History KS3 / GCSE: Small Axe - The Mangrove Nine

Rochenda Sandall, who plays one of The Mangrove Nine in Steve McQueen's Small Axe, tells the true story of this significant event in black British history.

The Mangrove restaurant was opened in March, 1969, by Trinidadian Frank Crichlow. The restaurant became a home from home for the black community in Notting Hill.

It attracted artists, musicians and activists from around the world. Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Hendrix, Nina Simone, Diana Ross and the Supremes, all congregated at the Mangrove to enjoy Caribbean food.

But the Mangrove restaurant became a target for the police, which ended up destroying it.

An organised peaceful protest against the police ended in violence and the arrest of nine protesters, including writer Darcus Howe, the owner of the Mangrove restaurant Frank Crichlow and the leading Black Panther Altheia Jones.

All the defendants were acquitted of the main charges of incitement to riot. But it was the judge's closing comments that would remain in the history books, as his was the first judicial acknowledgement of entrenched racism in the Metropolitan Police.

Teacher Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching KS3 and KS4 students. However, it raises issues of racism, unfair police treatment and resistance and therefore might be more suitable for older KS3 students. Teacher review is recommended prior to showing your class. It can be used alongside the other Small Axe BBC Teach films or independently.

It could fit as part of a KS3 history curriculum when looking at ‘social, cultural and technological change in post-war British society.’ For example, it could be integrated into an enquiry or scheme of work looking at migration to Britain or black British history.

At KS4, the film could be used to illustrate the experiences and treatment of migrants to Britain after World War Two as part of the AQA ‘Empire, Migration and the People’ course, the OCR ‘Migrants to Britain’ course or the forthcoming Edexcel Migration course.

Before watching the film

Prior to this lesson you may want to introduce students to other relevant events in post-war black British history to provide context. For example:

  • the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948.
  • the 1948 British Nationality Act, which conferred equal citizenship status to people in Britain and her colonies.
  • the Notting Hill riots in 1958 and murder of Kelso Cochrane in 1959.
  • the establishment of the Notting Hill carnival from 1959 onwards.

You may also want to elicit from the students what they already know about the relationship between the police and the black community. The students may provide more contemporary or American examples e.g. the murder of George Floyd.

You could also ask students to consider why there was unfair police treatment in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

During watching the film

Depending on the focus of your lesson, you may want to pause the video at certain points to check for understanding asking such questions as:

  • What impression is the film giving of the Mangrove restaurant?
  • What impression does the film give of Notting Hill in the 1950s and 1960s?
  • Why did the police raid the Mangrove on multiple occasions?
  • Who did Frank Crichlow contact? Why might he have done this?
  • How did the Mangrove Nine resist?
  • What was the outcome of the trial?
  • Why do you think director Steve McQueen have chosen to make the Mangrove Nine part of his Small Axe collection of films?

Following on

You could ask students to summarise the key points of the video. This could be done in various different ways, through storyboarding the key points, bullet points etc. The Mangrove Nine case could then act as a case study/example as part of a GCSE course.

Another potential avenue is introducing students to primary source material related to the Mangrove Nine. The National Archives and the Black Cultural Archives hold a range of source material from a variety of different perspectives. The Ansel Wong collection at the BCA includes many grassroots pamphlets and newspapers. The National Archives contains police reports on ‘black activism’, witness statements and seized Black Panther campaign material. Students could be asked to analyse how a particular source could be useful to a historian wishing to research more about the Mangrove Nine.

If your focus is more comparative, you could introduce students to another example of injustice or police mistreatment. This could either be from the same time period but a different location (i.e. one local to your school) or it could be from a later time period (e.g. Stephen Lawrence and the Macpherson Inquiry).

More from Small Axe

Blues Parties
Alex Wheatle and the Brixton Uprising
Educationally Subnormal Schools
Leroy Logan and the Metropolitan Police
Black Power - A British Story of Resistance