Magazine article New African

The Good Old Days ... from 1966

Magazine article New African

The Good Old Days ... from 1966

Article excerpt

"It is easy to be too pessimistic, too nostalgic for the good old days'. After all, I was younger back in 1966 (when New African was born as African Development) and remember the old men of that time going on about their own 'good old days'," writes Clayton Goodwin (left) a man of a certain golden age. Much has changed indeed. Today Caribbean and African viewers in the UK do not rush to the television set, and summon relatives from every part of the house as well as the neighbours, whenever a black person is seen on screen. African and Caribbean players are now prevalent in all major sports teams and performances.

THE SUMMER OF 1966--THE year that I met Alan Rake, the founding editor of New African--was the high-point of optimism. I was introduced to him by the late Rema Nelson, a cover girl for Drum magazine (which he then edited) who went on to become a well-known model, actress, and the first black Bunny Girl at the Playboy Club in Park Lane in London. That seemed to sum up the insouciance of the time.

In dodging a sudden shower of rain on coming out of the Drum office in Fleet Street, I found myself sharing a doorway with Lord Constantine--that is, Learie Constantine, the celebrated cricketer from Trinidad who in the 1930s was the best-known black man in Britain. He had fought many successful battles for social justice including a landmark case against the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square for refusing him accommodation because of his colour. That seemed to be the point -the battles had been fought and won, and we could relax now. Even the political prospective seemed to be pleasant. The British prime minister, Harold Wilson, threatened to treat as a "political leper" the MP for Smethwick who had been associated with the "if you want a nigger for a neighbour ..." slogan in the general election two years earlier.

Across the Atlantic, smitten in sympathy with the perceived values of the assassinated President John Kennedy, the American electorate gave his successor, Lyndon Johnson, a thumping mandate, apparently, to enact sweeping civil rights legislation.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Sport blossomed as it had never bloomed before. Simultaneously in that summer, Muhammad Ali defended his world heavyweight boxing championship twice in London; Eusebio from Mozambique, then playing for Portugal, was the individual genius of the football World Cup; and Garry Sobers, the greatest of all cricketers, took on and beat England almost single-handed with a display of all-round excellence.

The sounds of Tamla Motown--the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas--were eroding smoothly and caressingly the chart domination of the Beatles and Merseybeat.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The coups in Nigeria shattered complacency that the move from colonialism to independence would be plain sailing, but it could have been expected--"birth pains" it was called. Jomo Kenyatta, once vilified by the British press, was leading Kenya with avuncular assuredness, and former alleged "terrorists" and "trouble-makers" were sharing conference tables with their former accusers.

The following summer, a "coloured" South African, Elvira Ernstsen, I believe, was chosen to be the beauty queen of my home village in rural Kent. Such a thing would have been unthinkable just months earlier. The choice of a non-white girl as being representative of our community said more about the changing social attitudes than any number of speeches by politicians, and sermons by preachers. It was an example which, in spite of the blatant racial discrimination which existed alongside it, was being repeated in localities throughout the UK.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Many young people walked together, danced together, played sport together and (encouraged by Ray Charles singing "I can't stop loving you") loved together without any adverse thought of ethnic, cultural or religious difference. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.