The song A Change Is Gonna Come, written by Sam Cooke in 1964 after he was refused entry to a whites-only motel in Louisiana, became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.

Whilst not of the same import as those events in America, change has come to Haringey: Black Boy Lane has now been renamed.

There was, and continues to be, a discussion of the origins of the street name. What is not in dispute is that the pub in West Green Road opposite Black Boy Lane was called the Black Boy and its sign contained a highly offensive caricature of an African man.

A campaign led by Dame Martha Osamor forced the pub to close many years ago. Her successful campaign focused on the anachronistic name of the pub. As Peter Fryer noted in his seminal work Staying Power, The History of Black People in Britain, it was common for slave owners to name the pubs they owned the Black Boy. However, the street name remained.

Ham & High: Vivek Lehal assisted in the campaign to get Black Boy Lane renamedVivek Lehal assisted in the campaign to get Black Boy Lane renamed (Image: Vivek Lehal)

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Haringey Council began a review of the names of monuments, buildings and streets. Haringey Stand Up To Racism sent a deputation to a full council meeting in December 2020 to highlight the need to rename Black Boy Lane because of its racist connotations. Further deputations followed to the council’s corporate committee to push the case.

Finally, in February 2022 the committee passed a decision to implement the name change. Black Boy Lane is now La Rose Lane.

John La Rose, who lived in Haringey, was an influential figure in the struggle for social justice and recognition for Black authors, artists and thinkers. He played a key role in founding New Beacon Books in Stroud Green, and later the Caribbean Artists’ Movement. Three generations of his family attended the renaming ceremony.

As Sam Cooke said in his song:

It's been a long

A long time coming, but I know

A change gonna come

Oh yes, it will

The renaming of Black Boy Lane is a first step in the changes that are gonna come in the struggle for a more just society and for an end to racism. Haringey Stand Up To Racism is proud to be part of that struggle.

Vivek Lehal is secretary at Haringey Stand Up To Racism