Black History Month UK: why is it important and why is it celebrated in October?

Black History Month UK: why is it important and why is it celebrated in October?

October marks Black History Month, the annual commemoration of the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK.

For the whole month until October 31, events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures and histories will take place around the UK. Events include an exhibition in the Bank of England, which explores the Bank’s historical links with slavery, a remembrance of black servicemen and women, a careers fair in London, a performance by Nitin Sawhney in Aberdeen, among many others.

While the UK celebrates Black History Month in October, in the US where commemorations originated it takes place throughout February.

So why do the US and the UK differ, and why is having a Black History Month in the UK so important?

Here is everything you need to know about Black History Month.

Who started Black History Month?

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In the US, Black History Month was created by historian Carter G Woodson (1875-1950).​ He wanted to challenge preconceptions at the time that “the negro has no history” and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, which encouraged scholars and historians to research and preserve black history and culture.

In February 1926, Woodson founded Negro History Week.

It was later decided that a week wasn't long enough and, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement, Black History Month was born in 1969.

After visiting America in the 1970s, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council, founded the UK's version of Black History Month in 1987.

Why is Black History Month celebrated in October in the UK and February in the US?

The US celebrates in February because the birthdays of former president Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass fall that month.

There are two reasons thought to be behind why Black History Monthis celebrated in October in the UK.

Traditionally, October is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences, so Akyaaba chose this month to reconnect with black people’s roots in the continent.

Additionally, many thought that since it was the beginning of the new academic year, October would give black children a sense of pride and identity.

Why is Black History Month important?

Black History Month means different things to everyone and pride in this month is expressed in a variety of different ways.

 (PA Wire/PA Images)
(PA Wire/PA Images)

For many, Black History Month is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, taking note of the achievements and contributions to the social, political, economic and cultural development of the UK.

Black History Month is not without its opponents. Some people argue that it is hard to teach black history in one month and advocate trying to integrate it more deeply into the curriculum.

Inspirational black British women throughout history

Margaret Busby became Britain's youngest and first Black woman book publisher (Getty Images)
Margaret Busby became Britain's youngest and first Black woman book publisher (Getty Images)
Olive Morris was a political activist and community organiser who established the Brixton Black Women's Group (PA)
Olive Morris was a political activist and community organiser who established the Brixton Black Women's Group (PA)
Musician Joan Armatrading is a three-time Grammy nominee and recieved an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection. (BBC RADIO 2)
Musician Joan Armatrading is a three-time Grammy nominee and recieved an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection. (BBC RADIO 2)
Baroness Lawrence OBE campaigned tirelessly for reforms of the police service after her son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack. (BBC/On The Corner/Jessica Winteringham)
Baroness Lawrence OBE campaigned tirelessly for reforms of the police service after her son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack. (BBC/On The Corner/Jessica Winteringham)
Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE is a space scientist and educator. She runs her own company and co-hosts the world's longest running TV series, The Sky at Night. (PA Archive/PA Images)
Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE is a space scientist and educator. She runs her own company and co-hosts the world's longest running TV series, The Sky at Night. (PA Archive/PA Images)
Writer Malorie Blackman held the position of Children's Laureate from 2013 to 2015. (PA Archive/PA Images)
Writer Malorie Blackman held the position of Children's Laureate from 2013 to 2015. (PA Archive/PA Images)

Actor Morgan Freeman has criticised Black History Month on numerous occasions, calling it "ridiculous".

"I don't want a black history month," he said, "black history is American history."

How is Black History Month celebrated in the UK?

There will be celebrations and events taking up and down the country, including in London.

Across the capital, you'll find everything from food festivals to music workshops to educational seminars and lectures.