We’re winding down the end of (Black) Women’s Her
istory Month. I invited readers to submit essays on women have moved or influenced them for inclusion and Vanessa Francis answered the call. Ms. Francis is an urban planner and policy analyst who runs the blog Wicked Urbanity. Check it out. She wrote a terrific tribute to journalist Belva Davis. It was a pleasure to include this, for as a Bay Area resident for a number of years I’ve had the distinct privilege of watching Ms. Davis on PBS. I hope you enjoy (it’s one of the few guest posts I’ll be allowing)!
Belva Davis: Emmy Award Winning Journalist
Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.
Holding the distinction of the first African-American woman television journalist in a western U.S. market, Belva Davis has overcome adversity to rise to the top. Born in 1932 in Monroe, Louisiana to a teen mother, Davis moved to Oakland, California in 1942 with her family and lived in public housing. Graduating from Berkley High School in 1951, Davis was accepted to San Francisco State University, however, she was not able to attend due to not being able to pay for a college education. Davis soon went to work at the Naval Supply Center and soon after married Frank Davis Jr. and relocated to Washington, DC for Mr. Davis’ position with the U.S. Air Force. During her time in D.C., Davis’ son was born there. After a reassignment to Hawaii and then moving back to Oakland, Davis gave birth to a daughter.
After returning to Oakland, Davis began working as a freelance writer for several African-American oriented magazines and newspapers including Jet Magazine and the Bay Area Independent. In 1956, Davis began working in radio, reading paper news clips at San Francisco’s KSAN . She was the first African American woman to work for the station. Davis then moved on to working as a program host covering political and public affairs topics on radio stations in Oakland up through the mid-1960s. During this time period, the Davis’ divorced and Davis met and married her second husband, Bill Moore, who was a photojournalist.
In 1966, Davis made the jump from radio to television and went to work for the San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-TV. The hiring of Davis to KPIX made her the first African American woman broadcast journalist on the West Coast. While facing racist sentiment from station viewers, Davis never allowed for prejudicial attitudes to impact her mission. For the next 10 years, Davis reported on prominent political stories including the Berkley student protests and interviews with Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. In 1976, Davis went on to work for KQED (PBS affiliate) for three years and afterwards worked at KRON (now an NBC affiliate) for another 18 years. During her career, Davis has won six Emmys for her television work and countless recognition in the television broadcasting field including the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award.
In February 2011, Davis published a memoir on her life titled “Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism.” Receiving wide acclaim, the memoir details the ups and downs of being a pioneer in the world of broadcast journalism. Click here for a her most recent CNN interview with Don Lemon.