NEWPORT RACE RIOTS 1919 and 1920

Race riots in Britain did not start in the 1950s, similar set of riots occurred years ago in 1919 across Britain, when tension between white locals, police and the new black communities reached breaking point. The new communities were concentrated in Liverpool, Cardiff, Barry and Newport.

Most of these riots took place around the country’s docklands where a majority of Caribbean and some African people worked as sailors, sea merchants and manual labourers. Rioting broke out in Newport on Friday 6th June 1919 and was said to have been caused by a black man accosting a white girl. The story was presented in this way by the London Times. A soldier intervened and knocked the black man to the ground: "Partisans gathered, and for two hours disturbances ensued. A Chinese laundry, refreshment houses, and lodging houses were wrecked and the furniture was taken into the street (in the George Street area) and burned." Another report said that "The coloured men defended themselves with revolvers, pokers and sticks." One rioter told the South Wales Argus "we are all one in Newport and mean to clear the ====== out". The hatred was directed at West Indians, West Africans and other non-whites as well. White mobs wrecked so many properties that, according to the South Wales Argus, the town looked as if it had suffered an air raid.

The rioting culminated the next day in an affray that was only quelled by a police baton charge: "Stones and iron bolts were thrown, and towards midnight the crowd had increased to several thousands. No blacks were to be seen in the streets." The anti-black riots that spread through British ports that spring were associated with the demobilisation of the armed forces after the first world war, a period of economic crisis in which black populations became the scapegoats. There were no serious injuries, but extensive damage to property. When the police arrived they arrested 27 black and three white people. T
he impression derived from a reading of press accounts is that police arrested the black victims of violence out of all proportion to their numbers, and relatively few white perpetrators.

Interestingly it did not end there - in June 1920 the New York Times carried the following story