Darcus Howe, veteran civil rights activist and broadcaster, dies aged 74

Richard Cosgrove
Police clash with protesters during ‘die-in’ protest at London Westfield

The civil rights activist and broadcaster Darcus Howe has died at the age of 74, his biographer Robin Bunce has confirmed.

Howe's family confirmed that he died in his sleep. He had been ill for some time.

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In 2007, he announced that he had completed a course of treatment for prostate cancer.

Howe was born in Trinidad in 1943, to his vicar father and teacher mother. He came to the UK in 1961, intending to study law, but joined the British Black Panthers.

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His time with this group, which was not connected with the American civil rights organisation, started his 50-year career as an activist for black rights.

Howe first came to public attention in 1971, as part of the Mangrove Nine – a group who were arrested after 150 people marched on a Notting Hill police station, to protest the repeated raids of the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, west London.

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The Mangrove was a popular meeting place for the black community in the area. Howe described it as the "headquarters of radical chic". Over an 18-month period in 1969-1970 it was raided 12 times by the Metropolitan Police, which was searching for drugs. None of the raids found any evidence of drug use.

Six weeks after the protest, Howe and eight others were arrested for rioting, affray and assault. Howe was acquitted of all charges.

In his closing statement, the judge who heard the case said that it had "regrettably shown evidence of racial hatred on both sides": the first acknowledgement of institutional racism with the Met.

In 1981, Howe organised the 20,000-strong Black People's March, to protest the investigation into the New Cross Fire, in which 13 black teenagers died.

Howe's career as a broadcaster began the following year, on Channel 4's Black on Black. More recently, he fronted the Channel 4 documentary series White Tribe which examined the concept of "Englishness" in modern day Britain, and Son of Mine, which examine his relationship with his son, who was facing a rape accusation.

He also wrote for The Voice and New Statement, and continued to be an activist and commentator on civil rights in Britain late in his life.

Howe lived in Brixton, London for 30 years.

He was married three times and is survived by his seven children.

In a series of tweets, the BBC's Lukwesa Burak wrote Bunce, Howe's official biographer, said that, "I can confirm Darcus Howe died peacefully in his sleep yesterday. I received a phone call from his wife Leila Hassan, and she has permitted me to confirm Darcus' sad death".

Since the announcement, many have paid tribute to Howe on social media.

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