Douglas John

John Douglas

John Douglas was a Leeds Communist Party member in the early 1930s. Also known as ‘Black Douggie’, according to Ernie Benson, he was one of the first black, or Afro-Caribbean, members of the Communist Party in Leeds. Benson states he was actually the “second” to join and he could only think of two other people of colour in the whole of Hunslet and they were both employed in the steelworks.
Benson described Douglas as good looking, 6ft tall, with an athletic build, well spoken (a deep bass voice), well dressed and a popular public speaker with an infectious laugh.  John Douglas earned a “good living” selling ‘toothpaste or snake oils’ at markets throughout the West Riding. Douglas, according to Benson, had “a very convincing line of patter into which he would weave ideas of socialism when selling his wares”. Benson believed he may have come from a privileged background, given his excellent speaking voice.
Another black Communist Party member in Leeds was “an Indian comrade, a parsee, who travelled around the world as a merchant seaman and stayed in Leeds for several years.
Source: Ernie Benson “Starve or rebel”
Michael Walker

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