Rights, resistance and racism: the story of the Mangrove Nine

Next month The National Archives and the Black Cultural Archives will hold two workshops for 18-25 years olds using spoken word to bring black British history to life. These events will follow the story of the Mangrove Nine.

The trial of the nine arguably represents a high point of the Black Panther movement in the UK, showing the power of black activism and the institutionalised police prejudice. But what prompted the backlash of black British people against the police? And what sparked one of the show trials of the century?

The Mangrove restaurant

We hold the original complaints of Frank Crichlow in 1969 to the Race Relations Board. This complaint was in relation to Crichlow’s restaurant The Mangrove, which was located in Notting Hill. The restaurant opened in March 1968, quickly becoming a centre for the black community, attracting intellectuals, creatives and campaigners.

The restaurant was repeatedly raided by police. Although the raids were carried out on the basis of drug possession, drugs were never found and Crichlow’s own anti-drugs stance was well known in the community.

In his complaint Crichlow directly states ‘I know it is because I am a black citizen of Britain that I am discriminated against’ (CK 2/690). The Race Relations Act 1968 made it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services on the grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins.

The raids on the Mangrove were seen as reflecting a wider culture of oppression.

Complaint of unlawful discrimination, 23 November 1969 (catalogue reference: CK 2/690)

Complaint of unlawful discrimination, 23 November 1969 (catalogue reference: CK 2/690)

The march on Portnall Road

In response the black community and allies took to the streets to protest on 9 August 1970. The demonstration was organised by a small group from The Action Committee for the Defence of the Mangrove and the Black Panthers. This included Frank Crichlow and barrister Anthony Mohipp, secretary of the Black Improvement Organisation.

This open letter written by Mohipp announced the demonstration and set out community grievances. It was sent to the Home Office, Prime Minister, Harold Wilson (leader of the opposition) and the High Commissioners of Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados (HO 325/143).

Political statement, 12 August 1970 (catalogue reference: HO 325/143)

Political statement, 12 August 1970 (catalogue reference: HO 325/143)

The protesters were met with a disproportionate police response: There were 150 demonstrators at the beginning of the march accompanied by 200 police.

The Metropolitan Police files follow the subsequent demonstration, detailing the strategic police response and witness statements from the police and other people involved. The material includes evocative images of these protests. Photographs such as this were used by the police to suggest that key allies of the Black Power movement  were implicated in planning and inciting a riot.

Later a Home Office commissioned report from the Community Relations Commission concluded that contrary to the police reports the violence was not initiated by the marchers but by the police.

Black Power demonstration and march, Lancaster Road West London, 1970 (catalogue reference: MEPO 31/21)

Black Power demonstration and march, Lancaster Road West London, 1970 (catalogue reference: MEPO 31/21)

The radical defence strategy

Of those arrested at the protest nine were finally tried: Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Critchlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Althea Lecointe Jones, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett.

Darcus Howe and Althea Jones-Lecointe took the bold move of being their own defence and arguing for an all black jury under the Magna Carta’s ‘jury of my peers’ clause, turning the court case into a public spectacle and exposing the contradictions in the prosecution’s case. In Jones-Lecointe’s closing speech she referred in detail to the police persecution experienced by the black community in Notting Hill.

Pickets were organised outside the trail at the Old Bailey, and literature handed out to raise public awareness of the case.

Flyer calling for justice for the Mangrove Nine,1970. In the tenth week of the trial these were distributed to black people around the court and Notting Hill to raise awareness of the case (catalogue reference: HO 325/143)

Flyer calling for justice for the Mangrove Nine,1970. In the tenth week of the trial these were distributed to black people around the court and Notting Hill to raise awareness of the case (catalogue reference: HO 325/143)

The trial of the Mangrove Nine lasted 55 days. The final verdict was reached by the jury after eight and quarter hours of deliberation, and on the most serious charge of riot all were cleared. The trial had also succeeded in winning popular support.

In his closing remarks Judge Clarke commented, ‘What this trial has shown is that there is clearly evidence of racial hatred on both sides’ – this watershed statement went a small way to recognised police wrongdoing and racial prejudice (HO 325/143).

Black British Civil Rights: the story of the Mangrove Nine

These striking documents will form the core of our two events at The National Archives and the Black Cultural Archives as we invite young people (18-25) to take part in a new event exploring the journey of the Mangrove Nine. These free events are part of the national Being Human Festival of the humanities – the first takes place at the Black Cultural Archives on Saturday 14 November and the second at The National Archives on 21 November.

These events will use original documents, debates and spoken word to explore themes of protest, civil rights and racism. The spoken word workshop will be led by internationally-renowned poet Roger Robinson.

Related blogs

An afternoon with the Mangrove Nine

Let’s talk about the Mangrove Nine

10 comments

  1. Margaret Noel says:

    This is excellent historical information, is there a facebook page? I am going to share this information to friends who like myself grew up in this area.

  2. David Matthew says:

    We should not forget the part played by the British Government in the case and the recent issues over the now closed Mangrove Restaurant (see The Independent newspaper). A sad tale and indictment of Britain at the time.

  3. […] Next month The National Archives and the Black Cultural Archives will hold two workshops for 18-25 years olds using spoken word to bring black British history to life. These events… Go to Source […]

  4. nadine says:

    Amazing info & reminders, event will be great. Thanks for all you do to bring this knowledge to the world.

  5. […] government and the community archive material for the first time in examining the full story of the Mangrove Nine, which arguably represents a high point of the Black Panther movement in the UK, showing the power […]

  6. […] ‘Ring The Alarm’, which features Avelino and Tiggs Da Author. The clip centres upon Frank Critchlow’s Mangrove Restaurant in Notting Hill (the well-known haven for Blacks was eventually shut down in the 90’s thanks to […]

  7. […] Rights, resistance and racism: the story of the Mangrove Nine (National Archive) […]

  8. […] racial equality as a member of the British Black Panther movement and gained infamy as one of the Mangrove Nine who were arrested and charged for protesting repeated police raids on the Caribbean restaurant […]

  9. […] include the police inspector Pence. Historically women were the backbone of the black movement: Althea Jones-Lecointe, Barbara Beese, Leila Hassan, Olive Morris, Beverley Bryan and Stella Dadzie, to name but a few, and I can only […]

  10. […] include the police inspector Pence. Historically women were the backbone of the black movement: Althea Jones-Lecointe, Barbara Beese, Leila Hassan, Olive Morris, Beverley Bryan and Stella Dadzie, to name but a few, and I can only […]

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