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100-YEARS-AGO: THE "BLACK PERIL" IN SALFORD AS MAN STABBED BY FOREIGN SEAMAN

History With Flynn

I should imagine that, the above headline has caught your attention, it did mine when I first read it, because it comes from the pages of the Salford City Reporter, February 1920 and is a shocking example of the casual racism that was bandied  about in the press those days.

The story was about a man who got stabbed by a black seaman on Broadway, just off Trafford Road, following an altercation it also carried the strapline, "Nigger Stated To Have Cut Three Men"

I make no excuse for using those words, I am hoping to show how black people were perceived at the time and the use of the N word was prevalent, sadly.

Archie Samuel Gittens 27, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with maliciously wounding Joseph Dewhurst who lived at Bemsley Street, Salford.

Astonishingly he was described as being, "A frizzy haired, lynx-eyed nigger" that description is beyond belief.

Inspector Clarke told the packed court that at 11.30pm the previous Thursday evening, Dewhurst and a couple of his friends were walking along Trafford Road and had reached the corner of Tatton Street when two coloured seaman rushed up to them and without provocation, one stabbed him in the face, and then ran away.

Despite bleeding heavily he ran after his assailant but when he caught up with him, he was stabbed again this time in the arm, the blow caused him to fall to the floor.

His friends called for an ambulance and he was taken to Salford Royal Hospital were Dr Ellis inserted 13 stitches to his wounds, none of which were life threatening.

The next day Detective Sergeants Norman and Coates were assigned the case and were soon guided to a Spanish merchant ship, berthed at Salford Docks.

They boarded the boat and questioned Gittens about the stabbing, and he was quite open and frank to to them, he is alleged to have said,

"I will tell you about the fight, I went into a chip-potato shop on Trafford Road for some food, a mob in there demanded that I buy them all food.

"I told them that I would not do so and walked out, straight into another mob of men who called me names and shouted at me and my friend.

"I did cut the man and I cut three more more, I ran off down Broadway and threw the knife away"

He was arrested and taken to to the Trafford Road police station and charged with the offence mentioned.

Back in court Inspector Clarke added that police enquiries had failed to find the three other men that Gittens had alleged to have cut and no complaints had been received by the police.

The Stipendary Magistrate having weighed up the evidence told Gittens that only cowards fight with knives and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with hard labour.

Obviously Gittens got the punishment he deserved but I can't help wondering if the press han't made things worse with such inflammatory statements and I am certain they would not have helped race relations in Salford which was developing foreign communities including Black, Maltese, Chinese etc mainly seaman from the docks who had decided to stay in Salford and make a new life here.

Happily I have seen very few stories that are directly related to race hate in Salford and lets keep it that way.




Tony Flynn



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