Paul Stephenson OBE 6 May 1937 (age 83 years), is a community worker, activist and long-time campaigner for civil rights for the British African-Caribbean community in Bristol.
Stephenson was born in Rochford, Essex in 1937 to a West African father and a British mother. At age 3 he was evacuated to a care home in Great Dunmow, Essex, where he stayed for seven years. He received his secondary education at Forest Gate Secondary School in London, where he was the only black child in the school.
The then served in the RAF followed from 1953 to 1960. Stephenson gained a Diploma in Youth and Community Work from Westhil College of Education, Birmingham in 1962 and then moved to Bristol to work as a youth officer for Bristol City Council, becoming the city’s first black social worker.
As a young social worker, in 1963 Stephenson led a boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company, protesting against its refusal to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. After a 60-day boycott supported by thousands of Bristolians, the company revoked its Colour bar in August. In 1964 Stephenson achieved national fame when he refused to leave a public house until he was served, resulting in a trial on a charge of failing to leave a licensed premises. His campaigns were instrumental in paving the way for the first Race Relations Act, in 1965.
Stephenson is a Freeman of the City of Bristol and was awarded an OBE in 2009. There is currently a campaign for a statue to be put in his honour after the removal of the statue of Edward Colston the slave trader.