What is Black History Month and when is it celebrated in the UK?

30 September 2020, 14:41 | Updated: 30 September 2020, 14:45

A Black Lives Matter protest in the UK earlier this year
A Black Lives Matter protest in the UK earlier this year. Picture: Getty

Find out more about what Black History Month is and why it is celebrated in the UK.

Black History Month celebrates the history, achievements and contributions of black people in this country and around the world, and has taken place in the UK every October for over 40 years.

It originated in the United States, and is now celebrated in a number of countries.

In the USA and Canada, the month takes place in February, but it has always been marked in October in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Read more: Black History Month 2020: Powerful films and documentaries to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime

What are the origins of Black History Month?

Its origins can be traced back to the 1920s in the USA, where a black history week was introduced by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1929.

In 1969, Black History Month was proposed by black educators at Kent State University in 1969, and six years later it was celebrated across all educational institutions.

The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to historian Carter G. Woodson
The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to historian Carter G. Woodson. Picture: Getty

When was Black History Month introduced in the UK?

Black History Month was introduced in the UK in 1987.

It was first organised in London under the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC).

The aim of Black History Month in the UK was for the local community to challenge racism, as well as increase education about black history that was not taught in schools.

Catherine Ross - Founder Director, Museumand - The National Caribbean Heritage Museum guest editor of Black History Month 2020 wrote about the importance of Black History Month 2020 on the official website.

She wrote: "In the UK, the scale and impact of institutionalised racism has been laid bare, with young Black men stopped and searched 20,000 times in London during the coronavirus lockdown (the equivalent of 1 in 4 young Black men), along with Black MPs, barristers, senior police officers, sportspeople and many more.

"#BlackLivesMatter protests around the world sparked a commitment among many individuals and organisations to educate themselves about Black history, heritage and culture – as part of understanding racism and standing in solidarity against it."

She also wrote: "Black History Month 2020 is a time for people to come together and hopefully learn lessons for the present and the future. It’s a time to honour the commitment to learning and standing united against racism. It’s a time to reclaim history and re-imagine how our shared history will be told in the future."

Read her full message here.

You can find out more about Black History Month on blackhistorymonth.org.uk/