Wednesday, February 29, 2012

History Corner: 'Colour Bar Pub' in Forest Hill 1965

Everyone surely knows about the US civil rights campaign against racially segregated lunch counters, such as the famous 1960 Nashville sit-ins. Sad to recall though that similar campaigns were still necessary in 1960s London, with a pub in Forest Hill being a key battleground in the last year before racial segregation of social spaces was finally banned.

The Dartmouth Arms (Dartmouth Road, SE23) was the focus of protests in 1964/65 as a result of its policy of banning black people from its saloon bar. Matters came to a head in December 1964 when anti-racists staged a sit-in at the pub and in January 1965 when the Brockley International Friendship Association organised a picket of 50 people outside the pub. The demonstrators included the curate of St Hildas Church in Crofton Park and eight members of the Church's youth club.

'We deplore the colour bar at the Dartmouth Arms'

A few days later the Mayor of Lewisham, Tom Bradley, was refused service in the pub when he tried to buy a drink for Melbourne Goode of the the Brockley International Friendship Association: 'He had ordered a drink for himself and a friend but had never received them. The reason: his friend was coloured. And the publican, Mr Harold Hawes, refuses to service coloured people in the saloon bar' (Mercury, 29 January 1965 - clippings below are from same paper).

Later in 1965 The British government made it illegal to refuse to serve black people in pubs and other ‘places of public resort’ when it passed Britain’s first Race Relations Act (a year after the similar US Civil Rights Act). The pub is still there of course, and all are welcome. However, a tale told to me recently of the experience of the only non-white member of a group entering a local club suggests that this kind of racism has not been  entirely banished.

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