Witness History: Witness Black History

By BBC World Service

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

Episode Date
Three Strikes Law
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 offensives. Alex Last hears the story of Bilal Chatman, and his hopes for reform. Photo credit: Getty Images
Jun 12, 2020
Rodney King and the LA riots
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
Jun 11, 2020
Black basketball pioneers - Texas Western
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 that groundbreaking Texas Western team. The programme is a Sparklab Production for BBC World Service. PHOTO: Texas Western celebrate their victory in 1966 (Getty Images)
Jun 10, 2020
The 16th Street church bombing
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
Jun 09, 2020
Brown v the Board of Education
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 Henderson's eldest sister (front, C) sitting in her segregated classroom. Credit: GettyArchive
Jun 08, 2020
Ann Lowe - African American fashion designer
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.
May 29, 2020
The Miami riots
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. Photo: A Florida National Guardsman directs traffic away from the northwest section of Miami as fires burn out of control and looting continues. Credit: Getty Images.
May 18, 2020
The last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade
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.
Apr 21, 2020
London's first black policeman
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 black policeman PC Norwell Roberts beginning his training with colleagues at Hendon Police College, London, 5th April 1967. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Feb 03, 2020
The first self-made female millionaire
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: Madam Walker Family Archives/A'Lelia Bundles
Jan 30, 2020
The story of George Stinney Jr
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 team of lawyers who fought to clear his name. Photo: George Stinney Jr in 1944. Credit Alamy.
Jan 16, 2020
Desmond's: A sitcom that changed Britain
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)
Jan 02, 2020
Black GIs during World War Two
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:Volunteer combat soldiers from the 9th Division prepare for shipment to front lines in Germany. Credit: US Government Archives.
Dec 16, 2019
The killing of Amadou Diallo
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.
Dec 12, 2019
Britain's World War Two 'Brown Babies'
The US first began sending troops to the UK in 1942 to help in the war effort. It is estimated that at least two million American servicemen passed through the UK during World War Two and tens of thousands of them were black. The African-American GIs stationed in Britain were forced by the American military to abide by the racial segregation laws that applied in the deep south of the US. But that didn't stop relationships developing between British women and the black soldiers, some of whom went on to have children. Babs Gibson-Ward was one those children. She has been speaking to Farhana Haider about the stigma of growing up as mixed raced child in post-war Britain. (Photo: Hoinicote House children, c.1948. Boys and girls whose parents of mixed ancestry met during WWII. Credit: Lesley York)
Oct 11, 2019
The Bristol bus boycott
In 1963 a small group of British black activists started a pioneering protest against racism within the local bus company in Bristol. It had specified that it did not want to employ black bus drivers. Inspired by the example of the US Civil Rights Movement the boycott ended in victory and led to the passage of Britain's first anti-discrimination laws. Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett spoke to Louise Hidalgo in 2013 about their part in the protest. Photo: Park Street in Bristol in the early 1960s. (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Oct 10, 2019
The Notting Hill riots
In August 1958 Britain was shocked by nearly a week of race riots in the west London district of Notting Hill. The clashes between West Indian immigrants and aggressive white youths known as Teddy Boys led to the first race relations campaigns and the creation of the famous Notting Hill Carnival. Using voices from the BBC archives Simon Watts tells the story. Photo: Street scene in Notting Hill at the time the race riots broke out in 1958. Credit: Getty Images.
Oct 09, 2019
The first black woman MP in Britain
In 1987 Diane Abbott became the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. The daughter of first generation immigrants she was one of only four black MPs elected that day. In 2015 Diane Abbott spoke to Farhana Haider about her journey into the political history books. Photo: Diane Abbott in 1986. Copyright: BBC
Oct 08, 2019
Learie Constantine - fighting racism in the UK
The great West Indian cricketer, lawyer and member of the House of Lords took a London hotel to court when it refused to let him and his family stay there in 1943. Susan Hulme brings us his story from the BBC archives. Photo: Sir Learie Constantine outside Westminster Abbey in 1966. Credit: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images.
