Harold Moody, the Black physician who set up his own hospital when he was denied employment

Stephen Nartey December 29, 2022
Harold Moody/Photo credit: Never Such Innocence

He had sterling academic and work experience but no hospital was willing to employ him because of the color of his skin. A matron of one of the medical facilities at some point in his job search told him she could not work with him because he was Black.

At the Camberwell Board of Guardians, the authorities rejected his application to become a medical officer because they said white patients would not be comfortable with a Black person treating them. Harold Moody decided to establish his own facility in Peckham, South London in February 1913 after three years of attempting to secure a job, according to Kings College, London.

As he started practicing in his catchment area, he learned he was not the only person of African descent to have suffered social injustice, which was prevalent when he was a student. Many Black students were still struggling to find accommodation because of the color of their skin. He found his new role as a doctor an opportunity to wage a campaign against these acts of racial injustice.

He took his advocacy a notch higher when he became one of the founders of the pressure group, League of Coloured Peoples in 1931. He campaigned against social injustices facing black communities and highlighted their successes, and spoke against the barriers racial discrimination imposed on people of African descent.

Moody did this through aggressive lobbying of politicians, civil service and trade unions, to recognize and strengthen race relations and challenges of racial injustice. He was the pressure group’s president till he passed away. He is celebrated for the pioneering roles he played in getting the color bar policy amended in the British armed forces. He also fought for fair wages for Trinidadian oil workers and employment rights for black seamen.

Moody assumed the position of a member of a government advisory committee in 1943. His job description was to investigate matters of the welfare of non-Europeans.

The pressure group’s popularity shot high during the Second World War. It took advantage of its influence to organize a three-day London conference in 1944 to draft a Charter for Coloured Peoples, which was talked about even more than the fifth Pan-African Conference held in Manchester the following year.

The pressure group called for granting of independence in countries colonized by the UK in the shortest possible time and insisted that the people should enjoy economic, educational, legal and political rights irrespective of their race. It also demanded that there should be equal rights in employment in public places and any discriminatory act should be punishable by law.

Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and had his education in England. He married a white nurse by the name Olive Mable Tranter whom he met and wooed as a medical student. They had six children. He passed away in April 1947.

His league lived on for four years after his death but Moody’s significant legacy was his civil rights campaign which led to the passage of the Race Relations Act 1965. It is the first legislation in the UK that bars discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, color or national origin.

The Act made it illegal to promote racial hatred and saw to the creation of the Race Relations Board in 1966.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 29, 2022


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