W.F. Clayton

Great Britain

People Revolted by U.S. Race Prejudice

(July 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 29, 17 July 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

We truly live in “one world,” and as United States imperialism dominates this world, the reactionary features of life in the USA are injected everywhere.

American race prejudice, however, has just received a sharp slap in the face from the British. Some time last summer L.N. Constantine, a West Indian Negro known throughout the length and, breadth of the British Empire for his cricket playing ability, was invited to captain a West Indian team to play against a British team at Lord’s, the headquarters of British cricket. Constantine was at one time the highest paid professional cricketer in England. He had played in India and in Australia, and is as widely known in England as Joe Di Maggio is in the United States. He occupies a responsible post in the wartime administration of Britain.

The “Cricketers” Case

To play in this important game he reserved rooms for himself, his wife, his daughter and his secretary in a hotel where he had frequently stayed before in years gone by. On his appearance, however, he was refused accommodation and told that “N____rs” were not wanted there. It was widely stated that the Americans who fill London hotels objected to the presence of Negroes.

The British people on the whole have long been disgusted with their recent experiences of the arrogance and barbarity of the transplanted Southerners’ attitude toward Negroes. Constantine took the case to the courts and was represented by Sir Patrick Hastings, who rivals Sir Stafford Cripps as the most brilliant lawyer in England. Sir Patrick denounced the abuse of Constantine as a “N____r.” He said it was a “gross insult.” Both damages and an apology were granted Constantine. The popular personality involved, the distinguished counsel who pleaded and the general interest in the Negro question in Britain today, make this decision one of far-reaching importance.

Another “Rape” Case

Of even greater political significance is the mass pressure which forced a change in a rape decision of the American military command. A Negro soldier was accused of raping an English woman and was sentenced to death by a military court which included one Negro officer. The dishonesty of the evidence and the violation of justice were so shocking that the British people called it the English Scottsboro case.

The press, even some of the conservative press, protested against the verdict. Some of the papers printed long report of the evidence and submitted it to devastating criticism. Protests to General Eisenhower poured in from all parts of the country. In direct concession to this mass agitation, Eisenhower revoked the death penalty and there for the time being the case stands.

A well known American who visited England some months ago reported that the English people were especially interested in two things American, namely, John L. Lewis and the miners, and the Negroes. Several British children who were sent to America to escape the blitz were interviewed some weeks ago on the eve of their return home. When asked what was their chief impression about America, their reply was unanimous. “We cannot understand the treatment of Negroes.”

The British capitalists reserve their degradation of human beings chiefly for the colonies, and racial discrimination and segregation were not at all unknown In Britain before the war. But to experience the ferocity of American race prejudice is a shock to any European accustomed to the democratic regime in Europe before Hitler. The war has carried the American Negro question abroad.

Organized labor, the CIO and the radical movement in particular have a responsibility here to redouble their efforts to wipe away this foul stain from American civilization and to let the British people know that there is another America besides the race-prejudiced American military caste and the backward Southerners.

Last updated on 15 December 2015