Witness History: Witness Black History

Witness History: Witness Black History

Interviews with people who were there at key moments in black and civil rights history... Show More

Episodes

November 3, 2020 10 min
In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, thousands of children were born to white German women and black American soldiers who were stationed in Allied-occupied Germany. The mixed-race infants were viewed with contempt by many Germans and endured constant abuse and racism. Black activist and author Ika Hügel-Marshall was one of the so-called "occupation babies". She tells Mike Lanchin about the painful struggle to disco...
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October 23, 2020 8 min
Usually it is the names of astronauts that people remember about the space race. But less celebrated are the teams of people working on how to put a rocket into orbit. Only in recent years have stories come to light of the contributions of the black women involved. Many were recruited as 'computers', meaning that they carried out complex mathematical calculations by hand, before machines were invented that could do the jo...
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In November 1978, Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to play a full England international. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Anderson had to endure racial abuse from opposing fans to achieve his dream of reaching the very top of the professional game. He went on to win the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest and to become Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing at Manchester United. Viv Anderson talks to Rebecca Kesby. P...
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October 9, 2020 10 min
In August 1977, the racist National Front organisation planned to stage a march into Lewisham in South London at a time of high racial tension in the area. The National Front activists were met by a huge counter-demonstration organised by anti-racist campaigners – in the clashes that followed, hundreds of people were arrested and injured before the National Front were forced to withdraw. The so-called Battle of Lewisham is now see...
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September 23, 2020 8 min
Just months after his release from prison in 1990 the South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela toured the USA. One of the eight cities he went to visit was Detroit. Benita Barden has been speaking to Reverend Wendell Anthony who was one of the people who welcomed him to the city. Photo: Nelson Mandela and Rev Wendell Anthony in 1990. Courtesy of Rev Wendell Anthony.
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The black former soldier choked to death in handcuffs on the floor of a British police station in 1998. CCTV footage taken from the police station showed the 37 year-old father of two gasping for air as officers chatted and joked around him. It took 11 minutes for him to stop breathing. An inquest found he was unlawfully killed but no-one has been held accountable for his death. Farhana Haider speaks to Janet Alder about her long ...
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June 12, 2020 14 min
One man's experience of the controversial US law that saw thousands locked up for life. Under the law in California, a third conviction for a felony offence would lead to a life sentence. At times in California, 45% of "three strikers" were African American. Many were sentenced to life in prison for non-violent or minor offences. Alex Last hears the story of Bilal Chatman, and his hopes for reform. Photo credit: Getty...
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June 11, 2020 8 min
People took to the streets of Los Angeles in fury after police, who had assaulted a black driver called Rodney King, were acquitted in 1992. His assault had been captured on video and played repeatedly on US television. In 2012 Nina Robinson spoke to Rodney King about the beating, the trial of the police, and the anger and mayhem that followed their acquittal. Photo: Rodney King in 2012. Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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In 1966, an all-black team went head-to-head with an all-white team for the National College Basketball championship - one of the biggest prizes in American sport. To much surprise, the African-Americans of Texas Western College defeated the University of Kentucky, then the number one team in the country. The game is now regarded as breaking the colour barrier in US basketball. In 2016 Nija Dalal-Small spoke to Nevil Shed, one of t...
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June 9, 2020 8 min
Four young black girls were killed in a racist attack on a church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The 16th Street Baptist Church was a centre for civil rights activists in the city. One of the girls who died was Addie Mae Collins, her sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph was badly injured but survived. In 2013 she spoke to Eddie Botsio about the bombing. Photo: men carrying the coffin of Addie Mae Collins at her funeral. Copyright: BBC
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June 8, 2020 8 min
In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional. The case was a turning point in the long battle for civil rights in America. In 2017 Farhana Haider spoke to Cheryl Brown Henderson, the youngest daughter of Oliver Brown, who was the named plaintiff in the class action against the local board of education. Photo: African American student Linda Brown, Cheryl Brown H...
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Ann Cole Lowe designed Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress in the 1950s. As a black woman working in high fashion she was a groundbreaking figurein New York. Sharon Hemans has been speaking to Judith Guile who went to work with Ann Lowe in her Madison Avenue studio in the 1960s.
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May 18, 2020 8 min
After four white policemen were acquitted of killing a black man - Miami rioted. Citizens took to the streets on the night of May 17th 1980. The unrest lasted for three days. 18 people died, hundreds were injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage were done to property. Sheila Cook has been hearing from Lonnie Lawrence who was a childhood friend of the dead man, but also a spokesman for the police force involved. ...
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The last surviving person to be captured in Africa in the 19th century and brought to United States on a slave ship, has been identified as a woman called Matilda McCrear, who died in Alabama in 1940. Sean Coughlan has spoken to the historian Hannah Durkin who uncovered Matilda's extraordinary life story and to Matilda's grandson, Johnny Crear. Photo: Matilda McCrear in later years. Copyright: Johnny Crear.
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February 3, 2020 14 min
Norwell Roberts joined the Metropolitan police in 1967. He was put forward as a symbol of progressive policing amid ongoing tensions between the police and ethnic minorities in the capital. But behind the scenes, he endured years of racist abuse from colleagues within the force. Norwell Roberts QPM spoke to Alex Last about growing up in Britain and his determination to be a pioneer in the police force. Photo: London's first b...
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January 30, 2020 10 min
Madam C. J. Walker was the first ever self-made female millionaire. She was born to former slaves in the USA and was orphaned at seven but against all the odds she went on to create her own business selling black hair-care products. By the time of her death in 1919 she'd become a famous philanthropist and civil rights campaigner. Claire Bowes has been speaking to her great great granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles. Photo: Mad...
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January 16, 2020 10 min
How a 14-year-old boy became the youngest person to be executed in the USA during the 20th century. George Stinney Jr was sent to the electric chair in 1944. He had been tried for the murder of two young girls, but when the case was reviewed by a court in South Carolina in 2014 his conviction was annulled. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to George Stinney Jr's sister Katherine Robinson, and to Matt Burgess who was one of the te...
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Desmond's was the most successful black sitcom in British TV history. It ran on Channel 4 for over five years, attracting millions of viewers. Trix Worrell, the man who wrote it, believes that Desmond's changed attitudes to race in the UK. Trix has been speaking to Sharon Hemans about the show, and the people who inspired it. Image: Ram John Holder, Norman Beaton and Gyearbuor Asante (Credit: Courtesy of Channel 4)
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December 16, 2019 8 min
For much of World War Two African-American soldiers were relegated to support roles and kept away from the fighting. But after the Allies suffered huge losses during the Battle of the Bulge, they were called on to volunteer for combat. Janet Ball has been speaking Reverend Matthew Southall Brown who saw action in Europe towards the end of the war. He fought in the US Army's 9th Division, 60th Regiment, Company E. Photograph:Vo...
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December 12, 2019 8 min
When police in New York shot a young immigrant 41 times in 1999, thousands of people took to the streets to protest. But Amadou Diallo's mother Kadiatou wanted her son to be remembered for the way he lived, not the way he died. So she flew to the US to speak on his behalf. She has been telling Sharon Hemans her story.
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