The guardian newspaper ran a story in October 2008 that Sir Trevor McDonald as becoming the “first black British newsreader” in 1973, and Moira Stuart as becoming “Britain’s first black woman news presenter” in 1981, and was politely corrected by Jamaican born news journalist Barbara Blake Hannah that she was in fact the first black person to report the news in the U.K.
“… I must put history right and state that in 1968 I made headlines in British newspapers when I was appointed one of three on-camera reporter/interviewers on Thames-TV’s daily evening show, Today with Eamonn Andrews.
It was the first time a black person had appeared on British TV in a non-entertainment role and, as I had been a journalist all my professional life, I enjoyed the job which involved interviewing everyone: Prime Minister Harold Wilson, movie star Michael Caine and round-the-world yachtsmen, as well as ordinary people in newsworthy situations.
After nine months, though, my contract was terminated and I was told that the producers were under pressure from viewers who called in daily to say, “Get that n****r off our screens.” My producer tried to break it to me gently, but it still hurt, especially when I was replaced by an Australian girl.
My next job was in a similar capacity with ATV-Birmingham’s Today show, aired during a time when Enoch Powell had made black immigration a major issue. I could not get a hotel room in that city and had to return each night to London and commute each morning by train back to Birmingham, until I finally got a room at the YWCA.
I remember having to listen without reacting when the production staff asked: “What ‘wog’ story are we doing today?” Or: “If black people are so equal, how come they never painted the Mona Lisa?”
I was once sent to do a story where I had to swim one lap of a pool. I am a good enough swimmer to have swum Jamaica’s Cross the Kingston Harbour race when I was 15; but as I knew I would be going on camera later that day, I kept my head and hair above water. Later that evening I sat and watched as the story unfolded: black people don’t swim as well as whites because they won’t put their heads underwater.
I also remember coming back to the studio after doing a story on a miserably cold day to find that Enoch Powell had just left after doing a live interview on condition that “the black girl” was not there.