Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ramsgate Racism and Aircraft Noise

Back in 1957 when the American Air Force was at Manston all of the American officers found accommodation in Margate to avoid the aircraft noise over Ramsgate.

This meant that black American air force men that formed most of the support and maintenance crews frequented Ramsgate and the council tried to get them banned from the town.

With an American man who also just happens to be black as president and a Ramsgate man who also just happens to be black as chairperson of the Ramsgate Society this now seems quite incredible.

Click here to read it, my apologies for the condition of the paper.

Incidentally I believe at the time it would have been pretty much standard practice in USAF for Margate where the white officers were living to be off limits to all black American personnel.


  1. An interesting snap view of attitudes at the time. What is interesting is the level of healthy tolerance of foreign servicemen whatever the colour matched by some clear racial prejudices. British soldiers have frequently been barred from towns in this country or certain areas when drunken and disorderly conduct has got out of hand; not surprising that Ramsgate might have considered asking the US Commander to do like-wise. What is not fully appreciated in this article is that the US Armed Forces perpetrated racial segregation well into early 60s. as did many of The Southern States.

  2. African Americans were/are proportionately over re-represented in their armed forces.

    Just as in WW1 Polish and Italian Americans were proportionately over represented.

    Now look at our forces for the representation of UK based ethnic minorities ....

    we got a problem

  3. 52 years aint long but a world apart in someways I am glad we are getting more tolerant but unity still seems a long way off in thid world

  4. It is a funny old world Don

    I remember the 50s and 60s in my home town. Jamaicans outside the "Bamboo cafe" blocking the pavement to make white shoppers walk in the road around them.

    A local senior police officer making a study of why Barbardians settled in, worked hard and got on with folks when Jamaicans, in that town, were trouble from the outset.

    So there was a senior policeman making a study of "Coromante" slave roots and other African tribal roots. And he was told don't study black history it is racist, they are all blacks.

    The story goes that the Chief constable, from oop North a rugby league fan, was told by the senior officer "Then you are not a Northerner sir, you are just a white". This caused an acting Inspector (Scottish veteran of Kohima) to pipe up "Dannae come that line with me ye English basta"

    Tensions in the town were high at times because of high rents and poor accommodation for Afro Caribbeans. The landlords were Asians. Then after the Ugandan Asians came in, 1971/72 era, more tension as they were up and running self employed in no time !

    Near the town was a USAF base. One pub was notorious as a locale for beating up black American airmen. The pub used exlusively by our Afro Caribbean immigrants.

    But apparently all the problems are due to the institutionalized racism of the indigenous white population.

    Tensions are increasing Don driven by the Race Relations and Human Rights Industry. If their efforts were of any useful effect then we would now see the same as USA, proportionate over representation in our armed forces of ethnic minorities.

    But what we see is the opposite. When it comes to fighting for Blighty it is the role of the indigenous white.

    We have a problem.

  5. Just a bookseller thought here, the subject of Americans bringing both their racialism and black servicemen to the uk is covered in “The Chequer Board” a novel by Nevil Shute [Norway] and may be of interest to some of you.

  6. An emotive issue but the term 'racism' really only applies between whites and blacks in the UK and US. In parts of SE London the longer resident blacks of West Indian extraction frequently fall out with the newer African immigrants, Somalis often are at loggerheads with Kenyans, there is no love lost between the Shona and the Matabele but, only whites can be racist. By the same token there are African Americans but have you ever heard of a European American? No, they are just Americans. You have to be of some ethnic extraction to have a double barreled title.
    Tolerance of difference takes time and cannot be forced nor legislated effectively. You may force a man to stop using racial derogatory terms but you cannot stop him thinking them.
    By the way, I think you get a better sort of Brit in Broadstairs than in Ramsgate - only joking!

  7. I love Thanet, but I also think that many of its inhabitants are decades behind the rest of the country when it comes to racial tolerance!

  8. Maybe that is because many DFLs came here because they felt they were being over-run in their London boroughs? Humans have always formed up in their own tribe or clan and the assimilation of the Campbells amongst the MacDonalds takes time. Indeed, I once knew a MacDonald who would not eat Campbell's soup having never forgiven the treacherous swine for siding with the Sassenachs.

  9. The DFLs like myself tend to be far more tolerant than the people who were born & in-bred here...

  10. Peter, I was London born and worked there for some thirty years in the property world where one frequently met sellers and landlords who expressed racial preferences for buyers and tenants. Prejudice is not unique to Thanet.

  11. I'm not disputing this. But when people learn / work / socialise / form relationships together it more often than not breaks down these barriers. I consider myself very fortunate in having gone to a school where (even in the 70s) about 1/3 of the pupils were black or Asian, & even more fortunate that my mother's 2nd husband was a black Antiguan, a finer man than my real (white) dad could ever be...

  12. Peter, your abhorrence of racial prejudice is understandable but, sadly, some folk will have to die out before it is removed completely. Let's face it, still in some parts of North Wales the English immigrants are bitterly resented.
    I suppose there are two solutions really. We all ultimately learn to live together on the basis 'that the world is too small and too overcrowded to indulge our incapacity to cope with difference.' Alternatively we all stay where we started and thus avoid possible offence through difference but I rather think it is a bit too late for that.
    Incidentally, if you really want to see racism in its extreme ugliness go to Zimbabwe where any race, tribe or even political group is discriminated against by the ruling Shona ZANU/PF to the point of being virtually without rights, human or otherwise. My wife's family have lost a farm, two businesses and four homes between them with absolutely no recompense simply because of the colour of their skin.
    Sadly, there are many stories out there which damage the prospects for universal tolerance.


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