Amazing life of the first Black mayor of London

Black and white picture of a black man with a moustache
Black and white picture of a black man with a moustache
John Archer fought racial injustice, changed the national curriculum and also found time to become an award-winning photographer.

If you live in the Battersea area – or you know a thing or two about London history – you may well have heard of John Archer.

He was the former Mayor of Battersea and the first Black person to hold a senior public office in London.

But his achievements did stop at that. Over the course of his lifetime John fought hard against racial injustice, changed the national curriculum and even had time to become an award-winning photographer.

He lived at 55 Brynmaer Road in Battersea for almost 20 years, including the period of his most significant political achievements.

There is now a blue plaque on his former home which commemorates his services to politics and fight for racial and social justice.

His being voted in as mayor for Battersea in 1913 was a huge step for people of colour within London politics and across the country.

There were negative and racist aspects to the campaign, with allegations that he did not have British nationality.

He won by 40 votes to 39 among his fellow councillors, and gave a notable victory speech

The inspirational Mayor, speaking to the people of Battersea after being voted in, said: “They will look at Battersea, and say, ‘It is the greatest thing you have done.

“You have shown you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done’.

The progressive view of Battersea’s voters meant Archer was able to pioneer massive steps for minorities through his role in politics.

In 1918 he became the first president of the African Progress Union, working for “advanced African ideas in liberal education”.

Just last year, George Flyod’s murder in America caused protest groups to look at British education and try and decolonise it.

Decolonising the curriculum is about being more accurate, more inclusive, and more interculturally responsive.

It is not about forcing one ideological perspective on students, it’s about telling both sides of the story.

Ahead of his time, Archer already had the idea of educating about oppression and pushed this in his politics.

Despite Archer’s hard work, it is clear more needs to be done to change the education system to recognise the British empire’s oppressive nature and racist crimes.

John Archer left a legacy of ideas behind him..

He was commemorated for his impact on politics in 2004, when he was chosen for one of the ‘100 Great Black Britons’.

In April 2013 Archer was honoured by Royal Mail in the UK as one of six people selected for the “Great Britons” commemorative postage stamp issue.

In March 2018 Archer was honoured by Ark Academy Network renaming High View Primary school in Battersea to Ark John Archer Academy.

The famous politician’s name and ideas long outlasted his life.

An inspirational pioneer of equality and racial justice, Archer’s work not only benefited many people during his lifetime but continued to do so for generations.