October marks Black History Month, the annual commemoration of the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. For the whole month until October 31, events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures and histories will take place around the UK. Events include an exhibition in the Bank of England, which explores the Bank’s historical links with slavery.
While the UK celebrates Black History month in October, in the US where commemorations originated it takes place throughout February. So, here is everything that needs to be known about Black History Month.
Why is Black History Month necessary?
People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. However, campaigners believe their value and contribution to society are often overlooked, ignored and distorted. More recently, greater attention has been paid to the importance of the Windrush generation and the Black Lives Matter movement, especially since the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
How Did it Originate?
Known as the “Father of Black History”, Carter G Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 and was the son of former slaves. Carter G Woodson worked tirelessly throughout his life to promote black history in schools, leaving an indelible legacy. The event got momentum in 1970, and since 1976 every US President officially designated February as Black History Month in the US. February was chosen in the US because it coincides with the births of former President Abraham Lincoln and Fedrick Douglass- who escaped slavery and became a key social activists. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery.
How is Black History Month Celebrated?
The event is intended to recognise the contribution and achievements of those with African or Caribbean heritage. It’s also an opportunity for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes. Black History Month is also celebrated in the community in places such as museums, care homes and workplaces. A broad range of topics is covered, from Britain’s colonial past to migration and music. Government funding is available to local organisations to help mark Black History Month in their area. Some of the UK’s leading organisations include The Windrush Foundation, National Archives, and 100 Great Black Britons.
When was it first Recognised?
It was first recognised in 1975. When Black History Month first started in the UK, there was a big focus on black American history. Over the time there has been more attention on black British history and key black figures from the UK, such as:
- Walter Tull, the first black officer to command white troops in the British Army and one of English football’s first black players.
- Malorie Blackman, a bestselling author and the first black Children’s Laureate.
- Olive Morris, a social activist who co-founded groups such as the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent and the Brixton Black Women’s Group
- Dr Shirley Thompson, the first woman in Europe to conduct and compose a symphony within the last 40 years.
- Lewis Hamilton, one of the most high profile competitors in Formula One and the only black driver.
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together”. Desmond Tutu
“History has Shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own”. Michelle Obama
“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society”. Angela Davis