmingham Christian Social Council. The report was the result of a survey undertaken during 1954 and 1955, and includes sections looking at the employment policies and attitudes of employers, the attitudes of trade unions and British workers, and the reactions and experiences of "coloured" workers. As well as West Indian workers, the survey also attempted to investigate the experiences of workers from India, Pakistan and West Africa.

[Included in a file on "Commonwealth Workers in Britain", 1956-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]