A black woman sit in a large wooden armchair looking at the camera and smiling. She's got a colourful headscarf, and pale shirt and a colourful waistcoat on.

Mrs Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE was born in Jamaica, in 1934. She emigrated to England from Jamaica with her family as a young woman in her early 20s, in February 1957. She lived in Handsworth with her family until 1993 and now lives in Stechford.

Eunice experienced many challenges adjusting to her new life. She recalls finding the cold weather a shock!

“in England erm as it gets frosty and the snow get slippery you have to be gently walking and, I thought oh my God [laughs and claps] how am I going to live this out in my mind!”

- Mrs Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, Oral History, 2016.

More challenging was the racial intolerance she had to endure:

“when we came here you know people did not welcome us, the churches did not welcome us, schools did not welcome our children, walking on the streets the shops everywhere, nobody want to speak to us properly and correctly”

- Mrs Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, Oral History, 2016.

She worked as a nurse and later in the Probation Service, but she was also an entrepreneur, running domestic assistance, tailoring, and catering businesses.

Following the ‘Handsworth Riots’ in 1985, Eunice and four other local women founded a charitable community organisation called ‘Shades of Black’, with the intention to ‘reconcile, reassure and rebuild the community’.

In 2001, Eunice was awarded an MBE for her charitable work and has won numerous other awards.

In 2016 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery collected Eunice’s Oral History and some of her belongings, including the suitcase she brought to England, to preserve her story.

Eunice's Full Interview:

You can listen and download Eunice's full oral history on our City Sound Archive website: Listen to Eunice's story.