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Moody, Harold Arundel

Moody, Harold Arundel

October 8, 1882
April 24, 1947

Dr. Harold Arundel Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but he lived most of his adult life in England, involved in the struggle for the rights of people of color around the world. His early life was centered in Kingston, where his father was a retail chemist. Moody worked in his father's pharmaceutical business while still a student at Wolmer's School, where he obtained his secondary education with a distinction in mathematics. After graduating, Moody opened a short-lived private school and also taught at his alma mater. In 1904 he had accumulated enough money to pursue medical studies in England, at King's College, University of London.

At King's College Hospital, Moody earned several academic honors and awards, and by 1910 he had become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and the London Royal College of Physicians. In 1919 he received his Doctor of Medicine degree. He also pursued postgraduate work in ophthalmic medicine at the Royal Eye Hospital, London. However, although he was a qualified and distinguished medical school graduate, he encountered blatant racism in his attempt to obtain an appointment.

First, his own college hospital refused him a position. An appointment at another London hospital was withdrawn because the matron of the institution would not allow "a coloured doctor" to work there. However, Moody found employment as a medical superintendent at the Marylebone Medical Mission. On May 10, 1913, he married Olive Mabel Tranter, a nurse. The union resulted in six children, two of whom, Christina and Harold Jr., also became medical practitioners. The senior Moody established a private medical practice in Peckham, southeast London, in 1913, and he continued in that location for thirty-five years.

While in Jamaica, Moody was a Congregationalist and continued as a member of that denomination in the United Kingdom. He also forged close ties with the Church Missionary Society (CMS), becoming a board member in 1912 and its chair in 1921. He was a member of the Christian Endeavour Union and became its president by 1931, and in 1943 he was named chair of the London Missionary Society (LMS), with which he had had a long association. His ecumenical connections afforded him lifelong support in his quest to improve the lives of people of African ancestry.

Moody's ties with these organizations also provided him with a platform from which to argue for the rights of people of color. His residence in Peckham soon became a well-known place for recently arrived West Indian students and others in England to visit and seek guidance and assistance. He soon envisioned an organization that would represent the interest of colored people in the United Kingdom.

The help to launch such an organization materialized in March, 1931, when Dr. Charles Wesley, the chair of the history department at Howard University in Washington, D.C., arrived in England. Using the YMCA at Tottenham Court Road, London, as a forum, Wesley and Moody held meetings and organized the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP), following the structure of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Wesley was a member. The LCP would provide Moody with a venue "to promote and protect the social, educational, economical, and political interests of its members and the welfare of coloured people" worldwide.

At first, the LCP's membership consisted mainly of students of color from the British colonies, especially the Caribbean and East and West Africa. Whites who were attached to religious institutions and retired colonial civil servants, as well as persons from India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), also participated in the activities of the LCP. In fact, the LCP was a multiracial organization led by people of color. Other African Americans involved with the LCP included St. Clair Drake, Paul Robeson, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Other members of the LCP include C. L. R. James, the noted author from Trinidad and Tobago; Sir Learie Constantine, the famous Trinidadian cricketer and jurist; the Grenadian Sir David Pitt; and Sir Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Laureate from Saint Lucian.

The Keys, the journal of the organization, began publication in 1933, the same year the first annual conference of the LCP was held. Branches of the LCP were organized in areas of the British Empire, such as Sierra Leone. In British Guiana (later known as Guyana), a branch was formed by Dulcina Ross-Armstrong, who had worked with Dr. Moody in London.

As president of the LCP, Moody engaged in a number of racially and politically sensitive matters, not only in the United Kingdom but also abroad. He used various protest methods and sent deputations to the governments of the countries concerned. Among the issues he was concerned with were the trial of the "Scottsboro Boys" in the United States and the plan to incorporate Bechuanaland, Basutoland, and Swaziland into South Africa. (This latter plan did not occur, and the three countries remained under British control). Although Moody returned to Jamaica on only three occasionsin 1912, 1919, and during 1946 and 1947he took active interests in Caribbean affairs. In 1937, economic, social, and political unrest swept through the entire Caribbean region, and several West Indian leaders were incarcerated by the colonial authorities. Moody and the LCP sent deputations to the Colonial Office, a move that led to the Moyne Royal Commission. Eventually, the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1940 was passed, providing financial resources for social and economic changes in the Caribbean.

Italy's invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 and the issue of classifying colonial seamen as aliens to preclude them from employment in Cardiff, Wales, engaged his attention. Moody lobbied the Unemployment Branch of the Board of Trade and the National Seamen's Union to intervene on the seamen's behalf. He also solicited the help of the member of parliament for Cardiff South and the home secretary to get the Aliens Registration Act rescinded. In other issues concerning racial discrimination, Moody contacted a wide range of entities, including government, private, commercial, and other businesses, as well as hotel and boarding house proprietors on behalf of people of African descent.

In the 1940s Moody and the LCP played a significant role in the Colonial Office's efforts to open hostels in the United Kingdom for use by residents of the British Empire. In addition to his contributions in helping to counter racial prejudice against people of color he also promoted matters in their interests. By March 1944, he envisioned the establishment of a LCP Cultural Center aimed at providing accommodation and assistance for new arrivals from British colonies, "to adjust to a new environment by means of social and cultural amenities and to make known the achievements of coloured peoples in the fields of science, art, music, and letters." Moody embarked on fund-raising efforts to establish the center. He visited the Caribbean and the United States during 1946 and 1947, but ill health thwarted his efforts. Dr. Moody died on April 24, 1947, soon after returning to Great Britain.


Adi, Hakim. West Africans in Britain, 1900-1960: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Communism. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1998.

Adi, Hakim, and Marika Sherwood. Pan-African History: Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora. London: Routledge, 2003.

"Dr. Harold Moody." In A History of the Black Presence in London. London: The Greater London County Council, 1986.

Killingray, David. "To Do Something for the Race: Harold Moody and the League of Coloured Peoples." In West Indian Intellectuals in Britain, edited by Bill Schwartz. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2003.

Roderick Macdonald, ed. The Keys: The Official Organ of the League of Colored Peoples. Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus-Thompson, 1976.

barbara p. josiah (2005)

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