Black History Month, a celebration that highlights the achievements and contributions of Black individuals, is observed in various countries around the world. While it has deep roots in the United States and the United Kingdom, its significance has spread globally, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging black history and culture. Here’s a closer look at how Black History Month is celebrated in different parts of the world.
The Origins of Black History Month
Black History Month has its roots in the United States, where it was initiated by Carter G. Woodson in the early 20th century. Woodson, often referred to as “The Father of Black History,” recognized the lack of information about the accomplishments of Black people in America. In 1915, he established a society to study Black history, paving the way for what would become Black History Month.
The UK adopted Black History Month in 1987, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a Ghanaian refugee, played a pivotal role in its launch in London. His goal was to challenge racism in the local community and educate people about the often-overlooked history of Black Britons.
Black History Month’s Scope
While originally focused on African and Caribbean contributions, Black History Month has expanded its scope to include all Black individuals, recognizing their diverse backgrounds and histories. This shift aims to foster a broader understanding of Black heritage and culture.
The Importance of Representation
Historically, Black individuals have always been present in the UK, but they have often been marginalized in history books and narratives. Paintings of historical figures like Henry VIII even depict Black people in the background. Queen Victoria’s Black god-daughter, Sarah Forbes-Bonetta, exemplifies the importance of remembering the forgotten figures who have helped shape the UK.
Recent Global Relevance
In recent years, Black History Month has gained renewed significance. The death of George Floyd in the United States in 2020 led to global protests against systemic racism. In the UK, the Black Lives Matter movement called for an end to racial injustice and inequality, prompting widespread solidarity actions, including Premier League footballers taking a knee.
The movement also prompted a commitment among individuals and organizations to educate themselves about Black history, heritage, and culture, as part of their effort to combat racism and stand in solidarity against it.
While Black History Month is most prominently celebrated in the United States and the United Kingdom, several other countries have embraced the event. Germany officially recognized Black History Month in 1990, becoming the second European country to do so. Ireland joined in 2010, and in the Netherlands, it is referred to as Black Achievement Month. Additionally, many countries hold events and celebrations related to Black history, even if they don’t officially observe Black History Month.
Celebrating in the UK
In the UK, Black History Month is marked by various activities. Many individuals take the opportunity to research their backgrounds and learn more about influential Black figures who have made a difference in the country. Some schools include lessons on Britain’s Black history, including the transatlantic slave trade and notable Black men and women from history.
Notably, the National Association of Head Teachers union has advocated for an anti-racist approach to education during Black History Month. They emphasize that anti-racism goes beyond awareness and requires training to identify and address racism effectively. The union has called for compulsory anti-racism training for all educators to drive real change, although the UK government maintains that existing laws already prohibit racial discrimination in schools.
Black History Month is a global celebration that emphasizes the contributions of Black individuals to society. It has evolved over time, transcending borders and inspiring efforts to combat racism and promote a more inclusive understanding of history and culture.