Civil rights campaigner and Bristol bus boycott organiser Roy Hackett has died aged 93

Roy Hackett looks at the bus that black people weren't allowed to drive

Civil rights campaigner Roy Hackett, who helped organise protests that paved the way for the first Race Relations Act in Britain, has died at the age of 93.

Mr Hackett, who was seen as one of the most important voices of the civil rights movement, was a leader of the Bristol bus boycott in 1963 – a campaign which aimed to end discrimination in employment.

The council-run Bristol Omnibus Company had refused to employ black people, claiming it was because white people would not want to use their service.

At that time there were no laws which could see employers prosecuted on racist grounds.

Along with other campaigners – Paul Stephenson, Guy Bailey and Owen Henry – Mr Hackett’s work leading the boycott saw the bus company change its policies four months later.

Protesters had marched through the city centre and Mr Hackett had stood in front of the buses to stop them moving – action which had gained national attention and which would change Britain.

It also led to the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968.

Jamaican-born, Mr Hackett had travelled to the UK at the age of 24 and was one of the founders of the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee, which set up Bristol’s St Paul’s Carnival in 1968.

He was appointed an OBE in 2009 and an MBE in 2020. He leaves behind three children.

Teacher and author Aisha Thomas paid tribute to Mr Hackett on Twitter, calling him an “absolute legend”.

Bristol Lord Mayor Paula O’Rourke tweeted it was “so very sad” to hear of Mr Hackett’s passing and her thoughts are with his “family and friends at this difficult time”.

Mr Hackett had previously recalled how he had stood up to the bus company.

Roy Hackett looks at the bus that black people weren't allowed to drive
Mr Hackett’s bus boycott changed the country

‘We blocked the bus station’

“I was coming from Broadmead, Bristol, and saw this Jamaican bloke crying. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’,” he said.

“He showed me the advert that the bus station put out for drivers, but when he went to apply for the job, he was told the job was gone, but it wasn’t.

“So I then went and spoke to the company and told them: ‘If he can’t be taught to drive the bus then the buses won’t be driven.’

“I then called my friend Owen Henry who lived in St Paul’s and I said, ‘get as many black men and women and come down here’, and he did.

“A great deal of black men had married white women. So, they brought their wife and their kids.

“The buses didn’t move in the roads because they saw that I did mean business. We blocked the bus station. I even stood in front of the buses.”

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