Barbara Blake Hannah

  (Redirected from Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah)

Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah (born 5 June 1941) is a Jamaican author and journalist known for her promotion of Rastafari culture and history. She is also a politician, film maker, festival organiser and cultural consultant. She was the first black person to be an on-camera reporter and interviewer on British television when, in 1968, she was employed by Thames Television's evening news programme Today.[1][2] Hannah was sacked because viewers complained about having a black woman on screen.[3][4] She later returned to Jamaica and was an independent senator in the Parliament of Jamaica from 1984 to 1987.[1]

Early life and fatherEdit

In Jamaica, Blake-Hannah had read television news bulletins and had written for a monthly news magazine managed by her father, Evon Blake,[5] who founded the Press Association of Jamaica.[3]

TV and journalism career in BritainEdit

She arrived in Britain in 1964 to work as an extra on the film A High Wind in Jamaica (1965).[5] In the next few years she wrote for The Caribbean Times, West Indian World, The Sunday Times, Queen and Cosmopolitan.[5][3] Hannah was appointed in 1968 as a reporter on Thames Television's Today, then presented by Eamonn Andrews. In the role, she interviewed prime minister Harold Wilson and actor Michael Caine.[1]

After nine months she was dismissed without formal explanation, although her producer said the company was under pressure from a negative response from viewers for them having a black woman on television,[5] and said that the station had had calls from viewers, telling them to "get the Nigger off the screen".[3] Blake-Hannah then worked for the local news programme broadcast by ATV in Birmingham.[3] She was unable to find a hotel that would allow her to stay, and had to commute from London each day until she found a room at the YWCA.[3] She was deliberately kept away from the studio on a day when Enoch Powell was being interviewed.[3] Following this, she worked as researcher on the BBC's documentary series Man Alive.[1]

Return to JamaicaEdit

Chris Blackwell and Perry Henzell offered her a job in 1972 as public relations officer for The Harder They Come, the first Jamaican feature film. She returned home to Jamaica permanently.[1] Here Blake-Hannah had a successful career as a film-maker and has also been an independent senator in the Parliament of Jamaica from 1984 to 1987.[3] Thus, Blake-Hannah also became the first Rastafarian representative in the parliament.[4][6]

She has written several books, including a 1982 account of the Rastafarian religion, and produced several more films, including a documentary for Britain's Channel 4, Race, Rhetoric, Rastafari (1982).[4] Blake-Hannah's 1982 memoir Growing Out: Black Hair and Black Pride in the Swinging Sixties charts her life and career in Britain.[3]

She is known for her promotion of Rastafari culture and history. Makeda currently serves as executive director of the Jamaica Film Academy, which organises the Reggae Film Festival,[7]

In April 2020, Blake-Hannah gave an interview to Bryan Knight's Tell A Friend podcast, where she candidly spoke about her experience working in Britain. She spoke of the racism prevalent at the time and her journey to black consciousness.[8]

The British media periodical Press Gazette launched the "Barbara Blake-Hannah prize" in 2020 to recognise emerging talented journalists from minority backgrounds.[9] Her son, Makonnen David Blake Hannah, was appointed in 1998 aged 13, as a youth technology consultant by Phillip Paulwell, then Minister of Commerce and Technology, and was the youngest consultant ever appointed by the Jamaican government.[10]


  • Rastafari – The New Creation, 2012
  • Joseph – A Rasta Reggae Fable, 2013
  • The Moon Has its Secrets: A novel, 2014
  • Growing Out: Black Hair & Black Pride In The Swinging Sixties, 2016
  • Home The First School: A Home-Schooling Guide To Early Childhood, 2019
  • Growing Up – Dawta of Jah, 2020


  1. ^ a b c d e Blake Hannah, Barbara (28 October 2008). "It wasn't Trevor or Moira - I was the first black British TV presenter". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  2. ^ Bree Johnson-Obeng, "Barbara Blake Hannah - the first black female journalist on UK TV" in Sky News (London, 2019)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jolaoso, Simi (23 October 2020). "Barbara Blake Hannah: The first black reporter on British TV". BBC News. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Jones, Ellen E. (7 January 2021). "Barbara Blake-Hannah: how Britain's first black female TV reporter was forced off our screens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Johnson-Obeng, Bree (31 October 2019). "Barbara Blake Hannah - the first black female journalist on UK TV". Sky News. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  6. ^ Leahcim Semaj, "From Peace and Love to 'Fyah Bun': Did Rastafari Lose its Way?" in Caribbean Quarterly: A Journal of Caribbean Culture (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2013).
  7. ^ Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah, "Reggae Film Festival 2011" in United Reggae (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, 2011)
  8. ^ Knight, Bryan (26 April 2020). "Living Legend (feat. Barbara Blake Hannah)". YouTube.
  9. ^ "Barbara Blake-Hannah prize launched as Press Gazette bids to improve British Journalism Awards diversity". Press Gazette. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Jamaican government hires whiz kid (13) as adviser". The Irish Times. 31 July 1998. Retrieved 18 February 2021.