300 episodes

History as told by the people who were there.

Witness History BBC

    • History
    • 3.3, 7 Ratings

History as told by the people who were there.

    The 1960s report that warned the USA was racist

    The 1960s report that warned the USA was racist

    In the summer of 1967 more than 100 cities in America were caught up in riots. US Senator Fred Harris urged the President, Lyndon B Johnson, to investigate the causes. He set up the Kerner Commission and appointed Fred Harris as one of 11 members to find out why America was burning. The final report shocked many Americans when it blamed white racism for creating and sustaining black ghettos. It said the US was dividing into two separate and unequal societies - one black and one white. Claire Bowes has been speaking to former US Senator Fred Harris.

    Photo: Members of the Kerner Commission giving final approval to the panel's report on 28th February 1968. Senator Fred R. Harris, (D-Okla.) third from left.
    Credit: Bettmann/Getty

    • 13 min
    The death of Frida Kahlo

    The death of Frida Kahlo

    The great Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, died on July 13th 1954, at the age of 47. The art critic, Raquel Tibol, lived in Frida's house during the last year of the artist's life. In 2014 she spoke to Mike Lanchin for Witness History about the pain and torment of Kahlo's final days.

    This programme is a rebroadcast.

    Photo: Frida Kahlo with her husband Diego Rivera in 1939. (Copyright Getty Images /Bettmann /Corbis)

    • 8 min
    Montreal's 'Night of Terror'

    Montreal's 'Night of Terror'

    When Montreal's police force went on strike for one day over pay in 1969, there was looting and rioting in the streets. But the city's problems leading to the unrest had been building for more than a decade. Organised crime, militant separatists and commercial rivalries all erupted on 7th October, just as police officers decided to protest that their pay was much lower than officers in other Canadian cities. Sidney Margles was a local reporter, and described the scene, and the underlying problems, to Rebecca Kesby.

    (PHOTO: The scene at the Murray Hill Limousine garage as rioting left several buses on fire and damage to property, following a police strike in Montreal. Getty Images)

    • 9 min
    The unlawful death of Christopher Alder

    The unlawful death of Christopher Alder

    The black former soldier choked to death in handcuffs on the floor of a British police station in 1998. CCTV footage taken from the police station showed the 37 year-old father of two gasping for air as officers chatted and joked around him. It took 11 minutes for him to stop breathing. An inquest found he was unlawfully killed but no-one has been held accountable for his death. Farhana Haider speaks to Janet Alder about her long fight to get justice for her brother.

    Photo:Christopher Alder an ex paratrooper who died in a police station in Hull on 1 April 1998. Credit Alder family hand out.

    • 13 min
    The doctor who discovered how cholera spread

    The doctor who discovered how cholera spread

    In the 1800s cholera was a mysterious disease killing millions around the world. No-one knew how to stop it till an English doctor, John Snow, began investigating the outbreak of 1854. At a time before germ theory was properly understood, many public health experts thought disease was carried on what they called "bad air". John Snow was alone in thinking cholera was spread through contaminated water and by the time of his death - in 1858 - his theories had still not been fully accepted. Claire Bowes spoke to Dr Nigel Paneth, a biographer of John Snow, about the skills he brought to the developing science of epidemiology.

    Photo: Portrait of John Snow (Science Photo Library BBC)

    • 9 min
    How South Africa banned skin-lightening creams

    How South Africa banned skin-lightening creams

    In 1990, South Africa became the first country in the world to ban skin-lightening creams containing the chemical compound hydroquinone. For years the creams had caused an irreversible form of skin damage called ochronosis for the black and Asian South Africans using the products. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Dr Hilary Carman, one of the activists who worked to ban the creams and Dr Ncoza Dlova who became one of the country's first black dermatologists.

    Photo: A woman applying a skin-lightening cream to her face. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

    • 9 min

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