Claudia Jones by FGP/Archive Photos/Getty Images

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    Claudia Jones,    by FGP/Archive Photos/Getty Images,    1962,    NPG x200196,    © Getty Images
Claudia Jones, ‘Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival’.
Claudia Jones
by FGP/Archive Photos/Getty Images
modern bromide print, 1962
10 5/8 in. x 14 5/8 in. (270 mm x 372 mm) image size
NPG x200196
© Getty Images

Claudia Jones (1915–64) was a pioneering journalist, Feminist Having or based on the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. and Activist A person who works to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organisation with particular aims. . She spent her life fighting against discrimination and racial inequality in Britain and in the USA.

Jones also helped to bring Caribbean culture to the forefront of British life and is often remembered as the ‘Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival’. This celebration of Caribbean culture takes place every summer, on the streets of Notting Hill in London and has become one of the world's largest street festivals.

Analysing the portrait

  • View larger image
    Claudia Jones,    by FGP/Archive Photos/Getty Images,    1962,    NPG x200196,    © Getty Images
Claudia Jones, by FGP/Archive Photos/Getty Images, 1962

Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a whole minute. What can you see?

    • Claudia Jones is shown sitting at a desk.
    • There is a typewriter in front of her and she appears to be in the middle of a phone call.
    • She is holding a pen in her hand, as if ready to write something down.
    • Her typewriter is surrounded by paper and newspapers.
    • The full name of the newspaper to her right is the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Caribbean News. The headline reads ‘What now for the West Indies A large group of islands between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, that include the Antilles and the Bahamas.  ?’
    • It looks as though there are photographs stuck to the wall behind her.
    • Claudia Jones is working in her job as editor of the West Indian Gazette, Britain’s first Commercial Related to the buying and selling of goods and services; concerned with earning money. Black newspaper. The newspaper’s offices were based in Brixton in south London, where many Caribbean migrants settled. 
    • The newspaper’s name and headline are placed so they can be clearly seen.
    • The photographer has framed the image to show Jones right next to a photograph on the wall which may be connected to her interest in Anti-colonial To be opposed to colonial rule of one country by another; opposing or resisting colonialism. struggles around the world.
    • She appears to be concentrating on a phone call and is not looking at the photographer.
    • Do you think this photograph has been staged? Why?
There are at least 80,000 good reasons why we believe a West Indian newspaper is necessary and will be welcomed. They are the 80,000-odd West Indians now resident here. Together we form a community with its own wants and problems … 
Claudia Jones, 1958

Who was Claudia Jones? 

  • Claudia Jones was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, which was then part of the British Empire The countries ruled by Britain starting in the late 1400s and peaking around 1920 when the British Empire included around a quarter of the world's population. . Her family migrated to New York when she was a young girl.
  • In her early 20s, Jones began writing about political issues. She joined the Young Communist League of America A communist organisation for young people in the United States. It is the youth wing of the American Communist party. and later became an active member of the American Communist Party A political party in the United States which believes in the principles of Communism. It was one of the most important left-wing organisations in the country from its founding in 1919 to the late 1950s. .
  • In the early 1950s she was imprisoned for ‘un-American activities’, mainly because of her Activism The activity of working to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organisation with particular aims. and involvement with the American Communist party. When she was released, she was Deport To force somebody to leave a country, usually because they have broken the law or because they have no legal right to be there. to the UK.
  • When Jones arrived in London, she became painfully aware of the prejudices that Black people in Britain were facing, particularly migrants from the Caribbean.
  • In 1958, she set up the West Indian Gazette in Brixton, London. The newspaper kept Caribbean migrants in Britain informed about news from their countries of origin, and documented the prejudice and racial harassment many of them were experiencing. It also championed women’s rights. 
  • That same year, violent, racially motivated riots broke out in Notting Hill in west London and Nottingham. In 1959, Jones helped to organise a large indoor Caribbean-style carnival in St Pancras Town Hall to showcase Caribbean talent and culture and help bring the community together. These were the origins of the major carnival in Notting Hill that we know today. 
  • Claudia Jones is often remembered as ‘the Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival’. Today, the carnival is a huge street festival, celebrating the rich history of Caribbean culture in London. It takes place every year in August.

Why is this portrait significant?

  • After the Second World War, citizens from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other Caribbean Colony A country or an area that is governed by people from another country. in the British Empire The countries ruled by Britain starting in the late 1400s and peaking around 1920 when the British Empire included around a quarter of the world's population. began migrating in larger numbers to Britain. They were responding to a call from the British government to help rebuild ‘the Mother country’ as there was a shortage of labour.
  • This wave of migration continued until the early 1970s. Many of those who settled in Britain experienced terrible racism.
  • In the photograph, we can see the headline ‘What next for the West Indies A large group of islands between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, that include the Antilles and the Bahamas.  ?’ This relates to the Caribbean nations that gained full independence from Britain in August 1962, the year this photograph was taken.
  • This photograph of Claudia Jones, a member and prominent supporter of the migrant Caribbean community, and an anti-racist campaigner, appears to almost capture this moment in time.

Questions

  1. Find out more about the origins and traditions of carnival in the Caribbean. 
  1. Why might this have been such a successful way to bring communities together in the 1960s?
  1. What other cultural traditions help bring communities together?