BHM – Sam

Sam King was one of many former colleagues from the Windrush generation

Throughout Black History Month, we’re celebrating our amazing former and current black colleagues as well as notable black Britons, both past and present, who have appeared on our Special Stamps.

Former colleague, Sam King MBE, was just 22 years old when the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury on 21 June 1948. One of 1,027 passengers, Sam was a carpenter from Jamaica who aimed to reside in Nottingham. Before setting sail, King had already served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Sam is celebrated for his many achievements and contributions to British society: the first black Mayor of Southwark (at the time, the only black mayor in London); his distinguished military career; his work as co-founder of the first Caribbean-style carnival – a precursor to today’s Notting Hill Carnival – and the Windrush Foundation; and his tireless activism for and within the African-Caribbean community, including his work to establish a programme to allow migrants to buy homes in the UK and contributions to the first newspaper for West Indians, The West Indian Gazette.

In addition to all of this, Sam worked in the Post Office for over 30 years, first as a postman in Waterloo, London, in 1955, before ending his career as Postal Executive for the South Eastern district.

After two years on his Waterloo rounds, Sam moved on to a position as a sorter at the South Western District Office in Victoria, which included at least one week on mail duty at Buckingham Palace. He was then posted to the Eastern District office at Whitechapel and later the South Eastern District Office, where he sadly experienced a number of racist incidents, as reflected in his autobiography Climbing Up the Rough Side of the Mountain.

In 1966, Sam registered as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1948. Sam was politically engaged throughout his life: an active member of the then Union of Postal Workers (now CWU) and the Labour Party, first serving as a councillor and later Mayor. On Warmington Avenue, London, you can find his blue plaque, part of a scheme to honour and celebrate the ‘most evocative people’ that have shaped the borough of Southwark into what it is today.

Click here to read Postal Museum archivist Meg Venter’s in-depth look at Sam’s fascinating life.

As part of last week’s National Inclusion Week, we reiterated our zero-tolerance stance on racism. Making our business a place where black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues can achieve their potential remains a priority. Career progression is a key focus as we work towards improving the representation of colleagues from BAME backgrounds across all levels of the business.

If you are thinking about holding a BAME cultural event in your unit, or you would like to find out more about our BAME mentoring scheme, please email

Image by the Postal Museum.

7 Oct 2020