The impact of the struggle for racial equality in the United States on British racialised relations from 1958 to 1968
During the late 1950s and the 1960s America faced a high level of racial tension. At the same time Britain imposed racially discriminatory immigration controls and passed legislation to outlaw racial discrimination. This thesis asks to what extent the events in the United States had an impact on the response of British institutions to the development of a multi-racial society and increased rate of non-white immigration during these crucial years between the 1958 race riots to the Kenyan Asian crisis. The first part of the thesis examines the background to British perceptions about both the 'special relationship1 with the United States and images of African Americans in the period prior to the years under review. It explores the ways in which the white British population was more informed about African Americans than the inhabitants of the colonies, and subsequently the Commonwealth. The following section examines ways in which the press and government drew on the activities of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of Black Power in the United States during the 1960s to illustrate arid support their arguments. It notes the high level of interest in Britain in American news and the increasing sense of concern within press reports and debates in the House that Britain was heading for an American style racial conflict. The third part ofthe thesis examines four sections of the British population which could be said to have a special interest in this issue: the non-white immigrants themselves; antiimmigrants groups; the religious denominations and British Jews: and organisations which sought to promote racial harmony. The study examines not only the response ofthese sections ofthe population to American racial trouble but the ways in which their activities had an impact on British perceptions. As the most concerned sections ofthe population, their activities were those most frequently reported by the press. In varying degrees, the responses ofthese sections of the population to the issues of immigration and racial discrimination reflected a growing concern that Britain was following the United States towards racial conflict. This perception was fed by both the press and government action and in turn had an impact on both public opinion and politicians and created a national mood in which debate over these related issues was coloured by the increasingly tense racial situation in the United States. 1967 and 1968 were the years in which this national perception was at its height and witnessed the passage ofthe Immigration Bill which excluded the entry of Kenyan Asians and the extension of Race Relations legislation. This thesis traces the development ofthis national mood, the significance of which has previously been underestimated.