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 Trevor Carter

Trevor Clarence Carter was born on 9 October 1930 in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the eldest of Elene and Clarence Carter’s twelve children. Clarence, was a cabinet maker and Elene a housewife. 

 

Trevor Carter’s first job was in the building trade, following which he got a job as a mess boy on a merchant ship. He visited many places, including New Orleans then at the height of racial segregation in the USA. That experience was so awful that Carter vowed never to go and live in America.

 

In 1954, he was encouraged to take up a scholarship to go to England to study architecture as a student at Regent Street Polytechnic. He lived in the house of a Communist Party member, Billy Strachan (see separate entry) and himself joined the Young Communist League (YCL)

His cousin, Claudia Jones (see separate entry) arrived in Britain in November 1955, having been deported from the USA for her activities as a Communist. 

 

Carter married his wife, Corinne Skinner, a childhood friend, in December 1955.

In 1956, Carter was called up for National Service, which he really did not want to do. In desperation, he ran away to Moscow, returning to the UK only when Corinne had an accident while on a film set and was hospitalised. Somehow, it was all resolved and he and Corinne moved to Hampstead and Carter was given his old job as a glazier at Goldsmiths and later also working part-time in a Russian shop in Holborn.

 

Claudia and he, with Corrine and Pearl Connor and others, were involved in organising the first Caribbean Carnival in St Pancras Town Hall in 1958, in the aftermath of the Notting Hill riots of that year. 

 

In 1961, Corinne went to Yugoslavia to work as a dancer and later to Italy to act in the film ‘Cleopatra’. Carter combined work and political activism with fathering two small children.

 

In 1963, his friend Cheddi Jagan invited him to come and work in Guyana and thus it was that Carter worked alongside Jagan, during his term as chief minister of Guyana.  It had been the intention that Corinne and the children should join him.  However, that was not to be. The political situation in Guyana became very volatile and it was far too dangerous for the family to join him. Carter was detained for politically subversive activities and also found himself on the wrong side of the political divide in a country that even then was segregating along ethnic lines. He told a story of hiding in a manhole to avoid the police and military and all he had for company was some gigantic rats that posed more of a threat than the soldiers did.

 

During the three years he spent in Guyana, in addition to working for Jagan’s People’s Progressive Party, Carter taught at a school.

 

Carter returned to Britain in 1966. By day he attended Kilburn Polytechnic studying ‘A’ level Sociology, Economics and Physiology and by night he worked in the Telephone Exchange in Covent Garden. Following ‘A’ levels, he was encouraged to go and train as a teacher and in 1968 joined the Polytechnic of North London.

 

On graduation, he got a job straight away at Brooke House secondary school in Lower Clapton, Hackney, rising to the position of Head of the Social Studies department. 

 

A leading member of the Caribbean Teachers Association, he took part in Rampton Committee in 1982, which produced a hard hitting report on ‘West Indian Children in Our Schools’, charging that the schooling system was failing black children and that no monitoring was being done by ethnicity to assess the scale of the failure. 

 

Carter joined the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) as a Senior Education Liaison Officer, later becoming the Head of Equal Opportunities. 

 

A respected black rights activist for many years, he sat on the board for the Notting Hill Carnival Committee, and co-founded the Caribbean Teachers Organisation and the Black Theatre Co-operative amongst many others.

 

During the inner-Party struggles of the 1980s, he was a firm supporter of the revisionist wing of the Party.

 

In 1986, in collaboration with Jean Coussins, Carter wrote ‘Shattering Illusions – West Indians in British Politics’, a social and political commentary on the interface between Caribbean migrants and British society and politics from the Post War period up until the early 1980s

 

Carter was recommended to receive the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) from the Queen but declined on three counts: Britain no longer had an Empire, his work on the education of black children was not truly valued by the Prime Minister, and he was still a Communist.

 

The events in 1989-91 turned Carter’s political world upside down and, after the demise of the CPGB, he joined the Labour Party. Cuba remained for him a beacon and he had visited Cuba as part of a Communist Party delegation to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the Revolution and had previously met Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega.

 

In his last years he seemingly found a means to reconcile a passion for theology with the pride he still took in being a Communist.

 

Carter died aged 77 at his Archway home in 2008.

 

Source: Camden New Journal 6th March 2008; Eulogy by Professor Gus John,  a Founder Trustee of the George Padmore Institute