Black History Month - Dr Harold Moody

The support we give patients and families at St Oswald’s Hospice is holistic and goes beyond just clinical care. We recognise that people’s medical conditions are just a part of their lives and that their wellbeing is affected by a number of different factors. The communities we are a part of and are connected to are a vital in helping us to provide the right care and support, whether that be helping us to raise much needed funds or providing experiences, opportunities and care. We also act as an advocate for those we care for, either directly to help with individual issues or by campaigning for better access to palliative and end of life care. This week’s featured person for Black History Month is a doctor who worked in a similar way and, like us, was embedded in their community.

Harold Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1882. The son of a prosperous pharmacist and after he completed school in 1904, Moody was able to travel to London to study medicine at King’s College. The England that Moody encountered was totally unexpected. He found it difficult to find anywhere to live because of his ethnicity and, despite winning many prizes at university and qualifying as a doctor in 1910, he was unsuccessful in gaining a role in a hospital as the matron refused to ‘have a coloured doctor working at the hospital’. Moody was also denied the post of medical officer to the Camberwell Board of Guardians as ‘poor people would refuse to have a [n-word] to attend them’.

In 1913, Moody started his own medical practice in Peckham, London. He also married a nurse, Olive Tranter, whom he had met as a medical student. This was controversial at the time as Olive was white.

A devout Christian, Moody was elected Chair of the Colonial Missionary Society in 1921 and in 1931 he became president of the London Christian Endeavour Federation. The contacts he made in these organisations helped him to help the many black people who came to him in dire need. Many, like Moody, couldn’t find accommodation or work. Moody would intervene on people’s behalf and soon, many other middle-class black people joined him in this work.

In March 1931, Moody led the creation of The League of Coloured Peoples. Its aims were to protect the social, educational, economic and political interests of its members; to interest members in the welfare of coloured peoples around the world, to improve race relations and to work with organisations that were sympathetic to black people. A fifth aim of supporting financially where people were in need was added six years later. Whilst the League began with largely social aims, it became more political as it campaigned for things like the removal of the colour bar in the UK which allowed bars and restaurants to refuse entry to black and Asian people and gave landlords the right to refuse to rent based on race. The League also campaigned for the return of citizenship to black and Asian seamen in 1936 and, during World War II, for the rights of black and Asian armed forces personnel. The League also, in 1944, held a conference that drew up a charter demanding self-government for all colonies (and end to the Empire) and equal rights for all, male and female, regardless of race.

By the time of the second World War, Moody was an influential and well respected doctor in Peckham and was very involved in organising the local community’s response to the war. During the bombing in South London in 1944 Moody was often the first doctor on the scene, supporting his community and saving lives.

In 1946, Moody went on a tour of the Caribbean to raise funds for a cultural centre. On his return he fell ill with flu and he died in April 1947 aged 64.

If you would like to find out more information about Dr Harold Moody, please click here.

Find out more information about our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work at the Hospice, please click here.

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