Citation Jenkinson J (2008) Black Sailors on Red Clydeside: Rioting, Reactionary Trade Unionism and Conflicting Notions of 'Britishness' Following the First World War. Twentieth Century British History, 19 (1), pp. 29-60. https://doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwm031
Abstract This article considers the outbreak of the seaport riot in Glasgow in January 1919 against the background of Red Clydeside trade union activity. The riot at Glasgow harbour was the first in a wave of rioting around Britain's ports in 1919. Violence was triggered by increased job competition in the merchant navy at the end of the war. Seamen’s unions' fuelled animosity between competing groups as they sought to protect white British access to jobs by imposing a 'colour' bar on sailors from racialised ethnic minorities. Many of the seamen targeted in this way were British colonial subjects from Africa and the Caribbean. Black colonial sailors in Glasgow resisted attacks by white rioters and asserted their rights to employment as British subjects. The riot was connected to wider industrial unrest on Clydeside as leaders of the union campaign for a reduced working week to maintain full employment following demobilisation, brought unskilled labour, including merchant seamen, into a general strike alongside skilled workers. Strike leaders, including Shinwell and Gallacher, linked the 40-hours movement to the seamen’s unions’ protests against overseas labour by stressing the common interests of both in preserving the job prospects of (white) labour. The campaigns proved unsuccessful in the face of government fears over the revolutionary potential of the general strike and as the merchant shipping industry slid in to depression.
Keywords black sailors; labour history; 1919 seaport; rioting; Red Clydeside; 1919 seaport riots; Sailors, Black Scotland; Blacks Employment Scotland History 20th century; Minorities Employment Scotland; Discrimination in employment Scotland; Labor unions Scotland History 20th century
Journal Twentieth Century British History: Volume 19, Issue 1