Today, October 1, marks the start of Black History Month in the UK.
And the month is being marked in a number of diverse ways – this year the theme is Proud To Be, with people being encouraged to share their pride in aspects of their heritage on social media.
Events will also be taking place up and down the country, while ITV has a month-long schedule of programmes planned, with the likes of Ashley Banjo and Will.I.Am delving into Black British history.
Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK for decades now, but just what is the month all about, when did it start – and why do we celebrate it in a different month to the US?
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month aims to highlight and celebrate the stories of prominent black people, who may have been left out of mainstream, white-centric history.
It was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987, and was the initiative of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had worked as a co-ordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC).
The concept of Black History Month originated in the US, at Kent State University, where it was first proposed in 1969 and first celebrated from January 2 – February 28, 1970.
Within six years it was being marked in educational institutions all across the country, with President Gerald Ford telling Americans to ‘seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history’.
Black History Month is also celebrated in Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
Why is Black History Month celebrated in different months in the UK and US?
The UK is thought to celebrate Black History Month in October as traditionally that is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences – hence Akyabaa choosing October for the significance of this.
Meanwhile February in the US means the month coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln – who was born on February 12, 1809 – and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born in February 1818.
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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.
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Author: Caroline Westbrook