Oct 07, 2019
Free breakfast with the Black Panthers
The Black Panther Party hit the headlines in the late 1960s with their call for revolution. But they also ran a number of "survival programmes" to help their local communities - the biggest of which was a project providing free breakfasts for schoolchildren. Reverend Earl Neil was one of the organisers of the first Free Breakfast for Children programme at St Augustine's Church in Oakland, California. He speaks to Lucy Burns. (IMAGE: Shutterstock)
Sep 18, 2019
Nina Simone moves to Liberia
The great African-American jazz singer Nina Simone moved to the Liberian capital Monrovia in September 1974. Simone was famous for her vocal support for the civil rights movement in the USA as well as for songs like I'm Feeling Good, Mississippi Goddam and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, and she was invited to the West African republic by her friend the singer Miriam Makeba. Lucy Burns speaks to Nina Simone's friend James C Dennis Sr. Picture: Nina Simone performs on stage at Newport Jazz Festival on July 4th 1968 in Newport, Rhode Island (David Redfern/Redferns)
Aug 29, 2019
Britain's first female black headteacher
Yvonne Conolly was appointed head of Ringcross Primary school in North London in 1969. She had moved to the UK from Jamaica just a few years earlier and quickly worked her way up the teaching profession. She faced racist threats when she first took up the post but refused to allow them to define her relationship with the children she taught. Photo: Yvonne Conolly in a classroom. Copyright: Pathe.
Mar 08, 2019
Racial Equality in Britain - Learie Constantine
The former West Indies cricketer, Learie Constantine, took the Imperial Hotel in London to court in 1943. It had refused to let him and his family stay because they were black. He won his case. Susan Hulme brings you his story from the BBC Archives. Photo: Sir Learie Constantine and his wife in the 1960s. Credit: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Oct 01, 2018
Photographing Martin Luther King and His Family
In 1969 photo journalist Moneta Sleet became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. He won for the black and white image of Coretta Scott King the widow of Martin Luther King taken at the funeral of the murdered civil rights leader. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Moneta Sleet's son Gregory Sleet about his father's remarkable career capturing many of the images that defined the struggle for racial equality in America. Photo: Moneta Sleet's Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Coretta Scott King and daughter Bernice. Credit. Getty
Aug 14, 2018
The "Godfather of Gospel Music"
Thomas A Dorsey is credited with developing Gospel music into a global phenomenon. He started his own musical career in jazz clubs and blues bars, but personal tragedy led him back to church, and inspired hundreds of Gospel songs that transformed the genre. Rebecca Kesby has been listening to archive recordings of Thomas A Dorsey and his singing partner Willie Mae Ford Smith, and speaking to Professor Albert J Raboteau from Princeton University. (PHOTO: Thomas A. Dorsey - 1982. Courtesy of National Endowment For Arts/Humanities/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock. Credit REX)
Jan 29, 2018
The First Kwanzaa
In December 1966, a group of Black activists in Los Angeles created the winter holiday Kwanzaa to try to reclaim their African heritage. It's now celebrated by millions across the US. Lucy Burns speaks to Terri Bandele, who attended the first Kwanzaa celebrations aged 11. Picture: Children at the first Kwanzaa celebration - courtesy of Terri Bandele (on right)
Dec 26, 2017
The Unsung Hero of Heart Surgery
