Britain’s first black mayor – 1913

Britain’s first black mayor was elected as far back as 1913. This is a newspaper report of John Archer’s elevation to the office of mayor of Battersea.

John Archer (1863-1932) was the son of Richard Archer, a black ship’s steward from Barbados, and Mary Burns, from Ireland.

He came to London with his Canadian wife while in his early 20s and etablished himself as a photographer. Becoming involved in local politics, he stood as a Liberal candidate for Battersea Borough Council in 1906 and was elected.

In 1913, he made history by becoming Britain’s first black mayor. He remained active in politics, switching to the Labour Party and acting as agent for Shapurji Saklatvala, helping to get him elected as one of Britain’s first Communist MPs in North Battersea in 1922.

After the Labour Party expelled its Communist members, Archer remained the Labour agent, helping to win the seat again in 1929. At the time of his death he was deputy leader of Battersea Council.

This account is from the Daily Mail.

Election of the first black mayor, 10 November 1913




For the first time in the history of this country a man of colour has been elected mayor of a borough. The honour has fallen to Mr John Richard Archer, a photographer, of Battersea Park-road, who by thirty votes to twenty-nine was last night elected Mayor of Battersea by the Progressive Party. His opponent was Mr W G Moore, a West End tailor.

Mr Archer has hitherto kept secret the place of his birth. Last night, on donning his chain of office, he revealed the secret in a dramatic speech. He said:

“I am a man of colour. Many things have been said about me which are absolutely untrue. I think you ought to show the same respect for me as you would a white man. I am the son of a man who was born in the West Indies . I was born in a little, obscure village in England that you may never have heard of – Liverpool . I am a Lancastrian born and bred.


“My mother [here Mr Archer spoke with great emotion] was just my mother. She was not born in Burma , as some newspapers stated. She was not born at Rangoon . My mother was Irish.”

Quoting “East is East, and West is West” and never the twain shall meet,” Mr Archer said: “There is a still older phrase than this, ‘God hath made of one blood all nations of the earth to dwell.’ Surely it is just that if a man is born under the British flag he should have the same rights as a white man.

“The colour of my skin can never affect the heart. My election means a new era in history. The news will go forth to all the coloured nations of the world.”

Mr Archer was elected an hour after the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall, to which the new mayor was invited, had begun. Neither he nor his wife attended the banquet.

Source: Daily Mail, 11 November 1913.