Britain: London May Day: remember Black trade unionist William Davidson

William DavidsonMAY DAY, Monday 1 May 2006

All Working People’s Demonstration

1781 – 1820

Black African (born in Jamaica) freedom fighter and labour movement activist, member of the Shoe Makers’ Union

Hero of the Cato Street Resistance to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre

Hanged in London by the English Crown Court, I May 1820

Join the African May Day Movement at the May Day 2006 demonstration

12pm, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1
Farringdon tube


Who was William Davidson?

William Davidson, an African from Jamaica, was one of the first trade unionists in Britain.

In August 1819, in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, 1,500 British soldiers attacked a peaceful demonstration of 80,000 people protesting against laws which made food so expensive people were starving.

The soldiers killed 11 people and injured over 400, including many women and children.

Disgusted by the Peterloo Massacre, William Davidson became a leading member of a group in London which demanded the nationalisation of land, and also organised food uprisings.

They planned to overthrow the British government.

However, a Home Office spy infiltrated their group. Five of them were arrested in a flat in Cato Street near Edgware Road in London in February 1820.

William Davidson was hanged in public on 1 May, May Day, 1820.

What has the May Day march got to do with Africans?

May Day, Labour Day, is celebrated as working people’s day in Britain.

It has been won as a public holiday.

It recognises the importance of workers, the people whose labour produces all the goods and services we use, buy and sell: for example, nursing, working on farms, factory work, housework, extracting minerals from the earth, office work, office cleaning, teaching.

African and black workers deserve Labour Day more than any other workers.

The system that William Davidson resisted and we today resist was built on Africans’ backs.

The enslavement of Africans, beginning in the 1400s, enabled European businessmen to grow enormously wealthy and to pay for the development of the technology which characterises capitalism.

Capitalism took off in the 18th century, in William Davidson’s time.

Why an African May Day Movement?

Trade unionists and political activists in Africa and the Caribbean led the fight against colonial occupation, and continue to fight against Africans’ new enemies.

The Union of the Peoples of Cameroun, for example, was founded by a trade unionist in 1948.

Today the IMF and World Bank and the multinationals they assist are the new colonial masters.

They come disguised as aid donors, loan dispensers and foreign investors.

Labour movement activists in Africa are persecuted by African governments, who do what the IMF and World Bank tell them and take backhanders at the same time.

African World struggles are part of the global movement against criminal neo-liberal policies.

These struggles must be seen, heard, and, crucially, understood, if they are to gain solidarity from non-African workers.

African workers continue to fight against slavery

William Davidson and his comrades fought against the slave-like conditions people in Britain worked in. May Day celebrates the achievement of the 8 hour working day, which took at least 150 years to win, from William Davidson‘s time till the late 1900s.

But Africans’ experience of slavery and forced migration to the west has not stopped. In the west they earn enough money to survive and to create about one third of Africa’s income with the wages they send back home.

They leave their homes in Africa because of political repression, wars and poverty.

The millions who stay behind have to be kept going, when African governments have failed to do so.

Many Africans in Britain work in near slave conditions, and with the immigration authorities constantly threatening.

They do two, three or four jobs at once, in the lowest paid and most unregulated sector.

Trade unions in these sectors are rare. But, like William Davidson, African workers continue to fight for their rights.

African Liberation Support Campaign Network
07984 405 307

May Day this year in the USA: here.

6 thoughts on “Britain: London May Day: remember Black trade unionist William Davidson

  1. Hello Kitty. I’m sorry about what happened to you at modblogs. I attempted to post a comment here a minute ago, but it seems to have disappeared. You should consider coming to Cheblogs. All volunteer. A small group of bloggers. Labor and progressive people from the US and Canada. The webmaster is a real person who will respond personally to any problems you are having with your blog.


  2. Hi Jon, your comments did not disappear.

    I think it is just Blogsome anti spam rule that if you comment for the first time, the blog owner has to approve comments.

    I hope the next time your comments will appear without needing approval (but do not know for 100% sure).

    Thanks for your kind Cheblogs offer. However, I unfortunately cannot accept it, as here at Blogsome I have at lesst an archive, though smaller than at ModBlog. And here I know how Blogsome works technically, and I would have to learn all over again at Cheblogs. So, certainly see you again!


  3. By the way. This is a great post. I had forgotten “The Mask of Anarchy”. What a great poem. When I was young, I worked with some old timers who had been at the Memorial Day Massacre at Republic steel in Chicago. A friend’s uncle was shot by a Chicago cop that day. Later today I’m going to post something about the Peterloo and Memorial Day Massacres and The newly created American labor holiday of Worker’s Memorial Day, which is today. I’ll be sure and provide a link to Mask of Anarchy and I’ll make it a point to give you credit. Thanks again for this post.


  4. Black struggle for justice

    May 1, 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Rob Riley, one of Aboriginal Australia’s most dynamic and courageous leaders.

    Aboriginal Studies Press have produced a new book called Rob Riley, An Aboriginal Leader’s Quest for Justice, by Quentin Beresford. Robert Manne says of the book “I cannot think of a finer introduction to Aboriginal politics in the contemporary era. I urge all Australian citizens who care about reconciliation to read it.” Copies are available from: .

    From Green Left Weekly, May 3, 2006


  5. Pingback: London library about working class history | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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