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Olive Morris

1 of 2 portraits of Olive Morris

© Neil Kenlock

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Olive Morris

by Neil Kenlock
modern bromide print from original negative, January 1973
15 in. x 10 in. (381 mm x 254 mm) image size
Purchased, 2016
Photographs Collection
NPG x199645

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This portraitback to top

This photograph was taken in 1973 when Morris was squatting at 121 Railton Road, Brixton - which evolved into a hub (until 1999) for the squatting movement and for community groups such as Black People against State Harassment.

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  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 123 Read entry

    Olive Morris (1952-79) was a political activist and community leader, based in and around the counter-cultural hub of Brixton in London. Arriving from Jamaica, aged nine, she became politicised in the 1960s and 1970s, when stop-and-search (‘sus’) laws and discrimination in housing and employment made life extremely difficult for the African-Caribbean community. Morris was indefatigable in her fight against oppression, against not just racism but also sexism. For example, in 1969, she received a three-month suspended sentence for interceding in a Nigerian diplomat’s arrest for a parking offence. Having been physically and racially abused by the police during this incident, she joined the revolutionary socialist Black Panthers in the 1970s and became a founder-member of the Brixton Black Women’s Group. From 1973 she squatted at 121 Railton Road, Brixton – where this photograph was taken – which evolved into a centre (until 1999) for the squatting movement and for community groups, such as Black People against State Harassment. From 1975 to 1978, Morris read economics and social science at Manchester University, where she campaigned against overseas-students’ fees and was active in the Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative and the Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group. Thereafter, she worked in Brixton Community Law Centre’s juvenile unit, where she was involved in scrapping the ‘sus’ laws. She cofounded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent in 1978. Her fight against oppression continues, long after her premature death from cancer.

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Current affairs

With the international oil crisis, and British coal miners 'working to rule' (a form of partial strike), Prime Minister Edward Heath implements the 'three day week' for industry in order to prolong fuel stocks.

Art and science

Pink Floyd release Dark Side of the Moon. The album opens with the sound of a heartbeat and instead of a set of individual songs, each track merges into the next to create a continuous piece of music. The LP was one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.


The Arab-Israeli conflict continues with the Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria invaded Israel followed shortly by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The conflict lasted for just 18 days before a UN ceasefire was put into place. The events led to an increase in the price of Arab oil, causing economic problems in the West.

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Liz Obi

05 November 2017, 13:24

This picture was taken at 121 Railton Road, squatted by Olive Morris and Liz Obi in late 1972.

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