Why do we have Black History Month? Celebrating centuries of Black Brits
Every October, the UK celebrates Black History Month. Special events, programmes and activities occur up and down the country and are aimed at teaching people about the rich culture and heritage of Black people.In the UK, the first ever Black History Month started in 1987 and is similar to Black History Month in the USA, where it originated and is celebrated in February.
For centuries, but particularly since Black settlers aided Britain in the Second World War (and the Windrush generation thereafter), Black history has been an integral part of British history.
Black History Month aims to celebrate what is considered by many to be an undervalued part of history and one that is not taught enough.
British people from Caribbean and African backgrounds have been a vital and core part of British life for centuries. There is a common misconception that Black communities only started living in Britain after the Windrush generation arrived in the late 1940s and early 1950s, however historical evidence shows Black brits have lived in the UK for over 2000 years.
Over time, but particularly over the last few years – and even more so since the killing of George Floyd in 2020 – there have been calls to install Black history as a permanent part of the curriculum in schools in the UK. President of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said: “We have a responsibility to be inclusive for all of our students and this starts with us ensuring that there is Black visibility for our children and young people.
“Not just Black children, but all children. It is crucial to recognise that Black history is all of our history.” At the very least, Black History Month seeks to teach people more about Black history and the impact of Black people up and down the UK.
The theory behind the month’s worth of teaching and events is that most of history has been written by those who have been powerful at the time and there are there for missing chapters for minorities.
Historian David Olusoga told The Guardian : “If you have been told a version of your history and that is part of your identity, it’s very difficult when people like me come along and say: ‘There are these chapters [that you need to know about].’
“People feel – wrongly in my view – that their history is being undermined by my history. But my history isn’t a threat to your history. My history is part of your history.”