Multicultural Britain

1) Source B is not a reliable source when investigating the extent of discrimination black immigrants faced in trying to find work in 1956. The aim of the interview was to expose the ‘colour bar’ at British Railways, the company would not be willing to let the public know of any discrimination as they had already made a policy on a ‘no colour bar’, it could also effect business. The interview was taken in 1956, after The British Nationality Act in 1948 confirmed the right of Commonwealth citizens to come and settle in Britain, therefore meaning they also had the right to jobs.

The interviewees are both significant workers for British Railways, so they should be clear on the matter of how the company should treat discrimination. However they both seem to have different reasons on why the men were turned away, they also seem unsure about what they are saying (‘Er, well, erm’) showing they are not confident in what they are saying. Which leads us to question if both men are telling the truth or not.

Mr Geary contradicts what he is saying; he goes from claiming there is no prejudice, to explaining why coloured men are not employed by the company. This shows how unreliable what he is saying is.

2) Source A may possibly be useful for a historian investigating the difficulties facing black immigrants looking for accommodation in the 1950’s. Miller explains the difficulty of finding somewhere to stay, however he only states how awkward it was to find accommodation when searching on ‘the board’, there is no evidence of how he was treated when he either visited a place or telephoned the landlord inquiring about a room.

The source was quoted by an immigrant in 1949, so it was first hand and had not been passed on by different people. Source C supports what Miller is claiming with examples of notices, which makes the source more reliable. Source A does not say why it was quoted apart from it was published in a book 49 years later. From the source we can see that the black immigrants were limited to where they could stay and there was a lot of racism throughout landlords.

Source C could be useful to a historian. The signs reading, ‘no coloureds etc’, support the idea of the ‘colour bar’. We can ensure it is reliable because it is a photograph and does not look in anyway set up. It does not reveal why it was taken. This source also supports the fact that only 15 out of 1000 white people would let a room to someone black. There was no law stating that landlords could not discriminate in this way. The immigrants in the photographs are looking at boards full of advertisements, nevertheless we are only given examples of two of them – we are unaware of any others, which could not be as discriminative as the two shown. There are only two immigrants in this photograph indicating there may not be a big problem to get housing, as was claimed at the time (because of the bombing during the war there was a housing shortage).

Source D would not be useful to a historian investigating the difficulties in getting accommodation in the 1950’s. It does not say anything about there being any sort of problem with the immigrants finding housing, only about the high rent being charged once they had found a place. The source was written by Robert Pearce in 1996, showing it may not be accurate seeing as it was published 50 years later.

3) I do not agree with the statement, ‘in the period 1949-1959 Black immigrants faced only discrimination and prejudice from whites.’ This is because there is evidence (including from sources) that show not all white people were racist at that time. Although source B is stating that black immigrants are not always welcome at certain work places because of their skin colour, this is the only source that agrees with the statement first made. When we look at source E, we can see that it is a white person that reassures the black immigrant, and that gave him, ‘comfort and hope’, also source D – although it is saying how landlords are able to discriminate freely, there are some that provided rooms to black immigrants.

Source F supports my idea; it is saying that ‘it was acts of kindness by individual white people that kept many black people from going when life in Britain seemed particularly bleak.’ This account reveals that there were white people that wanted to help black immigrants settle in Britain and not go out of their way to make them feel unwelcome in any way. It is said that racial discrimination affected all areas of their lives, including finding work and accommodation – this is true, however the black immigrants must have been able to find somewhere to live and work, or they could not have afforded to live in Britain, and we have no evidence of mass numbers of immigrants living on the streets. Although they often did end up with low-status jobs it shows some people were willing to employ and pay them. Self-help groups were also set up to offer advice on accommodation and employment rights – which show that there were white people willing to help, disagreeing with the statement first made.

So overall, when we have looked at all the sources provided and used other statements quoted we can see that, ‘In the period 1949-1959 Black immigrants faced only discrimination and prejudice form whites’, is not entirely true. I did not think sources A, C and G were useful towards the question first asked; they did not contain sufficient information.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *