Anti-racism campaigner Darcus Howe dies aged 74

Civil rights activist who campaigned for more than 50 years has died at the age of 74.

Darcus Howe
Howe was a leading figure in the fight against institutional racism in the UK [File: Getty Images]

Darcus Howe, one of Britain’s most prominent anti-racism campaigners, has died in London aged 74.

An uncompromising champion of racial justice and fierce opponent of police brutality, Howe was born in British-ruled Trinidad in 1943 and moved to the UK in 1961.

He intended to study law at London’s Middle Temple, but abandoned his plans for activism, joining the Black Panthers – a movement inspired by the American group of the same name – after experiencing racist abuse and prejudice from white Britons towards the Afro-Caribbean community.

Howe would later begin a successful career in journalism, writing a regular column for the New Statesman magazine, but gained public attention in 1970 as a member of a group that marched on a west London police station to protest against repeated police raids on Mangrove, a popular Caribbean restaurant.

Howe and the eight others – known as the “Mangrove Nine” – endured a 55-day trial before finally being acquitted of the main charge: incitement to riot.

The trial managed to successfully highlight tensions between the black community and the British legal process, after Howe demanded an all-black jury. His request was rejected.

Howe would gain further prominence in 1981 when he led 20,000 people on a “Black People’s March” to protest against an investigation into the New Cross Fire, when 13 black teenagers were killed in a suspected arson attack.

READ MORE: Do black lives matter in the UK?

Weyman Bennett, the joint national convener for Stand Up Against Racism, told Al Jazeera that Howe’s actions shaped and defined the debate on how to stop and resist racism.

“Howe was one of the first people to empower young black people and oppose racism in the United Kingdom.

“He led the fight against the [far-right] National Front in the 1970s and 1980s, a forerunner to today’s organisations that are Islamophobic and fascist,” Bennett said.

“He was outspoken on Islamophobia, the government’s [anti-terror] Prevent programme, and how Muslims are being demonised by authorities.

“He was a living example to many people on why you should speak out when you see injustice, his fire to defeat such groups never died out. He was fearless.”

The fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011, which triggered riots in several poor neighbourhoods in London, further highlighted Howe’s powerful voice.

During a live interview with BBC News, which has since gone viral, presenter Fiona Armstrong asked a poorly phrased question which implied Howe was an apologist for the rioters. 

Howe challenged the interviewer, saying: ”Stop accusing me of being a rioter and have some respect for an old West Indian Negro. You sound idiotic – have some respect.”

The BBC later apologised for any offence caused.


Diane Abbott, a member of parliament with the opposition Labour Party and shadow home secretary, called Howe “a living embodiment of the struggle against police racism”.

Several politicians also took to social media to pay tribute to the veteran campaigner.

Source: Al Jazeera