The Roots of Racism in City of Many Cultures; Political Reporter Ian Hernon on the Day a Lynch Mob Brought Race Terror to Liverpool
Byline: Ian Hernon
RIVING through the vibrant, bustling Chinatown or along Brougham Terrace past Britain's oldest mosque, it is clear to see why our Capital of Culture logo is 'the world in one city'.
For decades, people of every creed and colour have lived together relatively harmoniously. While old mill towns like Oldham, Burnley and Bradford struggled with the post-war influx of ethnic minorities, Liverpool's - albeit dubious - role in the slave trade meant people of Afro Caribbean descent had long been in residence in the city.
But the development of such tolerance has not been an easy process. And although there are many who would deny inter-racial problems in the city, there are an equal number who would argue that there has always been an undercurrent of racial tension running through its veins.
Because while the city can boast ownership of the country's oldest mosque and Europe's oldest Chinatown, it also witnessed Britain's first black public lynching The roots of the racism believed to be involved in the killing of Huyton student Anthony Walker, 18, run deep.
During World War l, black seamen increasingly found jobs ashore, plugging manpower shortages. Many moved in with white women, causing widespread outrage.
With demobilisation in spring 1919, the city's black population swelled to 5,000. Tensions mounted as black and white ex-servicemen competed for work.
Those reached boiling point when 120 black workers employed in the sugar refineries and oilcake mills were sacked because whites refused to work alongside them.
Many were at the end of their credit limit and were evicted from their lodgings. They joined several hundred destitute black ex-servicemen, some of whom had lost limbs in the war.
The Colonial Office was petitioned to repatriate the men with a pounds 5 bursary for food, clothing and tools. At the same time, a deputation representing 5,000 jobless white ex-servicemen complained that black workers were under-cutting them in the wages market.
The port was a racial tinderbox - and on June 4 of that year it exploded.
Two white sailors stabbed a West Indian in the face because he refused to give them a cigarette in a pub. The following night his mates returned to take revenge and, in the melee, policeman was kicked unconscious.
The police responded by raiding a row of lodging houses with black occupants. This time the fight was more serious and four police officers were injured, one of them shot in the mouth. …