Former Windies great Sir Learie Constantine honoured
Late West Indies icon and race relations champion Sir Learie Constantine has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque at his old home in west London.
The cricketer and statesman, who lived between 1901 and 1971, had his life and legacy commemorated with the famous blue sign outside his former residence at 101 Lexham Gardens in Earls Court, which he called home for five years from 1949.
The Windies titan, who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago and authored the book Colour Bar, left sport for the world of politics and made history when he became the first person of African descent to sit in the House of Lords.
Blue Plaques historian Howard Spencer said: “As a cricketer Constantine was celebrated for his adventurous approach to the game which he played, according to Michael Parkinson, ‘like a man walking a tightrope without a safety net’.
As a politician, Constantine is remembered in Trinidad and Tobago for his significant role in securing its independence, and in Britain as a leading advocate for the interests of all black people; he was always ready to take a stand when it mattered.”
Constantine became a professional cricketer when offered a contract in 1929 and captained West Indies to its first Test series win against England in 1934.
He retired from cricket in 1939, finishing his career with Rochdale and in 1947 instead wrote Cricket in the Sun, a memoir illuminating the problems of racism in the game.
In 1954, he went further in Colour Bar which was a full-on challenge to authorities to change the status-quo of racial inequality in the UK, and re-trained to become a barrister in 1954 in England.
He then returned to his native Trinidad and Tobago where he entered politics and was named chairman of then new political party the People’s National Movement.
Further proof of his integration into British society was shown when he was appointed to the Sports Council in 1965, given a seat on the new Race Relations Board in 1967, and made a governor of the BBC in 1968.
A year later, Constantine was made a peer and given the title of Lord Constantine of Maraval and Nelson.
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