Dr. Harold Moody

1882 – 1947

Dr. Harold Moody began his practice, as a GP in Peckham, South London in 1913. He was well respected for his kindness and his love of children.

The eldest son of a middle class family, he came to Britain from Jamaica at the age of 22 in 1904, to study medicine at King’s College Hospital.   British racism took him by surprise.  At first, he could not even find a room to rent.  As a student he won many prizes, but was turned down for his first job at King’s because the Matron refused to work with a “colored” doctor. Although he had the best qualifications of all the applicants, nevertheless, Dr. Moody was also turned down for a job working with poor people in Camberwell, because the employer said his white patients “would not have a nigger attend them.” 

Forced into self employment, Dr. Moody started up his own practice at 111 Kings Rd. (Now Kings Grove) Peckham. In the early days he often earned less than a pound a week. This was the time before the National Health Service when often poor working class families faced great hardships in having to find extra funds to see a doctor.

Dr. Moody became very popular because often, he would treat the children of such families for no charge. Also as a treat for the children in the community, he organised annual trips to Epsom Downs and a Christmas party every year.

Dr. Moody never forgot his early clashes with British racism.  Once he was successful he worked for the welfare of other Black people in Britain and in 1931 he formed the League of Coloured Peoples.  This was the first Black pressure group in Britain.  It supported Black people’s rights in housing and jobs and took up cases of racism.

One success was in 1940 when the head of the BBC apologized for the use of the word “nigger” in a radio programme.  During World War Two, the League helped thousands of Black skilled workers and soldiers who came to work in the factories and fight in the armed forces. The British Government was forced to state “we fight this war for all peoples”.   It had to set up hostels for Black workers and promise freedom for the colonies when the war was over.

Dr. Moody married an English nurse and they had six children. In 1922 the family moved to 164 Queens Rd. In honour of Dr. Moody the house which still stands is now marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque, this was awarded in 1995. As well as this a local park in Gordon Rd. Peckham was named after him.

Source: Speak to Me As I Am-The black presence in Southwark since 1600, By Stephan Bourne, Southwark Council (2005)

British Library hold some of the copies of League of Coloured Peoples newsletters pfoduced by Dr Harold Moody

past tense has an excellent article about the League of Coloured Peoples and it’s movement into civil:

The League’s inaugural executive committee of included:

C. Belfield Clark of Barbados
George Roberts of Trinidad
Sam Morris of Grenada
Robert Adams of British Guiana
Desmond Buckle of The Gold Coast
Also present at the inaugural meeting was Stella Thomas, who would go on to become the first woman magistrate in West Africa.

Other prominent members included West Indian Marxist C. L. R. James, Jomo Kenyatta (later first president of Kenya) and Jamaican writer, feminist, activist, (and first black woman producer at the BBC) Una Marson.

In 1933, the League began publication of the civil-rights journal The Keys.

The League worked in alliance with a wide variety of people – pan-Africanists, race rights groups, the Colonial Office, and pressure groups in the various colonies.