Darcus Howe was one of the key figures in the Mangrove Nine trial but just what happened to the activist after the events of Small Axe?

With racism and police brutality brought to the centre of attention in 2020, Small Axe and its first episode, Mangrove, are particularly poignant and couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

In Mangrove, we follow the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of activists who were charged with inciting riots during a protest in 1970.

After a 55-day trial, the nine defendants were either acquitted or given suspended sentences for minor offences.

One of the key people in Mangrove is Darcus Howe, one of the Mangrove Nine and one of two defendants, alongside Altheia Jones-LeCointe, who elected to represent themselves during the trial.

But just who was Darcus Howe and what happened to him after the Mangrove Nine case?

Small Axe: Trailer – BBC

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Small Axe: Trailer – BBC
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Small Axe: Mangrove on BBC One

Small Axe began on BBC One and iPlayer on November 15th with the two-hour film, Mangrove.

The five-episode anthology series tells a completely new story in each episode and in Small Axe’s first instalment, we learn about the Mangrove Nine, a group of Black activists who were arrested and charged with inciting riots at a protest in 1970.

The nine defendants were on trial for 55 days and were eventually acquitted after it became clear that the motivations and actions of some of the officers in the Metropolitan Police were less than justified.

BBC

Darcus Howe in Small Axe

Leighton Rhett Radford ‘Darcus’ Howe, played in Small Axe by Malachi Kirby, was a Black activist and one of the Mangrove Nine put on trial for charges of inciting a riot during a protest on August 9th, 1970.

Like Mangrove owner Frank Crichlow, Darcus Howe was born in Trinidad but travelled to the United Kingdom as a teenager, hoping to study law according to The Guardian.

Instead, Howe ended up joining the British Black Panthers and became an activist fighting for Black rights, meeting Malcolm X in 1965 and Stokely Carmichael two years.

Darcus Howe was 27 years old at the time of the Mangrove Nine case and elected to represent himself during the 55-day trial.

BBC

What happened to Darcus Howe?

Following the Mangrove Nine trial, Darcus Howe continued his work as an activist, organising the 20,000-strong ‘Black People’s Day of Action’ in 1981 in protest of the handling of the investigation into the New Cross Fire which saw 13 Black teenagers die.

Darcus Howe also spent time as the editor of Race Today, a monthly political magazine, wrote columns for the New Statesman and The Voice and even worked as the chairman of the famous Notting Hill Carnival, which was briefly run from the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill.

Howe’s most recognisable work arguably came as a broadcaster and he was responsible for programmes such as Black on Black which aired on Channel 4 between 1982 and 1985 as well the 2005 documentary Son of Mine in which Darcus Howe explores the relationship with his son, Amiri.

In his personal life, Darcus Howe was married three times and had seven children.

The most notable of his children is arguably Darcus Beese – who he had with fellow Mangrove Nine member, Barbara Beese – who is currently the president and CEO of Island Records and has worked with artists such as Amy Winehouse and Jessie J and earned an OBE for his work in 2014.

Darcus Howe passed away on April 1st, 2017.

Small Axe continues on Sundays on BBC One and iPlayer here in the UK with the five-episode series expected to continue until December 13th.

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