October is Black History Month (BHM) in the UK, the annual celebration of the history, culture, achievements and contributions of black people across the country. It originally began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
In February 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in the US to challenge preconceptions at the time that 'the negro has no history'. It was later decided that a week wasn't long enough and in the wake of the civil rights movement and the Black Power Movement, BHM was born in the US in 1969.
After visiting America in the 1970s, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council, and later at the London Strategic Policy Unit was inspired by the events taking place in the US. He ended up founding the UK version of Black History Month in 1987, after relocating to the country to seek refuge from political persecution in Ghana.
Akyaaba’s initial goal was to help build a sense of identity amongst black people in the UK and for the local community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the British history that was not taught in schools.
Why do we celebrate BHM in October?
In the US, BHM is celebrated in February because the birthdays of former US President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass fall within this month. In the UK we celebrate BHM in October because traditionally, October is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences, so Akyaaba chose this month to reconnect with African roots.
Additionally, it was also thought that since it was the beginning of the new academic year, October would give black children a sense of pride and identity.
Why is it important?
Throughout history, black people have always been present in the UK but there has been a lack of representation. BHM provides an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the importance of the contributions black people have made to shape the history of the UK.
It is important to use this time to educate ourselves and others about the often unsung black history in order to have a better understanding of it and dispel negative imagery and stereotypes.
BHM is a time to celebrate and share the culture of black people and inspire and instil pride among the community and youth.