UK Black History Month: 25 years old and counting

Article Featured Image
National Museums Liverpool's Black History Month 2012 poster

National Museums Liverpool's Black History Month 2012 poster


Welcome to Black History Month (BHM).  First of all you can find a list of the varied events we have planned by clicking here. Over the past few years BHM has had a number of detractors, mainly by those who point out that every month should be a BHM and that Black history should be embedded in all history taught as part of the curriculum.  I could not agree more, however, I still believe it is a very worthwhile event as it often the first time some people, of all ages, engage with Black history.  This might not be ideal but it is a fact.  We have similar experiences here at the Museum.  For many people we are an introduction not only to transatlantic slavery and contemporary forms of slavery but African achievement, African culture, African civilization and indeed African resistance.  All these subjects should be obligatory aspects of world and British history, but alas, we are not there quite yet, so in the meantime, let’s get behind BHM events nationwide.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, to many the father of African American history and author of the seminal The Mis-education of the Negro  which highlighted the power of education for  African Americans, established what at the time was called ‘Negro History Week’ in 1926, which became Black History Month.  In the US this traditionally takes place in February, the reason being that it contains the birthdays of two influential figures who Woodson thought had greatly impacted on the lives of African Americans - Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  Prior to this Woodson had also established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915 which aimed to research,  promote, preserve and disseminate Black history and culture.  The development of appropriate language has followed to some degree the development of the study and understanding of Black history.  As such, today terms such as ‘negro’ widely used in the 18th to 20th centuries to describe someone of African descent is now considered derogatory and should only be used in a specific historic context.

In the 1980s October was chosen as BHM in the UK as it was at the beginning of a new academic year and thus a good time for young people to get involved.  A number of useful BHM related resources can be accessed at the Jorum website which shares UK Further and Higher Education learning and teaching resources.  More information about how BHM came about can be found at Black History Month UK and Merseyside wide events can be found at the Merseyside Black History Month Group site.

Before I go…10 Did You Know Black History facts?

Dr Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwaanza who delivered the 2011 Slavery Remembrance Day lecture in Liverpool was the guest of the Greater London Council for what is widely believed to be the first UK BHM event in 1987.

The Kuumba Imani community centre in Toxteth, Liverpool was named after two guiding principles of  Kwaanza -  Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

Over 175,000 Black troops served in the Union army and navy during the American Civil War.

During a promotional tour of England in 1944 the boxing legend Joe Louis signed for Liverpool FC.

The activist Michael de Freitas changed his name to Michael X after meeting Malcolm X who was visiting England in 1965.

John Richard Archer, who became London’s first Black mayor in 1913 when elected in Battersea, was born in Liverpool.

Lord Learie Constantine, cricket legend and Britain’s first Black peer, played for Nelson Cricket Club in Lancashire.

Bahamas born Dr. Allan Glaisyer Minns was the first Black mayor in England, elected at Thetford, Norfolk in 1904.

During the 2nd and 3rd centuries a North African auxiliary unit Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum was stationed at the Roman fort of Aballava (modern Burgh-by-Sands) at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize is the 24th President of Liberia and the first elected female Head of State in Africa.

Bye for now,