Little Known Black History Fact: John Archer

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John Archer was the first black mayor in London. His likeness will now be captured on the Royal Mail’s Great Britons stamp collection. The British stamp collection will celebrate individuals across sport, journalism, music, politics and the arts, with birthdays in 2013. Archer was the first person of African descent to hold civic office in London and to serve as an international representative.

Born in Liverpool in 1863, Archer started his career as a traveling seaman and lived in both the United States and Canada. When he returned to England with his wife Bertha, Archer took up photography. It wasn’t long before he became an activist in politics. In 1906, Archer was elected Liberal to Battersea Borough Council for Latchmere ward.  He won over the Battersea liberals and campaigned for mayor for 32 shillings a week (minimum wage).

Archer won the election and was voted Mayor of Battersea in 1913. The vote was 40 to 39.

Though he campaigned for re-election, Archer was not voted in, but instead became President of the African Progress Union in 1918. His efforts spread to Paris where he served as a delegate for the Pan-African Congress, then again in London.

In the mid 1920’s, Archer connected with activists from the Communist Party. He was soon elected one of the first black Members of Parliament in Britain, North Battersea.

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