As part of our Black History Month celebration, we will be featuring a trailblazer from Black history each week. This week, we focus on Claudia Jones, the founder of Notting Hill Carnival.
Claudia Jones was born February 1915 in Trinidad. At eight years old she and her family moved to New York. Whilst growing up, Claudia witnessed a great deal of discrimination faced by Black people. In 1936, she became an active member of the American Communist Party; with its ethos of social equality, the Party offered a voice for those fighting for Black civil rights.
In 1948, she was arrested for her political activities and sentenced to the first of four spells in prison. Finally, following a year in the Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women, Jones was deported and took exile in England.
Claudia came to Britain in 1955 and became a leader in the emerging Black civil rights movement. She lived in Notting Hill where she was acknowledged as a talented writer and journalist; founding the West Indian Gazette.
One of Jones' best-known legacies is the annual Notting Hill Carnival. She helped launch the event as a response to the 1958 riots, when tensions had turned violent as racist mobs attacked local Black residents. The event was intended to create closer relations between all local communities and publicly celebrate the Black community. The first carnival was held in January 1959 in a local hall and has been running ever since. The Carnival takes place every year during the August bank holiday weekend and is the largest in Europe.