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Notting Hill Carnival is London’s biggest street party, with costumed revellers and steel bands bringing the city to life in a colourful celebration of West Indian culture. In sharp contrast to its euphoric atmosphere, Carnival’s origins lie in race riots that saw the newly arrived immigrant population attacked by white nationalists.

The Notting Hill race riots

As Majbritt Morrison argued with her husband Raymond Morrison outside Latimer Road tube station on 29 August 1958, neither could have anticipated what would happen next. The mixed-race couple’s argument – Majbritt was Swedish and Raymond, Jamaican – became the catalyst for racially motivated attacks carried out by a white nationalists, particularly a subset youth movement called the Teddy Boys.

This subgroup had long been critical of West Indian immigration to the North Kensington area, especially when it came to interracial relationships. When Morrison rebuffed a group of Teddy Boys who later approached her, they resorted to flinging insults and objects at her, calling her a “black man’s trollop”.

The following night, Notting Hill erupted in violence as hundreds of young white men took to the streets, throwing home-made firebombs at the houses of black residents. As one resident described the experience to the BBC, “They’re marking the outside of the houses for the [Teddy] Boys to know where to bomb and where not to bomb.” The attacks continued until 5 September.

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