AFRICANGLOBE – In all Western European countries, from Norway to Italy you could find at least one Black face in parliament, and several people of non European descent representing their regions on different levels of government.
The more people of foreign origin in a country, the more they will be represented politically Therefore countries like France and the UK have the largest portion of Black politicians, up to ministries and chief secretaries. Women and men. In all other countries, except for the Netherlands, their representation is very small, but it is there and that’s what matters.
I think of the Secretary of State for Sports in France, Rama Yade or the chief Secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng in the UK. Both are part of a recent phenomenon but it is clear that many will follow in their footsteps. It is therefore no illusion that one day France could elect a Black president (the current one is half Hungarian, and has some Greek-Jewish ancestry on his mother side…) and England will have a Black prime minister. The colour of their skin doesn’t matter, in a true democratic system, the best candidate (whatever his origins) should eventually take office.
We shouldn’t forget either that the population of African ancestry in Western Europe is very small. In countries like France (without its Caribbean territories), the Netherlands and the UK they represent approx. 3% to 5% of the population (mixed race included). However, you’ll find high concentrations in the cities, predominantly in certain areas of London and Paris. But even then, rarely do Black people represent more than 50% of a municipality’s population.
In this context I did some research to the election of Black mayors throughout Europe. Although I can’t guarantee that I researched the topic thoroughly enough, I think I can give you an idea here. What is surprising is that the presence of a lot of Black people in a municipality doesn’t mean you have a greater chance to find a Black mayor. On the contrary, all Black mayors were elected in rather small towns, with very few Black people. They were elected not because of the colour of their skin, but because the people thought that she/he was the right person for that job. It all started in 1904 in Thetford, Norfolk.
The first in the UK
John Richard Archer is generally believed to be the first Black mayor in the UK, elected (nominated) in Battersea in 1913, a municipality in the London area. However it was found that Dr Allan Glaisyer Minns (1858-1930), elected Mayor of the town of Thetford, Norfolk in 1904, was the first Black man to become a mayor in Britain. He was a doctor, surgeon and politician. However, there is very little information about him. Much more is known about John Archer and therefore he is often mentioned as the first Black mayor of Britain.
John Archer was born in Liverpool in 1863. His father was from Barbados and worked as a ship’s steward. His mother was Irish. Nothing is known about Archer’s education but as a young man he travelled the world probably spending some time in the West Indies and North America. During this time he met and married Bertha Archer, a Black Canadian.
The first in France
In France we will have to wait until 1929 before the First Black mayor is elected. Raphaël Elizé was elected as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, a rural town in the department Pays de la Loire (central western France) of around 12.000 inhabitants. Raphaël Elizé was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1891. He graduated as veterinary from the university of Lyon, France and during World War I he served for the French army in Europe. After WWI he settles in Sablé and starts a political career with the Socialist Party. During World War II he was part of the Résistance. He was deported to Buchenwald and died there in 1945. Phillippe Bérenger, a French filmmaker, is working on a film about this man ‘Le Nègre de Sablé’.
Except for John Archer, Allan Minns and Rafaël Elizé I have no knowledge of other people of African descent who became mayors in Europe. In England and the UK there might have been other cases but I do not know of any and couldn’t find any.
However several Black political activist and politicians past and present have been active in the UK, at various levels of government. For a list check wikipedia’s Black British politician page.