The African-American lab technician, Vivien Thomas, whose surgery helped save the lives of millions of babies but whose work went unrecognised for years. Claire Bowes has been listening to archive recordings of Vivien Thomas describing his long partnership with Dr Alfred Blalock, the man solely credited with inventing an operation in 1944 which helped manage a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. (Photo: Vivien Thomas, US Surgical Technician, 1940) (Audio: Courtesy of US National Library of Medicine)
Dec 13, 2017
Notting Hill Race Riot
In August 1958, Britain was shocked by nearly a week of race riots in the west London district of Notting Hill. The clashes between West Indian immigrants and aggressive white youths known as Teddy Boys led to the first race relations campaigns and the creation of the famous Notting Hill Carnival. Simon Watts reports. PHOTO: Police making arrests in Notting Hill in 1958 (Getty Images)
Aug 25, 2017
Brown vs The Board of Education
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. Farhana Haider has been speaking 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 Henderson's eldest sister (front, C) sitting in her segregated classroom.Credit: GettyArchive)
May 17, 2017
The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks
In 1951 cells taken from an African American woman suffering from cancer were found to be unique because they carried on reproducing endlessly in the laboratory. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951. Cultures from her cells have since been used to provide medical breakthroughs but as Farhana Haider reports, Henrietta Lacks was never asked if her cells could be used in medical research. (Photo: Henrietta Lacks. Copyright: Lacks Family)
Mar 02, 2017
Roots - The TV Series
The epic mini-series about slavery in the USA hit TV screens in January 1977. Based on a novel by Alex Haley it imagined the lives of his ancestors who had been brought to the US from Africa on slave ships. It revolutionised perceptions about African-Americans and their history. Ashley Byrne has spoken to Leslie Uggams who played the character Kizzy in the series. (Photo: Actors LeVar Burton, Todd Bridges and Robert Reed in Roots. Credit: Alamy)
Jan 19, 2017
Bob Marley Survives Assassination Attempt
In December 1976 unidentified gunmen tried to kill Bob Marley at his home in Kingston, Jamaica. The legendary reggae singer miraculously survived with just light injuries. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from Nancy Burke, one of Marley's friends and neighbours, who was trapped inside the house as the gunmen stormed in, guns blazing. Photo: Bob Marley, 1970s (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Dec 02, 2016
A Black GI in China
In November 1950, Clarence Adams, an African-American soldier fighting in the Korean war, was captured by the Chinese Red Army. He was held in a prisoner of war camp until the war ended. But instead of returning home, Adams and 20 other GIs chose to settle in China. Rob Walker has been speaking to his daughter, Della Adams. (Photo: Clarence Adams and his Chinese wife, Liu Lin Feng, courtesy of the family)
Nov 01, 2016
South Africa's 1985 State of Emergency
In the dying years of the Apartheid regime, the white minority government in South Africa was desperate to keep control as people took to the streets demanding change. A state of emergency was declared allowing the police and security forces sweeping new powers, which some individuals executed with extreme brutality. Rebecca Kesby spoke to Rev Dr Allan Boesak who was a political activist and church leader - he was one of those calling for an end to the unfair Apartheid system. (Photo: A young South African boy in Duduza township, Jul 1985 (Gideon Mendel, AFP)
Sep 27, 2016
Voting Against the War on Terror
Just three days after the 9/11 attacks on America, Congress gave the President the power to order military action against any person, organisation or country suspected of involvement in the attacks - without needing Congressional approval. Witness speaks to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of the legislature to oppose the new powers. Photo: Barbara Lee in 2002. Credit: Getty Images News.
