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Last updated:28 May 2015

Len Johnson photograph

Photograph of Len Johnson, at the New Cross Greyhound Stadium in June 1933


October's object was about Manchester boxer and political activist Len Johnson.

Michael Herbert, volunteer, chose this month's object:

Photograph of Len Johnson, at the New Cross Greyhound Stadium in June 1933

"I was told about Len Johnson by Ruth and Eddie Frow on one of my first visits to their house on Kings Road in 1981.

I was fascinated enough by what they told me about him, and the small archive they showed me, to research and write a book about him which I called Never Counted Out! This traced his career as a boxer and his political activities after he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. I like the picture of him at the races because it captures his character. I spoke to many people who knew him or had met him and they all testified to his warmth and generosity. The woman he is with may have been his sister, Doris."

Len was born in Manchester in 1903 and fought professionally as a boxer from 1922 to 1933. Despite many successes he was banned by the boxing authorities from a chance at titles because he was mixed race (His father Billy came from Africa).

After leaving the ring he toured with a boxing booth until 1939. During the war he worked in Civil Defence. About this time he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and was politically active in the 1940s and 1950s. He stood unsuccessfully for election in Moss Side on several occasions and also set up the New International Society. He died in Oldham in 1974.

Len's election leaflet Len's election leaflet, May 1949. He stood 6 times in Moss Side, but never attracted more than handful of votes.

Len pictured with his boxers in front of his boxing booth

Len pictured with his boxers in front of his boxing booth.

New pages have been added to our Web site about sources for Black and Asian history at the Library. 

October 2009

Click here for more information about Len Johnson


Resources about Len Johnson in our collection

The library has archives on Len Johnson, the New International Society and Pan-African Congress.

It also has the following books:

The 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress revisited by Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood (1995) - Shelfmark: M19

Len Johnson and the colour bar: the life and times of Len Johnson by Rob Howard (2009) - Shelfmark: S15

The Manchester fighters by Denis Fleming (1986) - Shelfmark: AG Len Johnson Box 2

Never Counted Out!: the story of Len Johnson by Michael Herbert (1992) - Shelfmark: Q10

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