Labour Research (April 2012)


Black British rebels

Figures from working class history

Hassan Mahamdallie, Bookmarks, pamphlet, £3

At key moments in the British working class struggle for rights and freedom, black leaders have emerged.

This pamphlet is an introduction to that hidden but unbroken thread running through our history.

 Spanning the centuries from the 1750s to the 1970s, Hassan Mahamdallie brings to life six of these inspiring figures: Olaudah Equiano who rose from slavery to become one of the most prominent campaigners ever against human bondage; Robert Wederburn, the unquenchable revolutionary firebrand of Regency London; William Cuffay, leader of the London Chartists; Shapurji Saklatvala, Communist MP for Battersea, jailed during the 1926 General Strike; Claudia Jones, a powerful figure who gave hope to Britain’s beleagured black population of the 1950s; and Jayaben Desai whose steely determination pitched her into an historic trade union struggle in the 1970s.

Famous for leading the Grunwick strikers, Desai told her boss: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals.

“Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr Manager.”

 This short pamphlet is packed with inspirational stories from our history, and is perfect for anyone keen to find out more about black working class history.

Reviews contributed by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop. Order online at

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