Google celebrates civil rights pioneer Dr. Harold Moody


Yesterday saw Google commemorate Jamaican born physician and activist Dr Harold Moody with artwork emblazoned across its front page. Moody, who was born on 8th October 1882, in Kingston Jamaica, was the eldest child of a retail chemist.

1st September was chosen as being fit for commemoration, as it was on this day in 1904 that Dr Moody would arrive in the UK, in hopes of pursuing a career in Medicine and studying at Kings College, University of London. Dr Moody's intrigue in medicine had already been displayed prior to his arrival, and his Father's pharmaceutical business offered an early means of engagement with the field. He worked there during his time at Wolmers school where he showed early signs of excellence by graduating with a distinction in Mathematics.

His stay in London, however, would come with its own distinct set of challenges. Despite his efforts and vigour, Dr Moody, like many before and after him, would have to deal with discrimination in the form of the colour bar in early 20th century Britain and Edwardian London. Accommodation was difficult to find and despite high achievement as well as numerous awards, he was unable to find work due to a system which denied individuals work opportunities dependent on their race. Moody, navigated all of this despite being a standard of excellence in his field, becoming a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and the London Royal College of Physicians by 1910 and earning his doctor of medicine degree in 1919.

A short biography as one of the 100 great black Britons offers some insight into the matter. An excerpt reveals that though he was the best qualified candidate, he was rejected for the post of medical officer to the Camberwell Board of Guardians since 'the poor people would not have a coloured person attend to them'. This is after having already been denied a post at his own college hospital.

Despite these attempts to undercut his progress, Dr Moody was to soon forge his way forward. In February 1913, he would go on to open his own medical practice in Peckham, South East London, which would continue for close to thirty five years. Later that same year he married Olive Mabel Tranter, who he had courted as a medical student.

Not long after, his venture into community work within the UK began in earnest. Dr Moody was elected to the chair of the Colonial Missionaries Society Board in 1921, nine years after originally becoming a board member. His commitment to his faith which also defined him saw him take on other positions of leadership within Christian bodies. He would go on to lead the Christian Endeavour Union 1931 and was named as the chair of the London Missionaries Society a little more than a decade later.

His commitment to his community extended beyond efforts within faith groups and is most widely recognised by his role in the formation of The League of Coloured People. The association began in March 1931 and was largely inspired by the similar experiences many black people in Britain had faced. The creation of the league offered Dr Moody and the league the platform to “promote and protect the social, educational, economical, and political interests of its [the league's] members … and the welfare of coloured people".

It was a role in which they never shirked from even in the most pressing of times. The influx of black workers and military personnel in the aftermath of the second world war saw the leagues influence increase, but their sense of purpose and the original remit to support the development of black people within the UK never changed. Commitment to fair wages for Trinidadian oil workers also displayed a willingness to confront injustice faced by black people that went beyond borders. In 1943, Dr Moody was eventually appointed to a government advisory committee on the welfare of non-Europeans.

Dr Harold Moody would eventually pass away in 1947 but his legacy is that of a man defined by excellence, imbued with a spirit of servitude and the strength of character to lead. In a week where many will remember his life, one can only hope that his life will continue to inspire those that are still to come.

Mayowa Ayodele


A call to action...

For 24 years OBV have fought to ensure black and minority ethnic participation and representation in civic society. Efforts in continuing to do so though, relies on your help. That way we can continue this fight for greater race equality. What would give us a tremendous boost is if today, you made that small donation yourselves, but even more importantly if you encouraged others to do likewise.