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What is the theme for Black History Month UK 2021?

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Angela M explains Black History Month UK and how to celebrate this October.

October is Black History Month UK. It's a time to celebrate and remember African and Caribbean heritage peoples' achievements and contributions to the British economy, culture, and history. Stories that have long been deliberately overlooked and excluded from the history books.

What is Black History Month UK?

Celebrated every October since 1987, Black History Month UK was the brainchild of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a special projects coordinator of the Ethnic Minorities Unit at the now-defunct Great London Council. He wanted to boost the self-esteem of Black British children and young adults by educating them on the long history and achievements of Black people living in the UK.

Taking inspiration from Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) in the United States. The first event was held on 1 October 1987 at County Hall and was attended by American historian Dr. Maulana Karenga, who founded the African American holiday of Kwanzaa; and Kenyan women's activist Wanjiru Kihoro.

It has since evolved into a national movement recognised by the British government and observed throughout the UK. It is also recognised in other parts of the world during October in Ireland and the Netherlands. In the US, where Black History Month originated, the awareness month is held in February. It is also celebrated in Canada during February, where it was officially recognised in 1995.

Why is it celebrated at different times across the globe?

After visiting America in the 1970s, Addai-Sebo created a British version of Black History Month in 1987, but they are not officially linked.

In the United States, Black History Month takes place in February to coincide with the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Addai-Sebo choose to celebrate Black History Month UK in October because of the month's importance in the African calendar. More importantly, it was the start of the British academic year.

Why do we celebrate Black History Month UK 2021?

Black British history goes back nearly two thousand years with evidence of African people living in Roman Britain. In fact, archival research suggests Black communities have been living in the UK since the 1500s. But these histories have been omitted or distorted in the history books. In recent times, it's not uncommon to see objections raised over the inclusion of People of Colour in the portrayals of ancient and pre-Windrush Britain. The furore over an educational cartoon produced by the BBC in 2017 that included a Black Roman soldier in Britain