Sep 20, 2016
The Dance Theatre of Harlem
In August 1969, Arthur Mitchell founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem - the first classical ballet company to focus on black dancers. Virginia Johnson, now the organisation's director, was a founder member. (Photo: The Dance Theatre of Harlem, circa 1970. Virginia Johnson pictured back row, third from left. Credit: Marbeth)
Aug 24, 2016
Race Riots in Liverpool
In July 1981 race riots broke out on the streets of Liverpool. It was the first time that British police used CS gas to control civil unrest in mainland Britain. Witness has been hearing from a man who took part in the riot. (Photo: Lines of police with riot shields face a group of youths during riots in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, July 1981. Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jul 25, 2016
Black in the USSR
Robert Robinson, a Jamaican born engineer, was recruited to work in the USSR from a factory in Detroit in 1930. Having had his US citizenship revoked, he spent 43 years unable to leave the Soviet Union. Dina Newman tells his story, using BBC archive. (Photo: Robert Robinson in the 1920s. Source: BBC archive)
Jun 20, 2016
Kia Ora: Maori Rights Breakthrough in New Zealand
In 1984, Naida Glavish, a New Zealand telephone operator became famous for greeting customers in her native Maori language. Instead of "good morning" she insisted on saying "Kia Ora". The New Zealand prime minister supported her, and two years later Maori became an official language of New Zealand. Dina Newman spoke to Naida Glavish. (Photo: Naida Glavish as president of the Maori Party in 2013. Credit: Joel Ford/Getty Images)
May 20, 2016
Marcus Garvey
In 1916 Marcus Garvey arrived in the US and began a movement for black pride. His dream was that black people would live independently of whites in a new empire in Africa. Photo: August 1922 Marcus Garvey is shown in a military uniform as the "Provisional President of Africa" during a parade on the opening day of the Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World in Harlem, New York City. (Credit: AP Photo/File)
May 17, 2016
Haile Selassie In Jamaica
In April 1966, Ethiopia's emperor Haile Selassie made a spectacular arrival in Jamaica. It was his first and only visit to the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement which revered him. A quarter of a million people greeted him at the airport. (Photo: Emperor Haile Selassie speaking to the BBC in 1954)
Apr 18, 2016
The Back to Africa Movement
At the end of the 19th Century, African-Americans in the southern states of the US faced a wave of political and racial violence. Lynchings reached a peak. Black people were prevented from voting and subject to laws which enforced racial segregation. In response, thousands sought to leave the US and travel to Liberia. More emigrants left from Arkansas than any other southern state. We hear from Professor Kenneth Barnes of the University of Central Arkansas. He uncovered a fascinating series of letters that reveal why so many black Arkansans dreamed of Liberia and what happened to them when they got there. (Photo: Departure of African American emigrants for Liberia; from The Illustrated American, 21 March 1896. Credit: The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1890 - 1899)
Feb 23, 2016
Britain's First Black Woman MP
In 1987 Diane Abbott became the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. The daughter of first generation immigrants she was one of only four black MPs. Diane Abbott has been speaking to Farhana Haider about her election and making political history in the UK. (Photo: New black MPs Diana Abbott and Bernie Grant 1988. Credit: PA )
Jun 22, 2015
Inter-racial Marriage in South Africa
In South Africa in June 1985, the ban on marriage between people of different ethnic backgrounds was finally lifted. Suzanne Le Clerc and Protas Madlala were the first couple to tie the knot under the new rules. (Photo: Suzanne and Protas, courtesy of the family)
Jun 16, 2015
The Death of Walter Rodney
In June 1980, the Guyanese opposition leader and academic, Dr Walter Rodney, was killed in a bomb explosion. He was one of the leaders of a movement trying to bridge the racial divide in Guyana’s politics. His supporters said he had been assassinated on the orders of the government. We hear from his widow, Patricia Rodney, and from Wazir Mohamed who was a young activist at the time. (Photo: Walter Rodney. Credit: the Walter Rodney Family)
Jun 11, 2015
Dorothy Mulkey - US Fair Housing Campaigner
In 1967, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling which effectively outlawed discrimination in the American housing market. The case was brought by Dorothy Mulkey, a Californian woman who had been preventing from renting an apartment in a white area. She talks to Adam Smith for Witness. PHOTO: Dorothy Mulkey at a Civil Rights exhibition in 2014 (Associated Press)
May 26, 2015
Black Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm
In January 1972 Shirley Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate to make a bid for the US Presidency. She was also the first black woman elected to Congress. Witness has been speaking to Congressman Charles Rangel who worked with Shirley Chisholm. (Photo: Shirley Chisholm at the Democratic National Convention in 1972. Credit: Getty Images)
Jan 29, 2015
Death of Grenada's Revolution
On 19 October 1983, Grenada's popular left-wing prime minister, Maurice Bishop, was killed following an internal party coup. Six days later the US invaded the tiny Caribbean island. We hear from Ann Peters, who was with Maurice Bishop in his final hours. Photo: Maurice Bishop in 1983 . BBC Pictures
Oct 18, 2013
The Scottsboro Boys: A Miscarriage of Justice in the US
In 1931, nine black teenagers were convicted of raping two white girls in the southern US state of Alabama. Eight were sentenced to death by an all-white jury; but after years of campaigning, all eventually went free. We hear from the daughter of Clarence Norris, one of the accused. Picture: Police escort two recently freed "Scottsboro Boys" New York, 1937, Credit: Associated Press
Oct 17, 2013
Ruby Bridges Attends an all-White School
In November 1960, Ruby Bridges became one of the first black children in New Orleans to be educated at a white elementary school. It began the desegregation of the education system in the Southern States. She was just six years old, and she had to be accompanied to school by US Marshals. *** Listeners should be aware that some of the language in this programme reflects the historical context of the time. *** Image: Associated Press
Oct 11, 2013
16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
On September 15 1963, four young black girls were killed in a racist bomb attack against a church in Birmingham, Alabama in the US. The Baptist church at 16th Street had been a centre for civil rights activities in the city. Sarah Collins Rudolph was badly injured in the attack, and her sister, Addie Mae was one of those who died. Listen to her story. Photo: BBC Copyright.
