John Archer was the first person of African descent to hold civic office in London and the first black mayor of a London borough. He was also the first black person to become an election agent for a constituency Labour Party.
Born on the 8th June 1863 in Liverpool, to Richard Archer, a ship’s steward from Barbados, and Mary Archer from Ireland, almost nothing is known of his early life. In his late 20s, he and his wife, a black Canadian, relocated to Battersea Park where Archer earned his living as a photographer. Successful as a photographer and winning many prizes, he turned his interest to local politics and was elected to the borough council in 1906 as a councillor for the Latchmere ward, where he topped the poll with 1,051 votes. He lost his seat in 1909 but won it again three years later. On 10th November 1913, he was elected mayor of Battersea.
The newly elected mayor told the council, “You have made history tonight… Battersea has done many things in the past, but the greatest thing it has done is to show that it has no racial prejudice, and that recognises a man for the work he has done”. He successfully defended his seat in 1919, going on to become a successful political agent and alderman. He returned to the council in 193 1, but died suddenly the following year. His record of service to the local community was deemed extraordinary.