Against a background of factional squabbling, John Archer's progress
in the political hierarchy was predictably chequered. In the November
1909 Council Elections the left-wing Alliance was voted out and
John was one of the Progressives who failed to be re-elected. This
was such a shock that the factions dropped their differences. The
Progressive Alliance was reformed, re-gaining control in 1912 only
by two votes. John was re-elected for Latchmere Ward, and the group
elected him as Mayor for the period November 1913 to November 1914.
John Archer was not the first black mayor in Britain. That honour
went to Allen Glaser Minns, a Bahamian doctor elected in Thetford,
Norfolk in 1904. He was, however, the first to be elected in London,
and the first to attract so much attention. "A thrill to novelty-loving
London", the South Western Star commented, but Archer
refused to allow his photograph to be taken without his consent.
Some newspapers retaliated by finding old photos and reproducing
them. The South Western Star reported that "No one in
Battersea would recognise the Mayor Designate from some of these
The Daily Telegraph said that he was born in Rangoon,
Burmese by birth. "His features and colouring are eloquent of his
origin, but his conversation shows no trace of accent, and he is
a man of good education." The News Chronicle reported
that Archer had "the bronzed skin and black hair of a Hindu or Parsee
- he laughingly declines to say to what race he belongs, but one
might place his forebears among the lighter people of India - and
his well-dressed, well-groomed appearance is that of a busy and
prosperous business man". In the end, Archer began his acceptance
speech by pointing out that he was born in Liverpool .
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
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