When I was brought up in Bristol, I was aware of that fine city’s disreputable past in the slave trade – my primary school was founded by a slave trading family. (Quakers were vigorous campaigning for abolition and enforcing abolition when they had it.) There was also present day racism. I was astonished to discover recently that Bristol had its own bus boycott, in the 1960s, like those in the US Southern states.
The issue was not where you could sit, but whether you could work for the bus company. Nearby Bath had black drivers and conductors, London Transport went to the Caribbean to hire black workers. But Bristol management and unions colluded in a whites only hiring policy on the Bristol buses – it was a closed shop – ironically, when the TGWU was a strong campaigner against apartheid.
The issue went national and the city fathers, the bus company and the union were duly under pressure. After a lengthy campaign, they caved in today, the day Martin Luther King gave his Dream speech.
I thought it ironic that my schools briefly acknowledged the old evil of slavery without touching on the more up to date issues in our own backyard.