Skip to main content
News & Events

Black History Month October 2021

This October is Black History Month in the UK – this annual event is a chance for everyone to get together and celebrate the achievements and contributions of black British communities. 

Here in the UK, black history month was first celebrated in October 1987.

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

Back then, Black History Month events were more likely to remember Rosa Parks and the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott than they were to shine a light on important moments that have happened here in the U.K. such as the Bristol bus boycott and the British colour bar. This annual event seeks to inspire, educate, inform and share stories about the achievements and contributions from the African diaspora.

These accomplishments are important to share as the contributions of black people are often overlooked in Britain. By highlighting various stories, contributions and voices we can provide a broader and more accurate view of a very diverse and dynamic collective of individuals and communities.

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

If you want to find out more about black British history and racism in modern Britain you can take a look at these books written by Black – British authors:

  • Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala
  • Black and British: A Forgotten History – David Olusoga
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

Frequently asked questions about Black History Month 

Why was Black History Month established and what is its aim?

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

Black History Month’s purpose is nicely encapsulated in these words spoken by the former London Mayor Ken Livingstone; “In order to enrich the cultural diversity of the Greater London area, it is imperative that Londoners know more about African influences on medieval and renaissance European music so that accepted ideas about European music is changed. Despite the significant role that Africa and its Diaspora have played in the world civilization since the beginning of time, Africa’s contribution has been omitted or distorted in most history books.”

When was Black History Month set up in the UK and by who?

Akyaaba Addai Sebbo is widely regarded as the person who set up Black History Month in the UK. Addai worked with Ken Livingstone at the Greater London Council (GLC) as co-ordinator of Special Projects. The first event was held on 1st October 1987, when the GLC hosted Dr Maulana Karenga from the US to mark the contributions of Black people throughout history. Addai then drew up a plan to recognise the contributions of African, Asian and Caribbean people to the economic, cultural and political life in London and the UK. Since 1987 as part of African Jubilee Year, other boroughs began to formally institute this as Black History Month in the UK.
The late African-American writer, John Hernik Clarke wrote: ‘If we are to change tomorrow, we are going to have to look back with some courage, and warm our hands on the revolutionary fires of those who came before us.’ This quote was a catalyst for Addai’s plans at the GLC in 1987. 

What events take place and where are they held?

Initiatives take place across the UK with voluntary groups, local authorities, primary care trusts, museums and libraries often taking a lead in planning events. All projects use the skills and experiences of the local workforce and community in the planning and delivery. Smaller groups do equally good work on limited budgets, e.g. running supplementary schools, which incorporate history, or incorporating the Black History Month theme into existing events. There is always a rich programme of events: storytelling, historical walks, theatrical productions, comedy and panel debates are a few examples, but all have history as an integral part of their purpose.

What are the dates for Black History Month and why October?

Black History Month runs throughout the month of October every year.
There has long been concern about the experience of black children in the UK, and this was a key factor in setting October as the Black History Month. It is at the beginning of a new academic year and can instil pride and identity into young black learners.
October is also a period of tolerance and reconciliation in African culture. Black history is therefore a reconnection with the African source, hence the Black History Month symbol of Sankofa – learning from the past – with the benefit of hindsight.

Who celebrates Black History Month?

Black History Month is open to everyone to participate and is ideally developed, delivered and managed as an educational and historical awareness experience by Black people – African, Asian and Caribbean heritage – and should be shared by everyone as world history.

Why do Black people need a history month?

In an ideal world, the month would not be necessary, because educational establishments and the national curriculum would fully recognise and appreciate the contribution of black people throughout history. Sadly that is not the case.
The Black community uses this history month as an opportunity to share with the world its vast contributions: a time to demonstrate pride in its creativity, respect for its intellectual prowess and a celebration of its cultural identity which is far too often misrepresented, when it is not being ignored, in the mainstream.

Click here to find out more about Black History Month.