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Renamed London Street Becomes Target of Racist Abuse

Earlier this month, a street in London had its name changed from ‘Black Boy Lane’ to ‘La Rose Lane’. 


There is much speculation about the origin of the name ‘Black Boy Lane’, with many proposing links to the slave trade. One specific speculated origin is a pub in the area from around the 16th to 17th century, a time when Britain was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade. During the 20th century, the pub had a caricature of a Black person present in its design until it was replaced in the 1980s. The phrase “Black boy” has also been used against Black men to belittle them. Uses of “black boy” have also been linked to slavery within the United States and can be used as a derogatory term in many other countries. 


The formal decision to rename the road came in February 2022, whereas discussions around renaming it had begun in 2020 after the George Floyd protests in the United States. The street residents had likely known years in advance about the potential name change. However, only after the change officially occurred did those in the area begin to show upset towards the change. 


The new name that the street has taken on is ‘La Rose Lane’, named after a Black British author and poet. Originally from Trinidad, John La Rose moved to the United Kingdom in 1966, where he founded the first Caribbean publishing house and bookshop in the UK. He was also an outspoken activist for other Caribbean writers, artists and workers and co-founded a movement known as ‘the Black Parents Movement’. It would only seem fair that a road which formally had negative racial connotations be renamed after a Black British person who has done much for the country and community. 


Furthermore, the street residents would receive support from the council regarding any potential disruptions caused by the name change itself. This included giving £300 to each household and offering street pop-ups and online meetings to help the individual residents cope with the administrative changes needed.


The first act of vandalism appeared quickly after its unveiling.

The new sign was unveiled on January 23rd 2023, but it has only taken weeks for the sign to be the victim of vandals and graffiti. It was spray-painted over just hours after it was initially unveiled. Later, a large amount of graffiti was placed behind it, along with a large poster with the original name of the street on it. The council leader of Haringey has also received a flurry of abusive letters containing phrases such as “I will uncover every aspect you want to keep hidden. All of it will go to the papers.” and “I will organise people to protest outside your home, outside your work, everywhere there will be people there.”


One negative comment that seemed to crop up over the sign’s name change was the price it took to change it properly. One cited amount amongst naysayers is “£186,000”; however, this is the wrong amount entirely as the council stated that it would likely not take more than £100,000 to rename the road. The £300 payment to households in terms of potential disruption. Much of the cost of the road’s name change comes from administration costs “resident/organisation payment of £300 per household/organisation for 183 registered property addresses on Black Boy Lane, with contingency up to 250”. Some smaller amounts of money were also needed for changing bus stop station signs. 


The poster has since been taken down, and the vandalism removed. Peray Ahmet, the leader of Haringey Council, stated, "I am sad and disappointed that one of the La Rose Lane street names has been vandalised within 24 hours of us marking such a historic moment. We had a memorable launch yesterday where we celebrated the life and legacy of John La Rose with his friends and family present to remember an iconic figure.” 


The London borough of Haringey is a very diverse area of London, with 38% of residents being from the BAME community and 26% of residents identifying as ‘White Other’ according to the most recent census. So it is likely the change has been read positively across most of the borough, even if it was not initially met with fond regard by some of those living on the street specifically. 

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