A boycott against the Bristol Omnibus Company in England was launched due to their racist employment policy.

Around 3,000 people of West Indian origin lived in the city of Bristol in 1963, predominantly around the St Pauls area. There was not yet any legislation against discriminating on racial grounds so it was common in both housing and employment, while so-called “coloureds” often suffered violence at the hands of gangs of white Teddy Boys.

In 1955, the same year as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama, the Transport and General Workers Union that represented bus drivers had reportedly passed a resolution that “coloured” workers should not be employed. The management of the Bristol Omnibus Company shared this attitude. Consequently, despite an acute labour shortage in the early 1960s, it was impossible to get a job on a bus crew unless you were white.

A group of West Indian men formed an action group to challenge the situation. In April 1963 the London-accented Paul Stephenson telephoned the bus company and set up an interview for Guy Bailey, a young man of West Indian heritage. He was turned away from the interview because he was black. At a press conference in his flat on 29 April, Stephenson called for people to boycott the bus company until the “colour bar” was abolished.

The boycott, which was supported by people across the city as well as the press, succeeded. On 28 August, the same day that Martin Luther King made his “I Have a Dream” speech, the company’s management announced the end of its discriminatory employment policy. The city’s first non-white bus conductor began work the following month.

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