20th April 1968. Racial Equality.

‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad’, (Virgil’s Aeneid): Enoch Powell 1968.

Today in 1968 Tory MP for Wolverhampton South, Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham, in truth, about the effect of unbridled non-white immigration. He was promptly sacked from his Shadow Ministerial post by Ted Heath for inflaming racial tension.(1)

After the influx of West Indians in the late 1940’s, by the late 1960’s many Kenyan Asians were being discriminated against in Kenya, and as 100,000 had British Passports, they sought a better future in Britain.

However by 1968, with immigrants arriving at 1000 a month, the Labour Government was forced to introduce an emergency Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, but noting that it was ‘extremely reluctant’ to interfere with the rights of British passport holders.(2)

Problems of immigration went back to the beginning of the century, then it was Jews from Poland and Russia mainly into East London;  the result was the formation of The British Brothers’ League.

Founded by Capt. William Stanley Shaw with the slogan , ‘England for the English’, it was the forerunner of the British Union of Fascists and The National Front, and known for its heavy-handed stewarding of its demonstrations and meetings.



Following the widespread Jewish settlement here, the 1905 Aliens Act sought to prevent entry to those unable to support themselves. One opponent to the then Bill was Winston Churchill who as The Times of May 31st 1904 said:

‘The simple immigrant the political refugee, the helpless and the poor-these are the folk who will be caught in the trammels of the Bill, and may be harassed and hustled by petty officials without the smallest right of appeal to the broad justice of the English’.(3)

However when Jewish anarchists were responsible for armed robbery and death of two policeman, The ‘Tottenham Outrage’, in January 1909, followed by the Sidney Street Siege (London) of 1911, by so-called foreign anarchists, it’s not surprising xenophobia increased. (4)

Inter-war years saw The Imperial Fascist League, the Nordic League and the White Knights of Britain where racial prejudice was aimed at the Jews.

The 1948 British Nationality Act widened immigration and with it the first boat-load of Jamaicans, when on 22nd June 1948, The Empire Windrush, docked at Tilbury.

‘Welcome Home’ ran the headline in the Evening Standard; many had served here in wartime. They were to join the few thousand who had already made a home here in the ports of Liverpool and Cardiff.

However as time went on tensions increased with a ‘colour bar’ in jobs and ‘no coloured’ signs in boarding houses, blatant discriminations which flared-up into the Notting Hill riots in the late 1950’s.

The 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act introduced a voucher system and whilst not mentioning race, unlike the 1968 Act, specifically was racist in that in practice it favoured those from the ‘white’ Dominions. 

(1) The true text said …’The River Tiber foaming with much blood’.

(2) The 1968 Act on March 1st, succeeded the first Race Act of 1965 and was itself to be succeeded and replaced by the 1976 Act.

(3) 1914 saw The British Nationals and Status of Aliens Act.

(4) As a result of the outstanding bravery shown by the police, The King’s Police Medal was instituted.

Ref: bbc.co.uk/on-this-day.20.4.1968.

Ref: wikipedia.org/rivers_of_blood_speech.

Ref: wikipedia.org/british_brothers_league/Pic Image.

Ref: theguardian.com/politics/enoch-powell-speech.20.4.1968.

Ref: ‘The face has changed but fear remains’. 27.6.2003, David Cesarani, Times Higher Education.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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