8 Remarkable Vintage Images Of Black Londoners

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 20 months ago
8 Remarkable Vintage Images Of Black Londoners
Men in hats enjoy a drink in the bar
Raising glasses in a Soho pub, 24 November 1933. Credit: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In July 2022, Getty Images revealed its Black History & Culture Collection — a remarkable archive of almost 30,000 rarely-seen images of of the African/Black Diaspora in the US and UK.

1 July 1948: Charles Stimson (foreground) and Charles Baker writing home to Kingston, Jamaica from a converted air-raid shelter on Clapham Common. It was being used as temporary reception centre for immigrants arriving in London to help out with the labour shortage. Credit: Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images

Among the collection are some absolute gems depicting the lives of Black Londoners through the decades, underscoring the trials, tribulations and joys of life in the capital.

Men stand up and celebrate by cheering and drinking beer
Excited cricket fans cheering at the Oval during the Fifth Test of West Indies vs England match, 12 August 1976. Credit: Angela Deane-Drummond/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In an image from 1948,  a smartly-dressed man pens a letter home, from his temporary lodgings in a deep level shelter in Clapham — one of the original Windrushers who ventured to British shores in search of prosperity.

A woman sits in a cluttered bedsit, staring forlornly at the camera
The interior of a slum in Colville Gardens, Notting Hill, 1967. Credit: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sometimes, that joy is found — such as in the marvellous capture of cricket fans knocking back tinnies and blowing celebratory horns at an Oval test.

A man walks past a wall with 'no colour bar here yet' written on it
Notting Hill, 1959. Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

But the hardships of life for Black people in London are also laid bare: a middle aged woman in a cluttered Notting Hill bedsit stares forlornly at the camera, head rested on fist; while a young man walks past graffiti that optimistically — and somewhat sarcastically — announces there is no colour bar (in which white and black people were afforded different rights and facilities) YET.

A cleaner passes a vacuum to another, both employees of British Rail, to clean the carriages' interiors at the Willesden Depot, 1955. Credit: John Pratt/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What's clear in almost all of these images is that the people in them make London the place it is; from 'Norwell Gumbs' — London's first black police officer — directing taxi cabs and double deckers outside Charing Cross station, to the dungaree-wearing woman vacuuming out train carriages in Willesden Depot.

Perhaps no photo gives a greater sense of this than the man working on the construction of the Fleet (later Jubilee) line — one of the very arteries that keeps London pulsing.

London's first black police officer, Police Constable Norwell Roberts aka Norwell Gumbs, on point duty near Charing Cross station, 8 August 1968. Credit: Peter King/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Black History & Culture Collection, says its creators, allows us to see a broader history of Black people. Putting its money where its mouth is, Getty Images has said that images from the collection are free for educators, researchers and content creators to use.

You can browse the collection and request access to photos on Getty Image's website.

A section of the Fleet line (later the Jubilee line) of the London Underground being built between Baker Street and Charing Cross, 31 December 1973. Credit: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Last Updated 03 August 2022

Continued below.