Just into his teens when he arrived in England in 1948, Vince Reid became a pioneering academic who was committed to fighting injustice through education


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Aged only 13, Vincent Albert Reid, better known as Vince, was among the youngest passengers on the MV Empire Windrush, making the journey from Jamaica with his adoptive parents.

One of his early memories of life in England was how teachers at his school laughed at his Jamaican accent. Not surprisingly, he left as soon as possible and worked in the Post Office for a year before joining the Royal Air Force at the age of 16 as a mechanic. After seeing service in Malaya, he became a corporal at 19 before buying himself out.

He then worked at Heathrow airport, but left when his bosses refused to allow him time-off to continue his education. He found work as a market researcher in 1967 and met Elizabeth Evans, an English woman. Despite family opposition, they married in 1969 and went on to have two children.

Although Vince had no formal qualifications, he was accepted by Sussex University as a mature student to read history. Graduating in 1973, he went on to do a master’s in African and Caribbean Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 1974, he joined Brixton College of Further Education in south London, where he taught Caribbean and African history and was regarded as a mentor to both black staff and students. He also taught students with special needs.

As someone committed to fighting racial and social injustice, his pioneering work with the now defunct Inner London Education Authority helped it to develop a more multi-ethnic curriculum. He became a senior lecturer there before retiring in 1995.

Retirement gave him more time to indulge his interests in opera, jazz, cricket and football. In 1998, Vince played a prominent part in the events that marked the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, and was frequently on the TV and radio. On one occasion he told the BBC that despite the problems he’d confronted during his five decades in the country, he preferred to live in England: “My family is here, my wife, my grandchildren are here – I have no significant roots in Jamaica, [though] I have been back to Kingston several times. My circumstances were significantly different to everyone else’s, but personally I like England.”

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