Black History Month 2022: when did it start and how to learn more
In the UK, October is Black History Month (BHM).
A national celebration, BHM aims to promote and celebrate the contributions of those with African and Caribbean heritage to British society, and to improve an understanding of Black history in general.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the origins of the important celebration, who started it and how to get more involved…
Who started Black History Month in the UK?
Black History Month in the UK was organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo.
Addai-Sebo had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway.
When did Black History Month start in the UK and why is it a different date to the US?
After being a national holiday in the US since 1970, it wasn’t until 1987 that the UK first introduced a month-wide observance and celebration.
Serendipitously, 1987 was a good year to get things rolling in the UK – the year marked the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation, the centenary of the birth of Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey and the 25th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, an institution dedicated to advancing the progress of African states.
The first BHM in the UK fell on October, which differed from the long-running choice of February for Black History Month in the US.
February was chosen by the Americans to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.
The reason for the UK choosing October was actually more pragmatic.
Addai-Sebo told Black History Month magazine in 2017 that they ‘settled on the propitious month of October’ because children were ‘fresh after the long summer vacation’, so they would be more engaged and open to learning.
What is the theme for Black History Month 2022?
Each year, BHM in the UK has a theme. For 2022, this theme is Time for Change: Action not Words.
To expand on this, the Black History Month organisation explains that ‘to get to a better tomorrow, we can’t just focus on the past. The past is in the past.’
‘We can acknowledge and learn from it, but to improve the future, we need action, not words. We need to come together around a shared common goal to achieve a better world for everyone.’
What is the official flag and what do the colours mean?
According to Briefly, The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) created the BHM flag in 1920.
The official colours are black, red, yellow, and green, also known as the Pan African colours.
Each of the colours has its own symbolism:
- Black represents the melanated skin colour of Black people.
- Yellow represents optimism, justice, and equality.
- Green represents Africa’s greenery and other natural resources.
- Red represents the bloodshed people of colour underwent during the battle against slavery, racism, and colonialism.
How to learn more about Black history
If you want to be more involved with organising Black History events, or you want to learn more about Black history – something many school curriculums don’t – there are different avenues.
University College London (UCL) have helpfully put together a curated list of books, films and more.
Another wonderful initiative, set up in 2007, are Black History Walks.
Given by experts in their fields, Black History Walks works with well-known educational organisations, including the Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Docklands and the British Film Institute.
You can check out the full schedule of walks online.
Other museums and resources of note include:
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Black History Month
October marks Black History Month, which reflects on the achievements, cultures and contributions of Black people in the UK and across the globe, as well as educating others about the diverse history of those from African and Caribbean descent.
For more information about the events and celebrations that are taking place this year, visit the official Black History Month website.