Altheia Jones-LeCointe (born 1945) is a Trinidadian physician and research scientist also known for her role as a leader of the British Black Panther Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Jones-LeCointe came to public attention in 1970 as one of the nine protestors, known as the Mangrove Nine, arrested and tried on charges that included conspiracy to incite a riot, following a protest against police raids of The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill.
Early life and education
Whilst studying in London, Jones-LeCointe became involved in community organising against racism and for the rights of people of African and Asian heritage in the UK. She worked as a teacher and organiser in the Universal Coloured Peoples' Association (UCPA).
British Black Panther Movement
After the arrest and departure of Obi Egbuna in 1968, Jones-LeCointe became a central and leading figure of the British Black Panther Movement. She recruited a central core of activists into the movement, including Darcus Howe and Eddie LeCointe. Eddie LeCointe, her husband, was also a leading figure of the British Black Panther Movement.
Jones-LeCointe was a Panther teacher; she spoke at schools and taught classes in anti-colonialism. Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson joined the Black Panther Youth league after seeing Jones-LeCointe debate at his sixth-form. In an interview with The Guardian, Johnson describes Jones-LeCointe as "perhaps the most remarkable woman I've ever met".
She also played a key role in ensuring that defending black women and girls was at the core of the movement. This included building structures into the organisation to ensure that men suspected of the abuse or exploitation of women were interrogated and punished if found guilty. Mischer, et al. write: "Jones-LeCointe's authority, and her energetic pursuit of justice, unsettled Panthers who did not see anti-sexism as an intrinsic part of revolutionary praxis."
She is considered by academics and her contemporaries to be the leader of the British Black Panther Movement. The British Black Panthers' official photographer Neil Kenlock recalls, "Althea (sic) never called herself the leader, but she led us." In an interview with Jacobin, Jones-LeCointe says: "I don't know how I've suddenly become 'a leader,'" she recalls "we didn't recognize those categories . . . we believed in collective leadership."
The Mangrove Nine
Jones-LeCointe was one of the nine protesters arrested and tried in what has since been described as "Britain's most influential black power trial".
In 1969 and 1970, The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill became the target of repeated police raids. The police claimed the restaurant was a hub for criminal activity, despite a lack of evidence found. A march was organised by local Panthers and community leaders to demand police get their "hands off The Mangrove".
On Sunday 9 August 1970, an estimated 150 people took part in the protest. Jones-LeCointe and Howe addressed the demonstrators outside the restaurant. Jones-LeCointe spoke on community self-help and rights for British citizens.
The protesters were flanked and monitored by hundreds of police officers, with the estimated number of police officers ranging from 200 to 700. The heavy-handed policing led to clashes in the crowd.
During the march, Jones-LeCointe was coming to the aid of an injured woman when she was seized by three police constables and carried to a van.
Jones-LeCointe and Howe took the move of being their own defence and argued for an all-black jury. In Jones-LeCointe's closing speech, she referred to the police persecution of the black community in Notting Hill.
In December 1971, the jury found the defendants not guilty of the most serious charge of conspiracy to incite a riot. The jury asked for more lenient sentencing as Jones-LeCointe was pregnant. Jones-LeCointe and three others were convicted of assault. Judge Clarke suspended the sentences.
Depiction in the media
Jones-LeCointe appears in the documentary film The Mangrove Nine (1973).
In 2017, Jones-LeCointe's role in the British Black Panther Movement gained renewed interest following the release of Sky Atlantic drama miniseries Guerrilla, inspired by the emergence of British Black Power. The series was criticised for the casting of a lead character played by Indian actress Freida Pinto and the exclusion of major Black British female characters. Critics accused the show of erasing Black women from the history of the British Black Power movement.
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- "Altheia Jones-Lecointe". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
- Hawkins, Kayla. "'Guerrilla's Marcus Hill Has Ties To Real Activism". Bustle. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
- "Black Women Were Vital to the UK's Black Power Movement Even Though 'Guerrilla' Doesn't Show It - EBONY". www.ebony.com. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
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