Darcus Howe

Mick Hall @ Organized Rage obituarises Darcus Howe: Anti racist campaigner, journalist and broadcaster, a fiery fighter for truth and justice.

Darcus Howe (26 February 1943 – 1 April 2017) was an anti racist, broadcaster, writer, and civil liberties campaigner. Originally from Trinidad, Howe arrived in England intending to study law.

There he joined the British Black Panthers, a group named in sympathy with the US organisation. He first came to a wider public attention in 1970 as one of the Mangrove Nine, when he marched to the police station in Notting Hill, London, to protest against police raids of the Mangrove restaurant, and again in 1981 when he organised a 20,000-strong "Black People's March" in protest at the failed police investigation into the New Cross Fire, in which 13 black teenagers has their lives stolen.

Born in Trinidad, the son of an Anglican priest. He was schooled at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, and first moved to England at the age of 18. He intended to study law but instead turned to journalism. He returned to Trinidad for a short while, where his uncle and mentor, internationalist, writer, journalist and socialist C. L. R. James, encouraged him to combine writing with political activism. (C.L.R.J spent his latter years living with the Howe family in London and it was often difficult to decide which was more proud of the other.)

A brief spell as assistant editor on the Trinidad trade union paper The Vanguard was followed by a return to Britain, where from 1973 to 1985 Howe served as editor of the political magazine Race Today, produced by the Brixton based Race Today Collective, which included Farrukh Dhondy and Linton Kwesi Johnson, and others. Howe's successor as editor, Leila Hassan, eventually became his third wife.

Howe became a member of the British Black Panther Movement, and in the summer of 1970 took part in a protest against the all to frequent police raids of the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill owned by Frank Crichlow, where Darcus worked part time.

The restaurant had become a meeting hub for black people, serving as a place of both organisation and recreation, it also served as an informal head office for the Notting Hill Carnival. It was raided 12 times between January 1969 and July 1970 by police allegedly looking for drugs. And finally having had enough 150 plus demonstrators marched on the local police station in protest. Six weeks later, Howe and eight others, the Mangrove Nine, were arrested and charged for riot, affray and assault.

He and four of his co-defendants were acquitted at the Old Bailey of all charges after a 55-day trial in 1971, which included an unsuccessful demand by Howe for an all-black jury, and a fracas in the dock when some of the defendants complained about the presence of prison officers. The judge stated that there was "evidence of racial hatred on both sides." Nevertheless, this was the first acknowledgement from a British judge that there was racial hatred in the Metropolitan Police.

Having been continuously targeted by the police in 1977 they finally got their pound of flesh, when Howe was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for assault, after challenging a racist bigot at a London Underground Station. He was released upon appeal after a campaign over his arrest and sentencing.

With the birth of Channel Four, Darcus began a successful broadcasting career, fronting programs such as the series Black on Black, The Bandung File and later White Tribe. Darcus could be prickly: an uppity nigger is the term the slave owners would have used, but he was all the better for that. Truth and resistance to wrongs were his watch words and the world is a lesser place within Darcus Howe in it.

The clip below gives you an idea of what Darcus was like in free flow, sick and increasingly frail he puts some manners on a BBC talking head.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

3 comments to ''Darcus Howe"

  1. Remember him as a truly great broadcaster

  2. I remember one old-ish documentary he did, the premise before filming was to expose the fallacy of minority to minority racism , namely Muslim vs non-Muslim backs in Birmingham. It didnt end good for him, from memory he went to interview some jaunty chaps on the street was told in no uncertain terms he wasnt welcome in a Muslim area. He seemed out of touch , this must of been 20 years ago nearly. Ever since I tell people " ' how dark is Darcus Howe' is a palindrome isnt it?" just to confuse them.


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