Oct 11, 2013
Josephine Baker - Black American Superstar
In 1925 a young black American dancer became an overnight sensation in Paris. Her overtly sexual act soon made her one of the most famous women in Europe. Her name was Josephine Baker - hear from her adopted son Jean-Claude Baker about her dancing, and her life. (Photo: Josephine Baker in her heyday. Credit: Walery/Getty Images)
Oct 10, 2013
The Children's Crusade
Birmingham in Alabama was one of the most segregated cities in the USA in 1963. In May that year thousands of black schoolchildren responded to a call from Martin Luther King to protest against segregation at the height of racial tensions. It became known as the Children's Crusade. Gwendolyn Webb was 14 years old at the time and took part. Listen to her story. (Photo: Firefighters turn their hoses on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit: AP Photo/Bill Hudson)
Oct 09, 2013
Mixed race marriage victory in US
In 1958, a mixed-race couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, were arrested and then banished from the US state of Virginia for breaking its laws against inter-racial marriage. Nine years later, Mildred and Richard Loving won a ruling at the Supreme Court declaring this sort of legislation unconstitutional. Witness speaks to the Lovings' lawyer, Bernie Cohen.
Oct 08, 2013
Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins
On 1 February 1960, four young black men began a protest in Greensboro, North Carolina against the racial segregation of shops and restaurants in the US southern states. The men, who became known as the Greensboro Four, asked to be served at a lunch counter in Woolworths. When they were refused service they stayed until closing time. And went back the next day, and the next. Over the following days and months, this non-violent form of protest spread and many more people staged sit-ins at shops and restaurants. Witness hears from one of the four men, Franklin McCain.
Oct 07, 2013
The Freedom Riders
The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on buses, testing out whether bus stations were complying with the Supreme Court ruling that banned segregation. Listen to Bernard Lafayette Junior, an eyewitness to how Martin Luther King managed to prevent inter-ethnic bloodshed on a night of extreme tension during the battle against segregation in the American South. Picture: A group of Black Americans get off the 'Freedom Bus' at Jackson, Mississippi, Credit: William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images
Oct 07, 2013
The Mississippi Burning Case
Andrew Goodman was one of the three civil rights workers killed by the Klu Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964. He and the other two victims, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, had been working on a project to register African-Americans to vote. For Witness, Andrew's brother David recalls his brother's strong sense of justice and what his family lived through in the 44 days he was missing. He remembers how nationwide shock helped change America for good - and that it took the deaths of two white people to awake the conscience of middle America. Picture: Andrew Goodman, Credit: Associated Press
Oct 05, 2013
Soweto Uprising
The Soweto uprising shook the Apartheid regime in South Africa to its core. But it all began with a demonstration by schoolchildren against having to learn Afrikaans at school. Alan Johnston has been talking to one of the schoolgirls who led the march on 16 June 1976. Picture: Students protest in Soweto against the introduction of Afrikaans in schools, Credit: BBC/Clarity Films/Peter Magubane
Oct 05, 2013
Albert Luthuli Receives the Nobel Peace Prize
When Chief Albert Luthuli won the Nobel Peace Prize he was living under a banning order in rural South Africa. His daughter Albertina talks to Witness. Also listen to archive recordings of his acceptance speech. He won the prize for advocating peaceful opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Picture: Albert Luthuli receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive
Oct 05, 2013
Nelson Mandela's Autobiography
*** This programme was first broadcast on 25 October, 2011 *** In the mid 1970s Nelson Mandela began writing his autobiography in prison, on Robben Island. Mac Maharaj was one of the prisoners who helped edit and conceal the manuscript. Photo: Associated Press, Nelson Mandela before he was imprisoned.
