Black Radical Hero: Jayaben Desai

For Black History Month this October our Black Radicals Season will celebrate the lives of some of our 100 Radical Heroes, the men and women who believed in ideas worth fighting for.  They dared to challenge convention and believed in the spirit of fairness, co-operation and people power.  They were pioneers who changed history and made life better for ordinary working people. This series of blog posts will highlight their achievements.  We also invite you to nominate your own Black Radical Hero to add to our list.  Tweet us @PHMMcr using the hashtag #blackradicalhero.

Caitlin LaPorte continues with strike leader Jayaben Desai

NMLH.2001.12(low)Jayaben Desai was the leader behind the Grunwick Dispute that took place in London from 1976 to 1978. Originally from India, Desai had moved to Britain in 1967 with her husband and children. Desai was a low paid worker, first as a sewing machinist and then as a film processor at Grunwick Factory. Working conditions within the company were less than desirable, and eventually caused Desai to become the driving force behind a strike that consisted of mainly female employees of an ethnic minority.

The strikers were protesting pay inequality and the institutionalised racism that was experienced in the factory. There was also the hope of being recognised as a unionised workforce by the managers at the factory. Unfortunately, despite receiving a large amount of support, this did not happen and the strikers were not reinstated.

The Grunwick dispute did however, result in an increased respect for female, immigrant workers. This would not have been possible without the courageous and determined Desai as leader. Jayaben Desai inspired the actions that resulted in the largest support for fewer than 200 strikers in British labour movement history.

1992.791People’s History Museum is in possession of several items from during the time of the Grunwick Dispute. One particularly significant item is a poster that was hand printed for the Grunwick Strike Committee campaign. The poster is one of only two or three thousand made and features not only the faces of several of the strikers, but of Jayaben Desai as well.

Black Radicals Events

29 October 2015, Living History - No Bed of Roses @ People's History MuseumThurs 29 October
Living History performance: No Bed of Roses – From the Caribbean to Manchester
Meet Gabrielle and help with her life-changing decision to move from the Caribbean to Manchester in the 1950s.  To celebrate Black History Month.
Family Friendly activity, suitable for over 7s to adults
Booking required via Eventbrite
In order to keep our events programme affordable to everyone, please make a donation.  Suggested donation £3
1.15pm – 2.00pm

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