Google Doodle: Who was Olive Morris?

Olive Morris is represented as a mural on the road where she established a squat

Activist Olive Morris has become the latest Google Doodle on what would have been her 68th birthday.

Morris, who died of cancer at the age of 27, fought for racial and gender equality and squatter rights.

She led protests and demonstrations and helped found the Brixton group of black women in 1973, one of the first British black women networks.

Google Doodles are changes made to the company logo to indicate events, anniversaries and significant people.

The temporary design is then placed on the main page of the Google browser.

The final image depicts a Morris fresco on the wall of a building on Railton Road in Lambeth, South London.

So who was the woman on the wall?

Olive Morris “couldn’t stand by” in the face of injustice

Olive Morris was born in Jamaica in 1953 and moved to London with her family when she was nine years old.

When she was only 16 years old, she became involved in an incident in which the police tried to arrest a diplomat from Nigeria, who had parked his Mercedes on the Atlantic Road in Brixton, to buy some records.

Historian Angelina Osbourne of the Fawcett Society, a charity that fights for gender equality and women’s rights, said: “Police officers, thinking the diplomat had stolen the car began to, according to witnesses, arrest him and beat him.”

“Olivia stepped forward and physically tried to stop the police from attacking the diplomat, forcing the police to turn her on, arrest her and attack her, kicking her in the chest.

“This young girl, barely 5 feet 2 inches, took over the racist police, not thinking about her own safety, because she could not stand by and allow the injustice of the African man arrested for driving a good car.

“This was one of the first times that Olive’s decided to fight harassment.”

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, this altercation led the police to be physically assaulted and racially assaulted by Morris and arrested along with six other people, fined £ 10 and sentenced to three months probation.

Olive Morris (left) with members of the American Black Panther Movement

Morris went to Lavender Hill Elementary School and Dick Shepherd School in Tuls Hill and joined the British Black Panther Movement in the late 1960s.

Inspired by – but not affiliated with – the American Black Panther Party, the British Black Panthers had a mission to promote self-determination and challenge the British state.

She set up the 121 Railton Road squat in 1973 which served as a local activism hub until 1999, when squatters lost a court case against Lambeth Council. She co-founded the Brixton Black Women’s Group in 1974.

During her student years at Manchester University (1975-78), Morris also became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women’s Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women’s Co-op.

She then worked at Brixton Law Centre.

She died at the age of 27 and is buried in a cemetery in Street Vale.

In 2009, she was chosen by popular vote as one of the historical figures in the local currency – the Brixton pound. In 2011, the Olive Morris Memorial Award was established to award scholarships to young black women.

Matt Cruickshank, who designed the Google Doodle, said: “Olive’s activism took place nearly 50 years ago. My hope is that real, positive change will occur in our current context, and that Olive is remembered as a vital influence in this ongoing fight for equality and justice for all.”

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