Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Barbara Blake Hannah - First black news anchor in the UK + Book "Growing out"

Photo:TODAY host Eamonn Andrews, Jane Probyn & Barbara Blake
Trevor McDonald is regarded as the first black news anchor in the UK, but the real first was actually Barbara Blake Hannah. She appeared in the THAMES TV daily magazine programme “TODAY” in 1968, but due to racist comments her contract was terminated after 9 months.

In her new book "Growing out" Jamaican journalist and filmmaker Barbara Blake Hannah tells her story. "In 1968, seeking a change from my position with a London PR company as Executive for the Jamaica Tourist Board account, I applied for a job as a journalist with the new THAMES TV daily magazine programme “TODAY”. I was invited to do an audition as an on-screen presenter and within days was invited to be one of 3 daily reporter/interviewers on the show, hosted by TV personality Eamonn Andrews.

It was the first time that a Black person had appeared on British TV in a news capacity, other than as entertainers, and the news made national front pages. However, racists sent daily hate messages to the station, which bowed under the pressure and after 9 months my contract was not renewed."

In her books she also writes how Black consciousness influenced her hair style. "In GROWING OUT, I write about my early years growing up in Jamaica and how from childhood Black women’s hair influences their self-esteem negatively. I carried this self-hate to a decade in England in the “Swinging Sixties”, where the racism I encountered was counterbalanced by an education in Black consciousness generated by the cultural, political and racial events of the time. GROWING OUT describes how the psychological and actual experience lead me to grow out my natural hair and emancipate my mind from colonial mental slavery."

Blake was interviewed for the "Speak out against discrimination!" campaign of the Council of Europe and was asked how she would respond to the complaint that media reporting of ethnic communities remains generally unfavourable.

Blake: "International media portray Jamaica as (a) tropical paradise, or (b) drug-addicted, violent, dangerous island. Most of the time Jamaica is neither of these but a small heaven on earth, so we often smile or get angry at how we are depicted in these clichés. But I organise an annual festival of films featuring and/or containing reggae music and they show me that if the traditional media is reporting unfavourably about my country, another kind of media is reporting the exact opposite – a more accurate and true picture of life in Jamaica . As the media expands through YouTube, Facebook and other Internet programmes, the work of journalists is taken out of the hands of a few, often prejudiced, hands and expanded into the wider global media community.

This is the future of the media. As a film maker, I do what I can to use film as a true medium of communication. I am inspired by the great Cuban film maker Santiago Alvarez, who first introduced me to the power of the documentary film to convey messages to counteract misinformation. Michael Moore has continued this tradition so expertly, updating the genre in amusing ways."


  1. Great article. Great to learn of this little known fact of history.

  2. mummy you are di boss I love your work your an dedication to reality. An let me be the first to to post congrats Most people have no idea of the magnitude of your work. pls continue and guide the younger generation black white purple or pink to things that will enlighten them. congrats on your lifetime achievment award. Jamaica has no idea of your value to them!!!!!

  3. BBH is a real warrior and pioneer of many things fighting for Jamaica's future continually in many ways, the article above only mentions a few of the great and significant achievements that i know of and i'm sure there are many more... i hope Barbara's work is well documented one day for others to take inspiration. A great Jamaican role model and a pioneer.


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