GLADSTONE DESLANDES worked for over 30 years at Raleigh in three different departments, including: the general machine shop, the plating shop (a job he detested because of the harmful chemicals he was exposed to) and finally, for the last eight years of his employment, he worked as a tool setter and operator cutting racing bike frames.
“My job involved dipping parts into a cyanide mixture. I had to wear a protective coat and gloves up to my elbows. It was the worst job on earth, a very ugly job.”Gladstone Deslandes
Published by When We Worked at Raleigh
The history of Black people working at Raleigh Industries in Nottingham is one which demonstrates the power of community activism. Raleigh, established in 1887, is one of the world's oldest and best-known bike brands. At its peak Raleigh produced 100,000 cycles, 250,000 hub gears, 15,000 motorcycles and 50,000 motorcycle gearboxes annually and despite the rising popularity of the car during the 1920s Raleigh become a world leader in bicycles, marketing its product to the Caribbean, Africa, and elsewhere.
Over time Raleigh would become one of the largest employers of Black people in Nottingham however this privilege would be one that the Black community would need to mobilise for politically. Oswald George Powe was one individual who challenged systemic racism in relation to employment.
Powe was a World War II radar operator and lifelong community activist, having founded a number of Black political organisations in the city. He arrived in the UK during the late 1940s and had a significant presence in Nottingham prior to taking up residence in the 1970s. While he advocated for Black people to work at Raleigh he never worked at Raleigh himself.
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