Legacies: stereotypes, racism and the civil rights movement

Henry Mayers Hyndman: socialist

Descendant of plantation owner 

Henry Mayers Hyndman was born in London, the grandson of an owner of plantations worked by slaves in Guyana. After being educated at home, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, achieving his degree in 1861, then studying law for two years before becoming a journalist.

Britain's first socialist party

Hyndman formed Britain's first socialist political party, The Social Democratic Federation (SDF), which first met on 7 June 1881. Many socialists remained unconvinced by Hyndman who had been publicly opposed to socialism in the past, but amongst those he persuaded to join the SDF were William Morris, George Lansbury and Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx. Friedrich Engels, however, Marx's long-term collaborator, refused to support Hyndman's venture.

Hyndman continued to lead the SDF and took part in negotiations to establish the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in 1900. However the SDF broke away from the LRC as it became clear there were fundamental differences of opinion, and in 1911 Hyndman set up the British Socialist Party (BSP) when the SDF joined with a number of branches of the Independent Labour Party.

Hyndman upset members of the BSP by supporting the United Kingdom's involvement in the First World War. The party split in two with Hyndman forming a new National Socialist Party. Hyndman remained leader of this small party until his death.