League of Coloured Peoples

Date began: 
01 Jan 1931
Precise date began unknown: 

The League of Coloured Peoples was formed in 1931 by the Jamaican-born, London-based private doctor, Harold Moody. It was notable, in contrast with some earlier organizations, for its deliberate attempts to become a multi-racial organization. At the founding meeting Moody stated that he found himself in a position to ‘make representations to government authorities, hospital managements, medical faculties, commercial concerns, factory proprietors, hotel and boarding house keepers and a host of others, not only in his own name and on the basis of his own status and reputation, but in the name of all the coloured peoples in Britain’ (David Vaughan, p. 54). Moody corresponded and met with most of the Colonial Secretaries of the years of the LCP.

The position of Indians within the organization was a troubled one, given ideological differences of opinion about which nationalities ‘coloured peoples’ was meant to include. Moody and many other members felt that the phrase meant ‘the Negro Race, particularly those in Africa and the West Indies and under the rule of Great Britain.’ Others, including members of the executive, ‘claimed that the League should accept Indians as members and engage in conflict with the British Government on their behalf’ citing ‘the presence of Indians in Africa and that 43% of the population of British Guiana were Indians’ (Vaughan, pp. 65-7).

Indian members of the LCP’s executive included R. S. Nehra (1933-4). In The Keys 1.1 he is described as ‘an Indian solicitor practicing in England and ex-treasurer of the League, [and he] addressed the [1932] Conference on “The East African.”’ Nehra had lived in East Africa for many years. Although the 1932 conference focused mainly on questions of Africans and West Indians, ‘Mr. Robin Rutnam from Ceylon [Sri Lanka]’ spoke on 'The Indian Student'. Rutnam reported on the latest meeting of the Indo-British Student Conference, which had considered the inclusion of Indian students at British universities. The Executive Committee of 1936-7 included the treasurer Kamal Chunchie, who was born in Sri Lanka and who also founded the Coloured Men’s Institute. Furthermore, in The Keys VII.1 (July-September, 1939), Krishna Menon wrote on ‘The Role of Congress in India’. The position of Indians was given greater consideration by the Joint Council to Promote Understanding Between White and Coloured People in Great Britain, of which Moody was also a member. British sympathizers of the LCP included Sylvia Pankhurst.

In July 1944, the LCP convened a conference in London with the intention of drawing a 'charter for Coloured Peoples'. Moody’s final project was an envisaged colonial cultural centre. The unsuccessful fundraising and associated travel proved too exhausting for Moody, and he died shortly after returning to London from the West Indies and America.

Key individuals: 
Published works: 

The Keys: The Official Organ of The League of Coloured Peoples. July 1933 to September, 1939.

The Keys: The Official Organ of The League of Coloured Peoples, with an introductory essay by Roderick J. Macdonald (New York: Kraus Thomson Organization Limited, 1976).

Secondary works: 

'Harold Moody, M.D.', The British Medical Journal 1.4504 (May 3, 1947), p. 618.

Bush, Barbara, Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain, 1919-1945 (London and New York: Routledge, 1999)

Donnell, Alison, ‘Una Marson: Feminism, Anti-Colonialism and a Forgotten Fight for Freedom,’ in Bill Schwarz (ed.) West Indian Intellectuals in Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), pp. 114-31.

Drake, St. Clair, ‘Value Systems, Social Structure and Race Relations in the British Isles’, unpublished doctoral dissertation (University of Chicago, 1954)

Geiss, Immanuel, The Pan-African Movement, trans. Ann Keep (London: Methuen, 1974)

Jones, Jean, The League Against Imperialism, from Socialist History Society Occasional Pamphlet Series No. 4, (Preston: Lancashire Community Press, 1996)

Killingray, David, ‘Moody, Harold Arundel (1882–1947)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35084]

Rush, Anne Spry, ‘Imperial Identity in Colonial Minds: Harold Moody and the League of Coloured Peoples, 1931–50’, Twentieth Century British History 13.4 (2002), pp. 356-83.

Vaughan, David A., Negro Victory (London: Independent Press, 1950)


The Keys, VII.1 (1939), p.16


The conclusion to Krishna Menon’s article on ‘The Role of Congress in India’.


There is every reason to think that conditions in British India and in the states are such that a major conflict with the Empire is now inevitable unless Great Britain agrees to accept the hand of friendship that is proffered to her and proceeds to enable India to settle her future in her own way by the medium of a democratically elected Constituent Assembly. An India thus freed will be willing and ready to enter into friendly relations with a democratic Britain and cooperate for world peace and take her part in the struggle for liberty everywhere. But her own battle cannot end with a political victory. The economic emancipation of her own masses and the fruitful culmination of the struggles that are now appearing in various other parts of the Empire can alone enable her to turn her energies from struggle to reconstruction. For so long as the Empire of domination lasts the world has neither peace nor liberty.

Archive source: 

Lady Simon and Dr. Moody correspondence, Mss. Brit. Emp. S25, Rhodes House Archive, Oxford