Plaque to remember rail guard who helped end racist recruitment policy

A plaque is being unveiled on Thursday to honour a railway worker who overturned a racist recruitment policy in the 1960s.

A ceremony will be held at Chatham station in Kent in memory of Asquith Xavier, who played a key role in ending the last vestiges of racist colour bars.

On August 15 1966, the colour bar at Euston station was defeated when Mr Xavier was allowed to start work after initially being refused a job.

British Railways had announced, after negotiations with local leaders of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), that no grade would in future be closed on racial grounds anywhere in the London division.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “Today we remember the brave actions of Asquith Xavier and those NUR officials such as Jimmy Prendergast who supported him in a campaign which eventually defeated the colour bar at Euston station.

“We owe so much to those who challenged racism on the railway in an era when it was all pervasive.

“The union remains eternally vigilant in the fight against racism and it is important we remember Asquith Xavier ‎and those trade unionists who blazed a trail for us over five decades ago.”

Mr Xavier‘s daughter Maria, who will speak at the unveiling in Chatham, where he lived, said: “This plaque has helped shed light on his achievements within British race relations and employment law.

“It recognises how my grandfather overcame adversity and prejudice in the campaign for racial equality in Britain in the 1960s and acknowledges his legacy as part of modern-day history.”

Mr Xavier, who died in 1980, was part of the Windrush generation, moving to England from Dominica after the Second World War.

He had started work for British Railways in 1956 as a porter, working his way up to rail guard at Marylebone station in London.

Following the closure of the Marylebone main line as part of the Beeching rail cuts, guards were no longer required and were being transferred to stations such as Euston.

Mr Xavier, an experienced guard, received a letter from management telling him that he had been rejected for a job at Euston.

Sid Greene, the general secretary of the NUR – now the RMT, contacted the British Rail Board about racist policies being practised in their name which he said had been a longstanding problem.

Union officials said colour bars were in place in several London stations, but the NUR campaigned to have them all lifted.

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Categories: Asquith Xavier, Chatham Station, Colour bar at Euston station, Kent, News, Racist recruitment policy