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Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman's Life in Journalismby Belva Davis
Synopses & Reviews
Never in My Wildest Dreams is the story of a courageous journalist who helped change the face and focus of television news. Born to a 15-year old Louisiana laundress during the Great Depression and raised in the overcrowded projects of Oakland, California, Belva Davis overcame abuse, racism, and sexism to become the first black female news anchor on the West Coast.
Davis covered many of the most explosive stories of the last halfcentury, including the birth of the Black Panthers, the Peoples Temple cult that ended in the Jonestown massacre, the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and the terrorist attacks that first put Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s
Most Wanted list. Along the way, she encountered a cavalcade of cultural icons: Malcolm X, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Nancy Reagan, Huey Newton, Muhammad Ali, Alex Haley, Fidel Castro, and others.
Davis’ absorbing memoir traces the trajectory of an extraordinary life in extraordinary times.
Never in My Wildest Dreams is a memoir with a message. Raised in a dysfunctional family in Louisiana and the San Francisco Bay area, Belva Davis rose through the black radio industry, became the first black female reporter west of the Mississippi with her hiring at KPIX, and eventually anchored KQED’s “Evening Edition,” the station’s nightly news show. Overcoming personal and career obstacles, Davis reported on some of the era’s most explosive stories, including the rise and fall of the Black Panthers, the Jonestown massacre, and the Moscone/Milk murders. The book also recounts Davis’s interviews with world leaders, including Fidel Castro and three U.S. presidents.
A generational story that traces the life and times of Belva Davis, an African-American woman journalist and media pioneer who emerged on the scene as a TV news anchor in the early 60's and helped shape the media industry we know today.
About the Author
Belva Davis is a history-maker, an award-winning journalist, and a pioneering feminist. She has traveled the world reporting on politics, terrorism, racial and gender issues, and the role of art and culture in increasing human understanding. From her hardscrabble beginnings in the Deep South during the Great Depression, she broke into journalism and made the move from segregated newspaper and radio work, becoming the first black woman hired as a commercial television news reporter on the West Coast. She has anchored at three major network affiliates—CBS, NBC, and PBS—and currently hosts a highly respected political affairs program on KQED-TV in San Francisco, the most watched public TV station in the United States.
Vicki Haddock is a longtime Bay Area journalist. She was a senior writer for the “Insight” analysis section of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a reporter and later an assistant city desk editor for the San Francisco Examiner. Before joining the Examiner, she was chief political writer for the Oakland Tribune.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Coming of Age
Growing up in Louisiana, drifting from household to household, Belva moves with her family to the East Bay, where her mother abandons the family. Left with a household of adult men, Belva is sexually molested. She marries early but not happily.
Chapter 2: A Love Affair with Words
Belva works as a stringer for Jet magazine, the largest black news weekly, and moves on to black newspapers in what is still a racially segregated media market. A bitter divorce causes her to flee with her two children. A white AP foreign correspondent, fired for his drinking, shows her the ropes of the newspaper business. Working for the Bay Area Independent, she interviews Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.
Chapter 3: Breaking Barriers
Belva branches out to radio, working for two black stations (KSAN and KDIA), where a chance encounter with James Brown almost ends her budding career. In 1963, she marries Bill Moore, a news photographer who cares for her children and supports her career aspirations.
Chapter 4: Political Baptism
Belva covers the 1964 Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace, where delegates throw garbage and shout racist epithets at her and a black colleague.
Chapter 5: Learning Objectivity
Shifting to KPIX, where she becomes the first black female on television west of the Mississippi, Belva must learn new journalism standards. She meets Dr. King and Robert Kennedy and is welcomed into the home of Governor Ronald Reagan. She also interviews Stanford physicist William Shockley, who believes that black people are less capable intellectually than whites.
Chapter 6: Stepping into the Fire
Belva covers the student demonstrations at Berkeley, interviewing Joan Baez, Mario Savio, and Bettina Aptheker.
Chapter 7: Developing a Voice
As a news anchor, Belva fights to air a no-holds-barred interview with Eldridge Cleaver as well as stories on motherhood and working women. Making her points without making enemies in a competitive and often contentious newsroom, Belva continues her rise through the industry.
Chapter 8: Making a Name for Myself
By 1971, Belva is a recognized face and voice. She interviews Bob Wells, a San Quentin prisoner confined for 45 years after an initial conviction for receiving stolen property. When the story goes national, she receives her first Emmy. Wells is eventually paroled, but Belva continues to report on prison conditions, organizes concerts at San Quentin, and attracts James Brown and B.B. King to perform there.
Chapter 9: Cuba on My Mind
Accompanying a delegation led by Congressman Ron Dellums, Davis interviews Fidel Castro in Cuba. Flustered when she finally meets Castro, she begins to cry. Castro tells Belva not to worry, that their interview will be better than the one he gave Barbara Walters. Belva receives two more Emmys.
Chapter 10: Daughters in Jeopardy
After heiress Patty Hearst is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a police officer informs Belva that her own daughters may be kidnapped in retaliation for the Hearst abduction. The family moves and receives police protection.
Chapter 11: A Presidential Affair
When President Ford visits San Francisco, he shakes the hand of every reporter lining up to meet him—every reporter, that is, except Davis, the only African-American and woman in the room. Realizing his mistake, Ford returns to visit with Belva. Walking outside, Ford narrowly misses a bullet fired by Sara Jane Moore. The reception reminds Davis and her colleagues that the smallest gesture can be interpreted as a racial slight and opens the door to a discussion of race.
Chapter 12: Unsuspecting Target
People’s Temple leader Jim Jones tries unsuccessfully to befriend Davis, who has joined KQED as a news anchor, before a tax-evasion probe causes him to flee to Guyana with hundreds of followers. When Congressman Leo Ryan visits, he and others are killed before they can board their plane to leave. Jones and more than 900 followers then commit suicide. Later, Belva learns that her housekeeper was a People’s Temple security officer assigned to report on her.
Chapter 13: Murdering Over Differences
Belva’s daughter Darolyn befriends the daughter of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and begins working at City Hall. Shortly after the Jonestown nightmare, Darolyn calls her mother to report that Moscone has been shot. While Belva is rushing to City Hall, Bill arrives to shoot some of his most famous footage. Belva makes sure Darolyn is all right before going to work as a reporter. Her program that night for KQED wins the Best Newscast award from PBS.
Chapter 14: Underreported Stories
After the U.S. embassies are bombed by Al Qaeda in Kenya and Tanzania, Belva travels to Africa with a physician friend to deliver much-needed medical supplies. In Kenya, she and the crew face down family members of President Moy on the tarmac over possession of the cargo.
Chapter 15: Giving Back to the Community
Belva describes her work for numerous nonprofits, including the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Awards program, the De Young Museum, and the country’s first Museum of the African Diaspora.
Chapter 16: My Life Today
Belva describes her work on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” her family life, and the importance of receiving three honorary doctorates and what they mean to a high-school graduate.
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