On January 9th, 1945, Altheia Jones-LeCointe was born to parents Viola and Dunstan Jones in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Altheia was described as vibrant and exceptional as a young girl because she was intellectually gifted. Her college career started in the city of Barataria, where she attended St George’s College, and after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees she attended the University College London and earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1965. As a college student political activism became a part of Altheia’s life. After earning her Ph.D. she became a teacher and a member of the Universal Coloured People’s Association (UCPA), an organization where she was one of the main organizers helping to fight against racism against African and Asian people. In 1968, the Universal Coloured People’s Association was led by a Nigerian novelist, playwright, and political activist, Obi Egbuna, but he was arrested and imprisoned because of his political activism with the UCPA and the British Black Panthers. Altheia soon assumed leadership roles within the UCPA and the British Black Panthers. Her leadership helped to revive both organizations and the energy behind the political movements.
As a visible leader of the Black British movements against racism and oppression of African and Asian people, Altheia was able to increase the memberships of both the UCPA and the British Black Panthers through recruitment, as well as, building relationships with fellow anti-racism activists in London. Darcus Howe and Altheia’s husband Eddie LeCointe were two of the most notable names recruited to join the British Black Panthers. Altheia’s reputation as an incredible talent with intellectual gifts followed her even as an activist; she successfully used her intelligence to debate for the Black Panther Youth League, and she also taught classes to the youth about anti-colonialism. She was a fearless person and a talented public speaker. Her impact helped to make black women in London fighting against racism more visible. Altheia also made sure black women were not overlooked, suppressed, or victims of sexual abuse as a leader of the British Black Panthers; it is said that anyone who harbored sexist views did not last long within the organization.
Under the leadership of Altheia Jones-LeCointe, the British Black Panthers’ membership increased by more than three thousand people, they created the Freedom News newspaper and created community programs similar to the Black Panthers in the United State. Altheia was never officially declared the de-facto leader of the British Black Panthers, but her leadership skills prevailed and helped the organization thrive. The Mangrove Restaurant was very popular within London’s black population, it was owned by a man named Frank Crichlow, and became the main meeting place of black political activists. It also became targeted by the London police because they wanted black people to stay in their place and just accept racism as the norm. After being harassed by the police Altheia and other activists organized a protest against the constant police raids of the Mangrove in 1970. There were over one-hundred and fifty protestors being opposed by more than 200 police officers. The protest became violent due to the police antagonizing the protestors, which led to Altheia and eight other figures being arrested. The Mangrove Nine was the name of Altheia and her eight other comrades who were arrested protesting police harassment.
Darcus Howe and Altheia Jones-LeCointe were the only two of the Mangrove Nine to represent themselves in court, they were determined to stand up for themselves and expose the police as a group of thugs who only harassed black people. After a long and arduous trial, the Mangrove Nine all walked free from being convicted of any crimes; the police were exposed for targeting the Mangrove Nine because of their race. At the time, the trial of the Mangrove Nine was the longest trial in British history, and an important trial exposing the racist history of the British against black resistance. The events of the Mangrove Nine are depicted in documentaries and television series’ such as The Mangrove Nine, Sky Atlantic, Small Axe, and How the Mangrove Nine Won. Altheia Jones- LeCointe’s story is not a widely told story, in fact, in the television series Sky Atlantic, Altheia was not depicted at all. She was a black-Caribbean woman who was proud of who she was and where she was from, she was also a leader, warrior, and nurturer for her people. She directly challenged the London police and their constant harassment of her and her people and came out victorious. To Dr. Altheia Jones-LeCointe, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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