ARCHER, Richard John [1863-1932]

John Richard Archer was born in Liverpool in 1863, the son of an illiterate Irish woman, Mary Theresa Burns, and Richard Archer, a ship's steward from Barbados. He subsequently became a pioneering member of the Labour Party and the first black Mayor to be elected in London.

Having travelled the world as a seaman, Archer settled in Battersea with his wife, Bertha, a black Canadian, where he ran a photographic shop. Becoming involved in local politics he was elected as a councillor. In 1913 he was elected Mayor by his fellow councillors by the narrowest of margins of 40 to 39 votes in a contest marked by racist elements. Questioned about his origins, Archer is reputed to have replied that he was born in a little known Lancashire village - Liverpool. He continued as a councillor until 1922, standing unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1919, returning to the council in 1931 shortly before his death aged 69.

Archer was a close friend and fellow-campaigner of the black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

A secondary school opened in Battersea in the 1980s (now closed) was named after Archer. In 2013 a commemorative stamp bearing his likeness was issued in a series of great Britons.

The Archer family's homes in Liverpool in the 1860's and 70's were at 3 and 7 Blake Street L1, now demolished.

In April 2013 Archer was honoured as one of six Great Britons commemorated on postage stamps.


iThere is a comprehensive entry for Archer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Wikipedia entry is quite comprehensive.