Is Black History Month Still Relevant Today?

October is Black History Month in the UK – a whole month dedicated to celebrating the rich history and cultures enjoyed by the Afro-Caribbean diaspora in Britain. In the UK where Black citizens are a minority, it’s important to bring to the forefront the valuable contributions of Black figures throughout history.

For some, it isn’t seen as a necessity. It’s been a long time since slavery was abolished, Black people have the right to live, work and vote in this country as long as they’re citizens and there are laws that help protect those rights. However, many feel that the educational system is skewed towards a Western worldview of events and key figures in history.

Origins Of Black History Month

Known as the “Father of Black History”, Carter G. Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 and was the son of former slaves. Despite the odds against him during his time, he ended up studying at one of the few high schools for Black students.

Over the years he gained a number of qualifications, including a PhD in history from Harvard University, only the second Black graduate at this time. In 1926 he sent out a press release to mark the first Black History Week in the US. Throughout his life, Woodson worked to promote Black history in schools, leaving an amazing legacy worldwide.

The event was expanded in 1970, and since 1976 every US president has officially designated February as Black History Month in the US.

It wasn’t until 1987 that Black History Month was celebrated here in the UK. Brought about because of the identity crisis that Black British children faced, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo a Ghanaian activist and coordinator for special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC), along with Ken Livingstone, the then leader of the GLC, brought the American annual celebration to London.

October was chosen to coincide with the start of the new academic year. A deliberate decision to help maximise engagement in the minds of Black British children and instil a sense of identity and pride from the school system. It has continued to grow in popularity across the UK ever since.

Is It Still Relevant Today?

Knowing the sentiment behind Black History Month, I would say it definitely is still relevant. It is a way for Black British children to see themselves in their history books, even if for one month of the year. It also helps children from other backgrounds see Black history, contribution and culture as being more than just about slavery, The Civil Rights Movement and ‘urban music’. I personally was amazed to read a book recently that focused on prominent Black figures in Tudor England, something that never was, and if I’m not mistaken, still isn’t a part of the regular history curriculum taught in schools today.

John Blanke, Royal Trumpeter in the 16th Century

Also, in light of the Chris Kaba incident and many others like it worldwide, as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement, Black History Month is one way Black British citizens can be celebrated as human beings with potential, goals and dreams. Something I, for one, am proud to get behind.

For some key Black British figures throughout history, take a look at our blog from Black History Month last year.

For listings of events in London for Black History Month, check out: 

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