(See His legacy.)
Oswald George Powe, always known as George, died in 2013, aged 87. He served in the RAF during World War II and subsequently settled in the UK. He was a lifelong socialist and a true comrade who fought against colonialism and racism, and strove for equality and respect for the African-Caribbean community. He helped an enormous number of people to achieve their rights. For this, as well as his public service, he earned the undying respect of his fellow-Jamaicans as well as members of the host community.
This archive is comprised of his own documents, articles, and publications, some from internet searches, and memories of him over a period of over fifty years.
“George was a key part of the glue that linked Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities into the mainstream of politics. George already had a decade of anti-nuclear CND campaigns tucked under his belt by the time we met in the early 70s. We were part of a movement that easily spilled over into education, anti-apartheid and anti-poverty campaigns . George never lost sight of the importance of connecting big picture and small picture politics into a single vision.”
Alan Simpson, community activist, former Labour Party Member of Parliament, Nottingham South 1992-2010
“It was his willingness to share his story as a radar operator during WWII that acted as a catalyst for others to come forward and share their experiences of fighting in the war, which is the jewel of the archive [Nottingham Black Archive] …It is through narratives like George’s that we know that the ‘British’ did not stand alone against the might of Hitler’s Germany. He was instrumental in advising and often advocating for many Jamaicans on immigration matters.”
Panya Banjoko, performance poet, writer, and founder of Nottingham Black Archive
"To truly understand our city and our society today requires that we understand the role that George and the people who struggled alongside him played. But the stories and achievements of Black people have been under-represented in the telling of our history. We have to put that right. We have to examine who we choose to celebrate and commemorate, and ensure that Black working-class people are part of that."
Nadia Whittome, Nottingham East MP
WINDRUSH LEGACY AWARD: In 2018, the 70th anniversary of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury Dock, the Jamaican High Commission in London launched a Windrush Legacy Award to find 500 people of Jamaican heritage who had significantly contributed to the advancement and development of the United Kingdom. As one of the 500 selected he is commemorated in Jamaicans in Britain - Celebrating a Legacy of Leadership, a legacy publication co-authored and curated by publisher Joy Sigaud of Editions Media in April 2022. (link)
HIS ARCHIVE: I realised that the time had come to create an archive of his life by collating all the information and knowledge I have of him as a public figure, comprised of his own documents, articles and publications, some from internet searches, and memories of him over a period of over fifty years.
BLUE PLAQUE: On July 28, 2022, 78 years to the day from his joining the RAF, a blue plaque was erected on the front of the house where he lived for over thirty years.
BUS NAMING: On August 11, 2022, which was the 96th anniversary of his birth, Nottingham City Transport named a Number 45 (his local route) bus after him. (link)
Until recently we were able to suggest that George might have been the first black councillor elected in the United Kingdom, when he became an Urban District Councillor for Sawley Ward, in the Long Eaton District Council in 1963. How wrong we were! In the autumn of 2022, we were alerted by a message sent to our Visitors’ page about a black councillor elected in 1906, and this alerted us to do more research, with the following results:
ALLAN GLAISYER MINNS, 1858-1930, born in Barbados in 1858, migrated to England in the early 1880s.
1903 - Elected in 1903 to the town council in Thetford.
1904 - Elected as Mayor of Thetford, serving to one-year terms.
HENRY SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, 1867/9-1911, born in Trinidad, migrated to England in 1885.
1906 - Elected to Marylebone Borough Council.
JOHN ARCHER, 1863-1932, born in England to a Barbadian father and an Irish mother.
1906 - Elected to Battersea Borough Council in 1906
1912 - Re-elected as a Borough Councillor.
1913 - Elected as mayor of Battersea.
1918 - Re-elected as a Battersea councillor.
1931 - Re-elected as a Borough Councillor, and appointed as deputy leader of the council, but died in 1932.
JAMES ARTHUR HARLEY, 1873-1943, born in Antigua in 1873, the son a of a white father and a black mother.
1927 - Elected as an Urban District Councillor for Shepshed, Leicestershire.
1937 - Elected as a Leicestershire County Councillor.
It is heartening to know of these early trail-blazers, and while the findings show that George was not the first elected councillor in the UK, they do indicate that he was one of a very small number, and possibly the first in the post-Second World War period. If readers have any information about any other black councillors elected before 1963 they are welcome to contact us using our Visitors’ Page.
More detailed information about these councillors is now included in our Politics and Community page, under the heading “Public service and community action”.