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Who was the ‘gay father of the Windrush generation’?

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The first National Windrush Day has come and gone. It was an observance torn between celebration of the postwar arrival of Britons from the Caribbean, and protestation of the unacceptable treatment being meted out to members of that group, and some of their descendants. All in all, it was a moment for critical reflection. However, an important name in this community’s history continues to go unspoken. Why is the question.

Meet Ivor Gustavas Cummings, OBE (1913-1992), the father of the Windrush generation. He was a “coloured queer”. That is the description used in his day for people like him, people of African descent who sought romantic and sexual partners from among their own sex. Cummings never hid who he was. He was open about being a black gay man, the modern terminology by which he would likely describe himself were he still alive today. He accepted the name “queer” long before the movement from the LGBT community to reclaim it emerged in the 1990s.

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Cummings was a senior official in the welfare department of the Colonial Office, a precursor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For most of his tenure, he was the only black member of that administration. Born in West Hartlepool, England, to a white English mother and Sierra Leonean father, he self-identified as black, and throughout his career from 1941 to 1958 chose to be in charge of British colonial subjects from Africa and the Caribbean. Even before the Windrush arrived, he was tirelessly active in aiding and advocating on behalf of African and Caribbean settlers, from British Honduran foresters in Scotland to West African dock workers in Liverpool to university students in London debating strategies for decolonisation back home.

When the Colonial........

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