To mark Windrush Day 2023, Professor Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, gives a brief overview of West Indian migration to Britain in the twentieth century.
Windrush Day on 22 June has been in place since 2018 to commemorate the arrival of the Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex on 22 June 1948. Onboard were perhaps 800 people who were migrating from the Caribbean to Britain, both for a new life and to fill urgent vacancies in employment. It was not the first time Caribbean people had come in large numbers to Britain – migration was sizeable in the eighteenth century and many Caribbean people came to Britain to serve in the armed forces during World War I and II. The arrival of the Windrush, however, heralded a new beginning in the long history of West Indian migration to Britain. Most of the Windrush migrants were Afro-Caribbean and working class. They found jobs in many areas of Britain but notably in the service sector and in transport and in health. They and the thousands of men, women and children who followed in their wake and came to Britain as migrants, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, made major contributions to British society through their employment, their membership in flourishing communities of West Indian heritage and in making Britain a notably more diverse and interesting country. The purpose of Windrush Day is to celebrate the contributions made to this country in so many areas by the Windrush generation, those who followed them and their families and descendants. It is especially important to do so given the ongoing ramifications of the Windrush scandal where many people of Caribbean descent, including some from the Windrush itself were wrongly deported from Britain despite being by any measure long-term British residents.
The Wilberforce Institute is proud to celebrate Windrush Day on 22 June 2023 and to highlight the many contributions made by the Windrush generation and other West Indian migrants to Britain over the years. The Wilberforce Institute has always had a close interest in exploring the history of the Caribbean and the links that have developed between the West Indies and Britain from the implementation of transatlantic slavery in the seventeenth century through to the present day. We are very pleased on this day of celebration to honour the Windrush generation and their achievements.