Oct 04, 2013
ANC Bomb
The armed wing of the ANC party took its first violent action in 1961, when a bomb was planted at municipal offices in Durban. Ronnie Kasrils explained what happened that day. (Image: Ronnie Kasrils in 1961. Credit: Ronnie Kasrils)
Oct 04, 2013
The Death of Steve Biko
The anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, died in a police cell in 1977. The South African police claimed he'd gone on hunger strike and had starved himself to death, but he had only been in prison a matter of days. Helen Zille was the journalist who helped uncover the truth of his death - that he had in fact died of a brain hemorrhage due to head injuries. The report she published in the Rand Daily Mail showed that the govenment had lied. (Image: Members of the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) hold a candle light memorial ceremony to mark the death anniversary of the anti-apartheid activist and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement Steve Bantu Biko. Credit: RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/GettyImages)
Oct 04, 2013
The Rivonia Trial
*** This programme was first broadcast on 10 February, 2010 *** Ahmed Kathrada was one of the ANC activists jailed alongside Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Treason trial in South Africa in 1964. He tells Witness the story of his interrogation and trial. (Image: Prison van with Rivonia trial prisoners 16 June 1964, Credit: AFP/Getty)
Oct 04, 2013
Surviving Robben Island
*** This programme was first broadcast on 11 February, 2010 *** When Nelson Mandela and his fellow ANC activists were imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964, South Africa's apartheid regime distinguished between races even in jail. Ahmed Kathrada was the one Asian prisoner to be jailed alongside him. He tells Witness his story. (Image: Prison corridor on Robben Island, Credit: BBC)
Oct 04, 2013
Petula Clark Touches Harry Belafonte's Arm
In 1968 Harry Belafonte and Petula Clark sang together her song On the Path of Glory for a special for NBC. Not such a remarkable event in itself, but Petula touched Harry's forearm during the duet and made TV history. It was the first time a white woman had touched a black man on US television. The sponsor insisted the touch be cut from the programme, the programme makers refused. Listen to the producer of the programme, Steve Binder. Picture: Harry Belafonte, Credit: Alan Meek/Express/Getty Images
Oct 03, 2013
John Howard Griffin: Black Like Me
John Howard Griffin, a white journalist, dyed his skin black to experience segregation in America's Deep South. John Howard Griffin wrote a book about his seven week experience. *** Listeners should be aware that some of the language in this programme reflects the historical context of the time. *** Photo: Griffin as a black man in 1959 (left). Courtesy of John Howard Griffin Estate.
Oct 03, 2013
Beverly Johnson - Vogue's First Black Covergirl
In 1974 American Vogue put a black model on its cover for the first time. We hear how Beverly Johnson made it to the front of the world's most famous fashion magazine.
Oct 02, 2013
Black Golfer at the US Masters
In 1975, Lee Elder braved death threats to become the first African-American golfer to play at the prestigious US Masters in Augusta. It was one of the last colour barriers in US sport and made him a hero to many black sportsmen - including Tiger Woods. Lee Elder recalls the tournament for Witness. PHOTO: Lee Elder playing golf later in life (Getty Images)
Oct 02, 2013
The Los Angeles Riots
In May 1992 the people of South Central Los Angeles took to the streets in fury at police brutality. They were angry that Los Angeles police department officers accused of beating a motorist called Rodney King, had been acquitted. Hear Rodney King's take on the beating, and the unrest and violence that followed it.
