Alfred Oscar Thomas, September 8, 1960 – 1980, date unknown
Contributing Writer at the Veritas Newsletter
Alfred Oscar Thomas was the only son of Clive and Anna Thomas. He grew up in Brixton, London in the sixties, where his worldview was informed by the British West Indian migrant community, literature, the racial politics of Great Britain, and his own father’s record shop.
Clive Thomas met Anna Lewis at the Notting Hill Carnival of 1955. Both Clive and Anna had come from Jamaica after World War II in search of work. Clive had found a job in a canning factory while Anna was making money off-the-books as a nanny. They married in 1957, moved into a newly-built council flat, and had Alfred three years later. Shortly thereafter, Clive opened his own record store, which improved the family’s prospects slightly.
Alfred Thomas was a quiet, curious baby. His mother was rarely home so Alfred was primarily looked after by Mrs. Dougherty, an Irish woman who lived next door. She was stooped and slow but kind and eager to spend time with pudgy, adorable Alfred. When the bottle she’d placed on the countertop was back in his little hands a moment later, she thought she was just becoming absent-minded.
His favorite activity was reading. Soon he’d read every book within reach in his primary school classroom. Clive noticed and took him to the library, where Alfred received his first library card and proceeded to read every book he laid eyes on. It was an early mark of his studious, language-oriented nature that would go on to influence his school and career choices.
It was Professor McGonagall who rang the doorbell one summer day to deliver Alfred’s Hogwarts acceptance letter. Anna, who was suspicious of the Professor, was skeptical but Clive understood that his son was gifted somehow — his reading habits were proof enough — and he supported the endeavor. Alfred felt both apprehensive and eager to discover new things. He was sorted into Hufflepuff on his arrival.
As soon as he landed, he began testing his boundaries, going on excursions throughout and outside the castle. It was during one of these excursions that he fell and broke his arm. He was helped to the hospital wing by Hagrid and a second-year Slytherin named Dorcas Shacklebolt. From that moment, they were best friends. Dorcas did not like spending time in her own dormitory, and Alfred was happy to bring her into the Hufflepuff common room, where they would read and study together for hours.
During the summers he spent many hours in his Clive’s record shop, reading. Clive was not surprised that his son was more than just a bookworm, however it was with books that he was able to bond with his son. He often brought him reading material from the stalls in the market. Anna came around to accepting her son’s gift more gradually when she saw that it had not changed Alfred at his core. If he was happy, she would be happy for him.
The summer of 1976 was the hottest summer ever recorded in England. It culminated in the Notting Hill Carnival riot. About that summer, Alfred remembered vividly the way the air seemed to boil with tension. Neighborhood boys he’d known since childhood were seething with anger at the uptick in stop-and-searches, the obvious bias of the local pale constable. The men who came in his father’s shop were relishing the win that the West Indies cricket team had garnered that summer on English soil. It seemed to be not just about cricket but about history and geography. And after the carnival, and the ensuing struggle in the streets, Alfred’s father gave him a book called The Fire Next Time.
Alfred didn’t crack the spine until later in the year. Following a rally of pure-blood witches and wizards, likely with encouragement from the followers of You-Know-Who, who gathered to proclaim their purist agenda, Alfred felt he could no longer wait.
The Fire Next Time burrowed down inside and settled in his bones as no other book he’d read had. When his best friend Dorcas and her new friend Lily Evans asked him to write about his experiences as a Muggle-born wizard, he felt he had a mentor in the writer James Baldwin.
Alfred would go on to be a contributing writer to Dorcas and Lily’s Muggle-born newsletter, which they called Veritas. When Lily found a financial backer and continued to edit the newsletter after they graduated, Alfred continued to write for them, and was paid by the word.
He wrote essays that revealed the numerous little inequalities that piled up between pure-blood and Muggle-born wizards; he interviewed half-blood wizards about their experience navigating the two seemingly disparate worlds, and he wrote scathing critiques of the magical state that continually failed vulnerable wizards and other beings.
His writings soon drew the attention of the dangerous extremists hell-bent on imposing their views on magical society.
After Alfred left Hogwarts, he returned to Brixton, where a child was the result of a whirlwind summer romance with a young Muggle woman named Hannah-Lee Jackson. Alfred felt much as he did when he discovered he was a wizard — apprehensive but eager to meet the challenge.
Alfred’s last days perhaps began after he’d had an article printed that encouraged Muggle-born witches and wizards to train, arm, and defend themselves against the Death Eaters. Barty Crouch’s conservative, hard-liner brand of law enforcement, coupled with the ire of the Death Eaters, meant that Alfred was not only harassed by You-Know-Who’s followers, but also surveilled and censured by the Ministry. He was no longer able to go home to see his parents or Hannah-Lee, lest he endanger their lives by association.
On the run from the law and from You-Know-Who, Alfred received help from the Order of the Phoenix. One night, however, he did not return to his safe house. It is believed that a mole sold him out. His body was never found.
His son was born on the 9th of May, 1980. Hannah-Lee named their son Dean, and gave him his father’s last name.
It would be one of the few things Alfred’s son would inherit from his father.
His legacy would have been forgotten but for Dean, whose search for his father led him to discover his published material, hidden away in a box in a corner of the Ministry’s archives. Dean Thomas, with the help of his long-time friend, Hermione Granger, the Minister of Magic, was able to collect and edit his father’s works and have them published in a collection. A new generation would come to know the writer Alfred Thomas, whose work shed light on the lives and voices of Muggle-born wizards of the African diaspora.
08/13/2020 @ 6:20 PM
This made me cry! Thank you for writing!