Car Repair Shop, Acklam Road (Westbourne Green), 1969
Charlie Phillips. ID no. 40097
The borough of North Kensington, where Phillips spent much of his youth, had high rates of poverty, crime and violence in the 1950s. People had been attracted from the West Indies by the promise of good jobs and homes, but the post-war period saw London plunged into a housing and employment crisis. Large numbers of African-Caribbean Londoners struggled to make a living and were forced to live in crammed, slum-like conditions. This situation was made worse by structural racism: British society upheld an unofficial ‘Colour Bar’, a systematic exclusion of black people from certain public and private spaces.
Despite the fact that those who had arrived from the colonies had British passports and enjoyed the same legal rights as their white counterparts, black British citizens faced everyday racism, social injustices and widespread patterns of discrimination.
In the summer of 1958 racial tensions came to a head in Notting Hill, when a series of violent attacks escalated into ferocious ‘race riots’, as the press called them at the time, that lasted over five days and nights. Hundreds rallied around the racist slogan ‘Keep Britain White’, brutally attacking members of the black community. This incited a series of further counter-attacks. This upheaval formed a turning point in British history and sparked an ongoing debate over racial discrimination and inequality.