Story of the BBB

In May 1963 a group of young West Indians, Roy Hackett, Guy Bailey, Prince Brown and Owen Henry, led by British born Paul Stephenson organised a boycott against the Bristol Omnibus Company for refusing to employ Black and Asian bus crews.

As well as organising protest days when the public were persuaded not to take the bus, they also held meetings and marched through the city. Paul Stephenson understood the power of the media and the story was reported both locally and nationally. The protest gathered momentum. The Transport and General Workers Union (TGW) did not support the camapign and the Bishop of Bristol came out against it but the cricketer and Trinidadian Ambassador Sir Learie Constantine got involved with the campaign and lost his job because of it.

It was a crucial time for the Black community in Bristol, as the protest went on in the city streets the West Indian Cricket team were winning against England at the cricket ground.

On the 27th August the Bus Company held a general meeting and the ban on Black and Asian bus crews was repealed. Raghbir Singh was the first Coloured bus conductor.

The Bristol Bus Boycott remains an interesting story about the fight for human rights, the manipulation of the media, and the understanding that Black and Coloured people were here to stay. The victory of this small group was an important element in Race Relations Act which was instigated only two years later in 1965 and made it illegal to discriminate against Coloured people in public places.

The Bristol Omnibus Company maintained that employing Coloured bus crews would cause unrest in the workforce. The work was badly paid and employees depended on overtime. Black and Asian bus crews remained in the minority in the 1960s and 1970s.

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“Bristol can use this crisis to start it off along the
road to racial harmony”

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If the West Indians get on the buses I’ll be off like
a shot.

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 “We have got to fight this discrimination. It is not just a question of West Indians getting jobs, we are seeking equality.”

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“Paul Stephenson has forced the bus company to come into the open and admit publicly that they do have a colour bar. Now all hell has broken loose.”

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“Ashamed of my City”

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All quotes are taken from local Bristol newspapers printed between April and June of 1963. To explore the papers in more detail click here.

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