Claudia Vera Cumberbatch (1915-1964)


“people without a voice were as lambs to the slaughter”

claudia jones
She was born in Belmont, Port Spain,Trinidad. She stayed there till she was 8 then her parents decided to relocate to Harlem, NewYork. There she spent a bulk of her years -30- achieving black excellence. She was a member of the Young Communist League.
(YCL) at age 18. Not long after; she became an active member of the American Communist Party. There,was she able to utilize her leadership & journalistic abilities.

In 1948 she was appointed the position; editor-of-Negro affairs in the Daily Worker -the party’s news outlet. This was also the 1st year she was arrested. She adapted the alias ‘Claudia Jones’ for  what she called “Self-protective disinformation”. Eventually she earned the respect of her peers, becoming a prominent speaker & leader in human rights activism; particularly civil & women’s rights..
In 1951 Jones was arrested yet again. This time under the Smith Act; for charges of conspiracy to overthrow the American government. Randomly OR coincidentally similar charges like these were conveniently brought up on other Negro -foreign born- Americans whom the state deemed “radical” i.e; Paul Robeson.
In 1953 despite her -& her colleagues- efforts to get the word out on -what appeared to be- a targeted injustice, Claudia Jones was found guilty. Sentenced to 1 year & a day in jail with a $2000 fine. She was later released on the month of October; in 1955.

The initial plan was to appeal the unjust verdict. However, Claudia’s health was already comprised from contracting tuberculosis at a young age; this ordeal even stunted Jones from being able to pursue an academic career; obtaining only a High school diploma. Now, already having heart failures at age 38, Jones agreed to voluntarily leave the US on the 9th of December, 1955. & England offered to have her.
Claudia Jones insisted she was exiled from the United States.
Due to her strong identification with the oppressed black Americans, & her West Indian heritage, she was an “undesirable” citizen; therefore easily a deportable subject.
Don’t EVER for once though, think any of this broke Claudia Cumberbatch’s spirit. She went to England to achieve even more black excellence.

Cumberbatch kept in touch with her US private correspondents. Upon arriving to Britain she was shocked by the racial divide in the British Communist circles, so in 1958, on 250 Brixton Road in Brixton, The West Indian Gazette was born. Britain’s first major black News outlet. An anti-imperialist & anti-racist publication, set to provide Caribbean people within Britain with the voice they needed to seek liberation. 4 months after the paper’s 1st issue; violent protests ensued between racists & the black Notting Hill community.

As a woman with Intellect; Cumberbatch decided that a carnival for the West Indian community serving to empower & celebrate the vibrant Caribbean culture would be a distracting cathartic solution. This thought process developed into what we now know as the Notting Hill Carnival. In January 1959 BBC broadcasted the first ever celebration & it was subtitled
‘A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom’.
On the 24th of December 1964; Claudia Cumberbatch passed away. Her legacy remains.
Fun Fact: She is buried in Highgate Cemetery next to the german philosopher; Karl Marx.


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