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Tribute to the Bristol Bus Boycott that beat racism

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 29, 2014

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It's hard to imagine that just over 50 years ago, members of the black and ethnic communities were not allowed to drive buses in a city as diverse as Bristol due to racist rules employed by a bus company.

But thanks to years of work from a group of West Indian campaigners in the city, that was finally changed in 1963 with the successful Bristol Bus Boycott.

The boycott was sparked when Guy Bailey, a Jamaican new to the UK, was openly refused a job by a manager at the Bristol Omnibus Company, because he was black.

Dr Paul Stephenson OBE led a boycott of the company which eventually led to them changing its racist policies on August 28, 1963.

And 51 years on, thanks to the work of Bristol Bus Boycott 50 – a group formed to mark the 50th anniversary – Paul Stephenson and Guy Bailey OBE joined fellow original campaigner Roy Hackett at Bristol Bus Station to unveil a plaque commemorating their achievement.

The plaque, designed by Bristol artist Mike Baker, is situated opposite bays 13 and 14, and features the faces of the three campaigners. Mayor George Ferguson opened the ceremony, saying he was proud to be the mayor of a city that was so key in the fight for equality.

He said: "In taking their courageous stand for equality, these individuals took serious personal risks at a difficult time when the majority view was still against them.

"Their victory against injustice undoubtedly contributed to a more enlightened city which welcomes diversity and has inspired others, in Bristol and elsewhere, to campaign for greater understanding and tolerance between those of all colours and cultures.

"We must face up to the problems of racism that still exist in some corners of the city."

Dr Stephenson, who unveiled the plaque along with wife Joyce, said: "I think this plaque will serve as a great reminder for people. It's a privilege to see my face on it.

"We have a moral duty to see that racism doesn't affect our community.

"We have the potential of making Bristol a city of opportunity and tolerance.

"As Martin Luther King once said, 'We face chaos or community; the choice is ours'."

The plaque was funded by First Bus and the University of Bristol.

Managing director of First UK Bus, Giles Fearnley, said: "It is right that the end of the Bristol Bus Boycott is marked in this way.

"Fifty years on and thankfully many things have changed, not least the fact that companies like our own now exist, offering equal opportunities for everyone."

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol said: "The University is pleased to take part in marking this important anniversary. Bristol has always been a city that does things its way – an independent thinking city – and the bus boycott is a great example of this and also of the city and the University's students working together for a common cause."

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