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John Richard Archer

(1863—1932) local politician and Pan-Africanist


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(1863–1932). Pan-Africanist and the first black person to hold civic office in Britain. He was born in Liverpool, the son of a Barbadian, Richard Archer, and an Irishwoman, Mary Theresa Burns, but little is known of his early life, though he is believed to have lived in North America and the West Indies. Around 1898 he and his African-Canadian wife, Bertha, moved to Battersea, south London, where Archer established a photographic studio. His concern to eradicate social and racial injustices led to a lifelong career in local government and national and global politics. In 1906 he was elected as a Progressive (Liberal) councillor for the Latchmere ward, and in 1913 Archer became Mayor of Battersea, Britain's first black mayor. His interest in colonial politics led to his involvement in Pan-Africanism. In 1900 he joined the Pan-African Association, and he was a significant presence at the first Pan-African Congress (Paris, 1919). He chaired a session on colonial freedom at the second Pan-African Congress (London, 1921), where he introduced the Indian Shapurji Saklatvala, a member of both the Labour and the Communist parties in Great Britain. He served as president of the African Progress Union (1918–21) and worked with many leading Pan-Africanists of the day. In 1925 Archer was elected an alderman, and at the time of his death in 1932 he was serving as Deputy Leader of Battersea Council. He had an extraordinary record of service to local and national politics and to black people worldwide.

From The Oxford Companion to Black British History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.


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