Bristol Bus Boycott hero Roy Hackett dies aged 93

Bristol Bus Boycott hero Roy Hackett dies aged 93: Tributes to civil rights campaigner who stood in front of a bus and overturned ban on employing black and Asian workers

  • Mr Hackett was one of leaders of the Bristol Bus Boycott that happened in 1963 
  • Boycott set up after Bristol Omnibus Company banned black and Asian drivers
  • Mr Hackett led boycott alongside Paul Stephenson, Owen Henry and Guy Bailey 

Tributes have been paid today to civil rights campaigner Roy Hackett, who has died at the age of 93.  

Mr Hackett, who was born in Jamaica and travelled to the UK at the age of 24, was one of the leaders of the Bristol Bus Boycott in 1963 – the first campaign of its kind aimed at ending discrimination in employment. 

The boycott began after the Bristol Omnibus Company put a ban on employing black and Asian drivers and conductors. 

Mr Hackett began his impassioned campaign after he saw a man crying, because the firm refused to give him a job, simply because he was black.

Inspired by Rosa Parks, he marched into the office and demanded the company overturn its policy. 

The dogged campaigner later rallied protestors who marched along the streets of the city centre and stood in front of buses to stop them from moving.

The father-of-three once said: ‘I lived in many places before I came to Bristol, and I never had racism as tough as back then.’

Mr Hackett (pictured) was one of the leaders of the Bristol Bus Boycott in 1963 – the first campaign of its kind aimed at ending discrimination in employment

The boycott (pictured) was set up after Bristol Omnibus Company put a ban on employing black and Asian drivers and conductors

Mr Hackett led the boycott alongside Paul Stephenson, Owen Henry and Guy Bailey in 1963 – when it was legal for British companies to discriminate in the hiring process over skin colour. Audley Evans, Paul Stephenson and Owen Henry, pictured in front of a 1960s Bristol bus

Mr Hackett, who was appointed an OBE in 2009 and an MBE in 2020, was the co-founder of the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee which set up the St Paul’s Carnival in 1968.  

Deputy mayor of Bristol, Asher Craig, said: ‘The transition of Mr Hackett has hit many of us really hard.

‘A humble, principled, freedom fighter – Bristol Bus Boycott, St Paul’s Carnival, Bristol West Indian Parents & Friends Association, Bristol Race Equality Council – his legacy will live on.’

Mr Hackett led the boycott alongside Paul Stephenson, Owen Henry and Guy Bailey in 1963 – when it was legal for British companies to discriminate in the hiring process over skin colour. 

He got the 3000-strong Caribbean community to join in the boycott, partly inspired by Rosa Parks in the US, who in 1955 refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. 

Protestors marched in the streets of the city centre and stood in front of buses to stop them from moving.  

The company then changed its policies and the boycott paved the way for the Race Relations Act of 1965. 

Mr Hackett said it took months of disruption but on August 28, the day Martin Luther King Jr gave his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in Washington DC, the union caved to the boycotters’ demands.  

Mr Hackett, who was born in Jamaica, travelled to the UK at the age of 24. He also led the West Indian Parents’ and Friends’ Association. The group challenged Bristol council, pressuring it to act on housing and employment

He also led the West Indian Parents’ and Friends’ Association. The group challenged Bristol council, pressuring it to act on housing and employment. But its most important campaign was the bus boycott.

Mr Hackett has said he was ‘born an activist’ and saw it as his duty to challenge racism whenever he saw it, according to Urban Kapital.  

Bristol Lord Mayor, Paula O’Rourke, also paid tribute, saying: ‘So very sad to hear Bristol civil rights legend Roy Hackett, organiser of the Bristol bus boycott 1963 and founder of St Pauls Carnival has passed away. My thoughts are with Roy’s family and friends at this difficult time.’

George Ferguson, former Mayor of Bristol, also reached out on Twitter.

In a previous interview with BBC Ideas, Mr Hackett said: ‘It [Bristol] was hard for us to find a place to live, it was hard for a black man to find a job.’

‘I walked down Ashley Road looking for housing and found one house which didn’t have a card on it to one that said ‘no gypsies, no dogs, no Irish and no coloureds’.

‘The lady opened the door, saw me, and without saying a word, just slammed the door. It was a struggle, people were blatantly racist.’

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

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

In a previous interview with BBC Ideas, Mr Hackett said: ‘It [Bristol] was hard for us to find a place to live, it was hard for a black man to find a job’

‘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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