Archer's mixed response - of elation mixed with irritation at the attentions of the press, was a reflection of his new dilemma. On the one hand he was a black man, catapulted into a leading role in the politics of race and Empire. On the other hand, he was a local politician whose life was centred on the Town Hall, his photography shop, his domestic responsibilities and his evenings at the Bath Swimming Club. In his acceptance speech, however, he responded valiantly to his role as an icon -
"It is a victory such as has never been gained before", he declaimed. "I am a man of colour. I am proud to be. I would not change my colour if I could. . my election to-night marks a new era. You have made history tonight. For the first time in the history of the English nation, a man of colour has been elected as mayor of an English borough. That news will go forth to all the coloured nations of the world and they will look at Battersea, and say it is the greatest thing you have done. You have shown that you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done."
During his term as Mayor, Archer increasingly threw himself into
local politics, struggling to improve local conditions through the
Borough Council and the Board of Guardians. His regime was a generally
successful one in which he distributed charity relief, made speeches
at local occasions and, on the outbreak of the Great War, organised
an appeal and a march through Battersea for aid to alleviate distress
caused by the war.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
Next - 'Race and politics'