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Journalist Belva Davis visits campus Sept. 27

As the first black female TV journalist in the West, Belva Davis helped to change the face and focus of TV news.

Davis will share her story at California State University, Monterey Bay’s World Theater Sept. 27, as the first featured lecture of the 2011-12 President’s Speaker Series. Her talk will be based on her recently published memoir, “Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism.” She’ll sign copies of the book after her talk.

In the book, she recounts her struggle to break into broadcast journalism at a time when stories of particular importance to African Americans and women rarely made mainstream newscasts, when a San Francisco station manager dismissed her from a job interview by explaining that he wasn’t “hiring any Negresses."

But Davis, a young single mother struggling to raise two small children, refused to be deterred – the fact that a racist mob pummeled her with insults and trash at the 1964 Republican National Convention only made her more determined to persevere. And ultimately she did, rising to become one of the most respected and trusted local journalists in the country.

In a career spanning half a century, Davis has reported many explosive stories, including the Berkeley student protests, the birth of the Black Panthers, the Peoples Temple cult that ended in the mass suicides at Jonestown, the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and from Africa, the terrorist attacks that first put Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

During her career, she brought stories of black Americans out of the shadows and into the light of day. And along the way, she encountered cultural icons including Malcolm X, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Nancy Reagan, Huey Newton, Muhammad Ali, Alex Haley, Fidel Castro, Dianne Feinstein and Condoleezza Rice.

It has been an amazing odyssey for Davis, who was born to a 15-year-old Louisiana laundress during the Great Depression. Raised in the crowded projects of Oakland, confronted by racism and abuse, Davis achieved a career beyond her imagination. She has won eight local Emmys and a number of Lifetime Achievement awards – including honors from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Northern California chapter of the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences.

Davis continues to host a weekly news roundtable and special reports at KQED, the San Francisco-based PBS station.

The 7 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made online or by calling the World Theater box office at 582-4580. Driving directions and a map of campus are available here.