What is Black History Month?
In the UK October marks Black History Month. The aim of Black History Month is to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black History.
The origins of Black History Month date back to the 1920s and the establishment of Negro History Week in the United States. This evolved into Black History Month and is marked every February in the US because the month marks the birthdays of Frederik Douglass, the African American Social Reformer and Abraham Lincoln, the president who 'freed the slaves'.
In the UK Black History Month developed in London during the 1980s because of local community activism which challenged the Racism of the time in British society and questioned the Eurocentric version of history presented in the British school system.
Today, Black History Month is an important date in the cultural calendar for many UK institutions including universities, schools, museums and local authorities.
In recent years Black History Month has expanded its coverage to include the history of African, Asian and Caribbean peoples and their contribution to Britain's 'island story'. This shift has received some criticism as an exercise in promoting multi-culturism rather than promoting an awareness and understanding of the history of African Diaspora.
Black History Month itself has attracted some criticism as it can be perceived as an exercise that takes place once a year and a mechanism to separate Black history from British history. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of these debates, they all point to the continuing importance of engaging with history to understand the present and possible futures.
As part of this engagement the University has put together a series of activities, exhibitions and resources to celebrate Black History Month throughout October and the following academic year.