Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile

Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile

Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile

Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile

Synopsis

Every year over a million people pack the streets of London's Notting Hill for Carnival, but as the carnival-goers soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the festival, few appreciate that its founder died in poverty on Christmas Eve in the bitterly cold winter of 1964, the end of a life dogged by struggle and illness. Claudia Jones: A Life in Exileis the first book to chart the life and work this visionary and pioneer. Born in Trinidad in 1915, Claudia Jone's family moved to Harlem, New York, where the young Claudia became a leading figure in Communist and black politics. Forced into exile in Britain in 1955, Jones arrived in London penniless and friendless. She became active in civil rights campaigns amongst the new West Indian communities established in the capital and launched an annual Carnival to showcase the talents and culture of the Afro-Caribbean community. The book's particular focus is on the time that Jones spent in Britain Claudia Jones: A Life in Exileis a fitting and long overdue testament to a remarkable woman who was quite simply years ahead of her time.

Excerpt

Claudia Jones – wasn't she the founder of the Caribbean carnival in Britain and of Britain's first major Black post-war newspaper? Yes. That, and much more.

Claudia lived for less than fifty years, but what she accomplished during her brief life is quite amazing. a Trinidadian by birth, she spent the formative years of her life in the United States. Raised mainly by her father during the Depression in Harlem, with only high school education, she rose to become a leader in the Communist Party of the usa. She became a journalist and the editor of one of the Party's papers. She wrote pamphlets and theoretical articles for the Party. She went on US-wide recruitment drives. She was such a fantastic public speaker that she could hold Madison Square Gardens spellbound. She became the friend of Paul and Essie Robeson. Throughout all this, she had to struggle with the vestiges of childhood tuberculosis.

After the Second World War, the us government persecuted her together with the other leading Communists. Years of hounding resulted in heart disease, which was exacerbated by a year's imprisonment. Extradition to Britain followed.

Claudia arrived in London in December 1955. She was very ill. She knew no-one, except a few fellow Communist exiles. Naturally she expected to be embraced by the British Communist Party. This did not happen, probably because she was far too outspoken about racial prejudice within the Party.

In the 1950s the racial situation in Britain deteriorated almost daily as the numbers of immigrants arriving from the colonies and India increased. the newly-arrived were met with anti-immigrant campaigns and fascist organising on the streets. in 1958 anti-Black riots swept many British cities. in 1959 a Black man was killed on a London street by a gang of white youths for no other reason than that he was Black. This was a lynching.

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