The late Lord David Pitt of Hampstead was the longest serving black Parliamentarian, having been granted a life peerage in 1975. He spent his life speaking out for the underrepresented black community in Great Britain.
Born on the island of Grenada in the West Indies, David Pitt attended Grenada Boys' Secondary school and was raised a devout Roman Catholic. In 1932 he won Grenada's only overseas scholarship to attend the prestigious medical school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. After graduating with honours, he returned to the West Indies in 1938 and practiced medicine in St. Vincent and Trinidad. There he met and married Dorothy Alleyne; they had three children.
In 1943 Pitt helped found the West Indian National Party and served as its president until 1947. This party was considered radical in its day because it advocated independence for Trinidad within a West Indian federation. He won election to the borough council in San Fernando, Trinidad, where he also served as deputy mayor. In order to lobby the British government for independence, he travelled to Great Britain in 1947. His efforts were unsuccessful, and he grew disillusioned with West Indian politics. He decided to settle in the London district of Euston, where he established a medical practice that he ran for more than 30 years.
In the 1950s, Pitt was one of the few blacks active in defending the growing black population of Great Britain against discrimination and prejudice. In the 1960s and 1970s, he organized to help immigrants and improve race relations. Pitt became the first and only chair of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD), an association founded with the encouragement of Martin Luther King Jr. Pitt believed in fighting racism within the existing power structure. In 1959 Pitt sought to represent London's wealthy Hampstead district in Parliament, becoming the first West Indian black to seek a seat in Parliament. After a campaign plagued by racist insinuations, Pitt lost the election.
In 1961, however, Pitt won election representing the ethnically mixed, working-class Hackney district in London's city government, the London County Council (LCC). In 1964 this body was absorbed by the Greater London Council (GLC). He served as deputy chair of the GLC from 1969 to 1970 and in 1974 became the first black chair, a post he held until 1975. Pitt paved the way for the multiracial politics for which the GLC became known.
In 1970 Pitt ran for Parliament again, this time as a candidate in London's Clapham district, a secure Labour seat that many believed he would win. He lost by an unusually large margin; race undoubtedly played a large role in his defeat. He was bitterly disappointed, and did not attempt to run for Parliament again.
In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson appointed Pitt to the House of Lords as Lord Pitt of Hampstead. According to Pitt himself, however, his most valued honour was his election as president of the British Medical Association from 1985 to 1986, a position few general practitioners achieve. After his death, many lamented that Pitt "should have been the first Labour Member of Parliament."