#thistooishistory Godmother of Carnival, Claudia Jones

Every year Carni comes around we are all looking for a motive. What squad? What day? Float or crowd? What you wearing? As much fun as it is let’s celebrate the lady who made this motive number one in the Londoner’s diary every year.

Claudia Jones was born in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1915 and moved to Harlem with her family aged eight. Over the thirty years that she lived in New York she became an active member of the American Communist Party. In 1948 she became the editor of Negro Affair’s, a sub division of the party’s Daily Worker paper and an avid speaker on civil and human rights. She became a prominent speaker focusing on racial, civil and feminisit issues.

In 1955 Claudia Jones was deported and sought asylum in England because she used her voice and it got too loud. Her arrival in England coincided with the fresh influx of Carribbean immigrants looking for work and a new life. Seeing the need to engage the London community of West Indian’s she founded the West Indian Gazette; England’s first black newspaper. Although it suffered with financial difficulties and closed shortly after her death the paper highlighted issues and successes amongst their community and kept them informed.

London had become a hotbed of racial tension which boiled over causing clashes with fascist groups and rioting. To combat this she helped to plan London’s first carnival in Notting Hill in 1959; it was held in St. Pancras Hall and filmed by the BBC. She wanted it to be an annual showcase of Caribbean talent and to bring the community of all creeds together, clearly it proved to be a huge success as its legacy lives on.

Unfortunately Claudia was a sickly child and suffered from heart disease and tubercolis which plagued her for her whole life. She passed away aged 49 on Christmas Eve in 1964. Despite this this we must celebrate the work of a woman who did not care how loud her voice was, standing up for the poor and victimised were her priorties!

‘A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom’ Claudia Jones


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