Hubert Baron Baker is credited for being the activist who discovered Brixton, a suburb where people of Caribbean origin easily found jobs and homes. He was often seen as a charismatic advocate who passionately fought against racism and social inequality faced by Black people living in Britain.
He was a key figure in the famous 1958 race riots in North Kensington leveraging his military experience to disarm white rioters and forcing them to retreat, as reported by writer Jamillah Harris. Baron Baker, as he was affectionately known, was born in Jamaica in 1925. He migrated to Britain at the age of 19 in 1944. He was passionate about joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a policeman though he had not met the appropriate age to enlist as a police officer.
Historical accounts say he felt a strong affiliation with Britain and considered her his motherland. According to Black History Month, he had to adjust his age upwards to 21 to qualify to join the RAF as a policeman. He wanted to be part of the officers enlisted to fight against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi system for the freedom of the masses. He found the Britons more accommodating of those who were fighting with them in the war.
Baron Baker’s account of his first experience of racism was when he visited a pub in Gloucester where American soldiers declined to drink alongside Black customers. This experience did not sit well with him and he reacted angrily because he saw himself as a British national. He had a deep-seated resentment against racism and fascism.
After the war ended, Baron Baker continued fighting against barriers that were in place that made it difficult for Black people to enjoy equal social and economic rights. He went on to establish the United Africa-Asia League to fight against racial discrimination and launch campaigns through speeches at Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner.
His disapproval of racism would push him to heckle Oswald Mosley as he preached fascism. Historical accounts about Baron Baker said he possibly joined the police service not only because of his dislike for Hitler but to fight against racism as well.
The World War veteran in 1948 challenged the British government’s move to repatriate Caribbean servicemen after the Second World War. The British government in 1948 sought to repatriate thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean in the Windrush era. Baron Baker petitioned the British government to provide shelter for these immigrants who faced racial discrimination at the Clapham South’s raid shelter on a temporary basis.
In opposition to the treatment meted out to the immigrants, Baker moved in to live with the hundreds of immigrants in the temporary shelter. Looking for a longer-term solution Baker and others sought to establish Black communities in London.
Baker lived the remainder of his life in Notting Hill where he died in 1996. His funeral was held in Kensal Green Cemetery where he was remembered as a respected and important member of the community.