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On this date, the Registry observes the birth of David Pitt in 1913. He was a physician and one of the first Black politicians in Great Britain.
Born on the island of Hampstead in Grenada in the West Indies, David Pitt attended Grenada Boys' Secondary School and was raised a devout Roman Catholic. In 1932, he won Grenada's only overseas scholarship to attend the prestigious medical school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. After graduating with honors, he returned to the West Indies in 1938 and practiced medicine in St. Vincent and Trinidad. There he met and married Dorothy Alleyne; they had three children.
In 1943, Pitt helped found the West Indian National Party and served as its president until 1947. This party was considered radical in its day because it advocated independence for Trinidad within a West Indian federation. He won election to the borough council in San Fernando, Trinidad, where he also served as deputy mayor. In order to lobby the British government for independence, he traveled to Great Britain in 1947.
His efforts were unsuccessful, and he grew disillusioned with West Indian politics. He also participated in efforts around the Windrush years. Pitt then decided to settle in the London district of Euston, where he established a medical practice that he ran for more than 30 years. In the 1950s, Pitt was one of the few blacks active in defending the growing black population of Great Britain against discrimination and prejudice. In the 1960s and 1970s, he organized to help immigrants and improve race relations.
Pitt became the first and the only chair of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD), an association founded with the encouragement of Martin Luther King, Jr. Pitt believed in fighting racism within the existing power structure. In 1959, Pitt sought to represent London's wealthy Hampstead district in Parliament, becoming the first West Indian black to seek a seat in Parliament. After a campaign plagued by racist insinuations, Pitt lost the election. In 1961, however, Pitt won the election representing the ethnically mixed, working-class Hackney district in London's city government, the London County Council (LCC).
In 1964, the Greater London Council (GLC) absorbed this body. Pitt served as deputy chair of the GLC from 1969 to 1970 and in 1974 became the first black chair, a post he held until 1975.
Pitt paved the way for the multiracial politics for which the GLC became known. In 1970, Pitt ran for Parliament again, this time as a candidate in London's Clapham district, a secure Labor seat that many believed he would win. He lost by an unusually large margin; race undoubtedly played a large role in his defeat.
He was bitterly disappointed and did not attempt to run for Parliament again. In 1975, Prime Minister Harold Wilson appointed Pitt to the House of Lords as Lord Pitt of Hampstead. According to Pitt himself, however, his most valued honor was his election as president of the British Medical Association from 1985 to 1986, a position few general practitioners achieve.
At a time when prejudice and even violence against Blacks were common in Great Britain, David Thomas Pitt spoke out for the unrepresented black immigrant community. In his obituary for Pitt in the Guardian in 1994, black British journalist Mike Phillips wrote: "At that point, Dr. Pitt was the only Black person who figured in the public and political life of the country; and as such if only by default when he spoke, he spoke for us."
After his death, many lamented that Pitt "should have been the first Labor Member of Parliament." David Pitt died December 18, 1994, in London, England.
Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.