Charlie Sloth

On Air Now 16:00 – 17:45

What happened in 1963

  • On August 28th, 200,000 march on Washington for Civil Rights. Martin Luther King delivers his 'I have a dream' speech - a personal plea, but one which so eloquently paints a picture of human harmony that it is still relevant today.
  • A key supporter of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, President John F. Kennedy, is assassinated later this year, on November 22.
  • In June the shooting of US civil rights leader Medgar Evars triggers riots in the United States, but one of the most heartbreaking events occurs in September when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed, killing four black girls.
  • Claudia Jones, editor of the West Indian Gazette in the UK, knew King and organized a march on the American Embassy at Grosvenor Square to coincide with the US march. It was supported by leading black artists and writers in the UK like George Lamming, Jan Carew and John La Rose as well as Edric and Pearl Connor.
  • Pearl and her actor husband Edric Connor had set up an agency for black performers as early as 1956. Later named the Afro-Asian Agency (in the 70s) it was part of Pearl's campaign to gain recognition for African Caribbean arts. Another key was the Negro Theatre Workshop that they established in 1963. It was one of the UK's first black theatre companies.
  • Edric Connor was himself a major actor in films and on stage and the first black actor to perform in Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, as Gower in Pericles (1958). This year sees Errol John play Othello at Old Vic.
  • The UK TV show, Tonight has an episode narrated by George Lamming. It's a poetic and impressionistic view of black working class life in Britain.
  • In 1963, when most African American women were loath to be seen in public with unstraightened hair, actor Cicely Tyson sported cornrows or a "TWA" ("teeny, weeny afro") in the popular US television series East Side, West Side.
  • CLR James writes Beyond a Boundary, a classic especially for cricket fans. "He traces the fruition of national West Indian consciousness through the development of cricket, where what happened inside the boundary affected life beyond it." (Darcus Howe, The Observer newspaper). It was when he moved to England from Trinidad that James became a writer as well as a leading Marxist theorist after becoming heavily involved in the politics of the far-left. Another notable book was James' The Black Jacobins (1938) which graphically points to the brutality of slavery and in turn, capitalism.

In the music

  • Phil Spector was taken by a demo done by the Ronettes. He then produced their hits Be My Baby - no. 4 in the UK and no. 2 in the US and Baby I Love You. They were the first girl group to have a strong identity with their pictures on their record sleeves.
  • Another girl group Spector was involved in was the Crystals whose Da Doo Ron Ron and Then He Kissed Me were big hits in the US and the UK.
  • Chuck Berry has two top ten hits with Let It Rock and Memphis Tennessee.
  • Legendary jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers releases his first album, a decade before he turned on to his inimitable (and well-sampled) soul-funk.
  • TV - the music show Ready, Steady, Go! goes on the air. During it's time many key black soul artists appear on the show.
  • In the US Mary Wells is Motown's most consistent hit-maker for Motown with three top ten hits in a row.
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers form. After tuition from the singer Joe Higgs, they start recording with Coxsone Dodd. Their first track, Simmer Down, released just before Christmas 1963 is a huge hit in Jamaica - no. 1 for two months on the JBC Radio chart.
  • The Beatles' domination really starts.

Key Releases


Grammy awards

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.