Black History Month is celebrated in the UK throughout the month of October. The origin of Black History Month lies in the USA. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian, journalist and lecturer created Negro History Week, as a time to teach African American history. Woodson’s aim was to encourage young African Americans to understand and be proud of their own history. In 1970, it officially became a whole month of celebrations. February was chosen as it was the birthday month of Abraham Lincoln, and freed slave and abolitionist campaigner Frederick Douglass. When the Ghanaian activist Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, and the Greater London Authority began preparations to have a UK-wide Black History Month in 1987, October was chosen:
“October is consecrated as the harvest period, the period of plenty, and the period of the Yam Festivals. October is also a period of tolerance and reconciliation in Africa, when the chiefs and leaders would gather to settle all differences. …We were also thinking about the children, and what to bequeath to them. October is more or less the beginning of the school year; their minds are refreshed and revitalised, so they can take in a lot of instruction. This was also one of the reasons that October was chosen. Black History Month is a reconnection with our source.”
African American actor Morgan Freeman has said “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is [American] history.”
Freeman makes a good point. In an ideal world, history would be taught in an inclusive way, incorporating characters and stories from all walks of life, including the stories of those people who have been written out of the history books. All children would learn about the advances in medicine and science that came from the Islamic world; about Sikh, African and Caribbean soldiers who fought alongside Allied troops in the First and Second World Wars; about those from the Empire who responded to Britain’s call for labour to rebuild the motherland after the Second World War, and so on. Names like Mary Seacole, Olaudah Equiano and William Cuffay would be as familiar as Florence Nightingale, Brunel and Napoleon. Until this is commonplace, Black History Month provides an opportunity to focus and celebrate Black achievement and we will continue to support it.
Our Black History Month offer includes events for the public (lectures, films, talks by authors) and a programme of training, assemblies and workshops for Manchester schools. As these are very popular, it is important to contact us early to arrange your booking! Our loan service also allows you to borrow a collection of books for your school.