Black History Month is a celebration of black history and culture, remembering the contributions of black African and Caribbean people to the UK and celebrating impactful black historical figures.
Black History Month happens throughout the UK every October. The month carries a theme that narrows focus and draws attention to a specific area, theme or part of black history.
The theme for 2023 is ‘Saluting our Sisters’. This theme encourages people to celebrate pioneering black women who have had a remarkable impact on the UK and wider world. That could be through their work, their activism, their creativity or something else entirely.
As well as ‘Saluting Our Sisters’ there is a secondary focus on Windrush, as this year marked the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush landing at Tilbury.
The Windrush generation arrived in the UK, from British colonies, between 1948 and 1971, to help bolster and rebuild the economy post war. They were granted the permanent right to live and work in the UK. However in 2018 it was revealed the government kept no record to show who the Windrush generation were and the original landing records had been destroyed in 2010.
This left many people from the Windrush generation suddenly unable to work or access the NHS after decades in the UK. A small number of people were even wrongfully deported. The government issued an apology and commemoration events have been held on 22 June every year since 2018.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in 1987 and was adopted from the USA, where Black history week was celebrated annually from 1926. In 1970 it became Black History Month, which was recognised by the president and rolled out across the America in 1976.
The first Black History Month in the UK was arranged by Ghanaian refugee, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who wanted to challenge racism and celebrate black history. Initially, the focus of the month was dominated by black history centred around the American figures and experiences. However, in more recent years it has refocused to prioritise key figures from the UK.
By studying about black history, we are able to recognise, learn about and celebrate individuals who were previously dismissed, belatedly giving their achievements and accomplishments the celebration and recognition they deserve.