The Bristol Bus Boycott : Race, Unions and Civil Rights

Event Details
Date: , 2023
Time: to
Location: Studio 1&2 Level 1
Venue: M Shed, BS1 4RN
Price: Free
With: Silu Pascoe
Series: Bristol Radical History Festival 2023
Page Details
Section: Events
Subjects: Race & Racism, Workers Organisations & Strikes
Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted: Modified:
1963 Bus Boycott Plaque

The 1963 bus boycott against the Bristol Omnibus Company (BOC) was the first black-led campaign against racial discrimination in post-WW2 Britain. In the early 1960s,the black citizens of Bristol were experiencing racial discrimination in housing, employment, education, and welfare organisations. The one area of discrimination that particularly rankled was the ‘colour bar’ on the buses.

A small group of local black activists decided to campaign for equal rights to employment on the city’s buses. Their chosen spokesman, Paul Stephenson, set up a test case to expose the bus company’s racist policy of banning the employment of ‘coloured labour’ in its bus crews. Inspired by the USA’s Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, Paul Stephenson announced in April 1963 a boycott of the company’s buses.

Significantly, the BOC’s response was to blame the local branch of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) for the ‘colour bar’ while simultaneously, the union branch blamed the bus company for this policy. Whilst it was usual in industrial disputes to find management and unions on opposite sides, in this case the campaigners found themselves challenging the institutional racism of both organisations. The talk will focus on the role of trade unions, especially the TGWU, in the bus boycott which was a watershed moment in the Black British Civil Rights Movement.


  1. This event looks super exciting and is timely. I ‘ve just come it and will try to rearrange my plans so that I can come down. Otherwise I just wanted to add that inspired by Rosa Parkes, on Aug 28th 1963, the Bristol Bus Boycott ended on the same day as Martin Luther King gave his I Have A Dream speech. Because of the courage and activism of the Bristol Bus Boycott it inspired the creation of the Race Relations Act of 1965.

    So, to mark the joint 60th anniversary of these pivotal moments in racial justice, #RaceForPower needs your help exploring whether King’s Dream still matters and how to make it a reality. And we also want your one big idea for transforming Bristol from the 7th worst UK city into the best UK city for people of colour to live in by 2030.

    To join the #RaceForPower movement, watch our video, follow the instructions and then connect with us to tell us what you think – and share it with your networks. Otherwise, check out our website

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