Oct 02, 2013
Apartheid in the 1950s
A snapshot of the attitudes and emotions on both sides of the racial divide as the South Africa authorites cemented the foundations of Apartheid in 1957.
Oct 02, 2013
The Stolen Generation
Debra Hocking was taken from her indigenous Australian family as a baby and was placed with a foster family. It was part of a government policy to try to assimilate Aboriginal children into white families. Photo: PM Kevin Rudd prepares to apologise to the Stolen Generation in Parliament on February 13 2008. (Getty Images)
Oct 01, 2013
Jamaica Slave Rebellion
*** Contains descriptions that some listeners may find upsetting *** Enslaved Africans are forced to work in sugar cane fields - the hours are long and there are frequent, brutal punishments. They have endured these conditions for 200 years. By 1831 the anti-slavery movement is gathering pace and the slaves decide to take action - by going on strike. Samuel Sharpe became a Jamaican national hero as he led the island's slaves in a rebellion against the overseers and sugar plantation owners. The rebellion was brutally crushed, but over time, the rebellion had a significant impact - and two years later in 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act is passed. Picture: Making sugar in Jamaica, Credit: HultonArchive/Illustrated London News/Getty Images
Oct 01, 2013
The Voyage of the Empire Windrush
In 1948 nearly 500 pioneers travelled from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush. The passage cost £28, 10 shillings. Passenger Sam King describes the conditions on board and the concerns people had about finding a job in England - and what life was like in their adopted country once they arrived.
Oct 01, 2013
Bristol Bus Boycott
In 1963, a small group of black activists in Bristol in the UK started a pioneering protest against racism by the local bus company, which had specified that they did not want to employ black drivers. Inspired by the example of Martin Luther King, the boycott ended in victory and led to the passage of Britain's first anti-discrimination laws. Paul Stephenson talks about his part in the protest.
Oct 01, 2013
The Brixton Riots
In April 1981 the streets of Brixton, south London, erupted into violence. The fighting took part between young members of the black community and the Metropolitan police. A former rioter, Sheldon Thomas, and a former policeman, Brian Paddick, tell their side of the story. This programme was first broadcast last year. Photo: Press Association
Oct 01, 2013
The Attica Prison Riot
In September 1971 prisoners in a high security jail in the US rose up against their guards taking 42 people hostage. After 4 days of negotiations, armed police retook the jail. By the time the siege ended 39 people were dead. Photo: Discussions inside the prison on 10th September 1971. Associated Press.
Sep 09, 2013
I Have a Dream
On August 28th 1963, the American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, made his historic plea for an end to racial discrimination in the USA. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he addressed hundreds of thousands of activists who had marched to Washington to demonstrate for black rights. Listen to John Lewis, the youngest speaker on the podium that day. Photo: Associated Press.
Aug 28, 2013
Australia's Aboriginal Referendum
In May 1967 campaigning began across Australia to consolidate Aboriginal rights in the country. It took a referendum to change the constitution before they were regarded as legally equal citizens. (Photo: Aboriginal man playing a didgeridoo. Copyright: BBC)
May 01, 2013
Muhammad Ali and the Draft
In 1967, the world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, refused to be indicted into the American military. His decision to follow his conscience and not serve in Vietnam galvanised radicals across the US. Simon Watts speaks to Dr Nathan Hare about a visit by Muhammad Ali to Howard University at the height of the outcry over his refusal of the draft. (Photo: Muhammad Ali in training. Credit: R McPhedran/Express/Getty Images)
Apr 25, 2013
James Brown Concert at the Boston Garden
The soul singer's April 1968 concert was held amid rioting and violence provoked by the assassination of Martin Luther King. But despite the fears of the city authorities, the streets of Boston were quiet the night James Brown and his band played. Listen to two people who were there. (Photo: James Brown. Credit: AFP)
Apr 05, 2013
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
For nearly 40 years, the US government conducted an experiment on a group of African-American men without their knowledge - to see what would happen if their syphilis was left untreated. Photo: US National Archive.
Jan 14, 2013