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Black History Month - Sky HISTORY

Black History Month 2023: When is it celebrated in the UK?


Black History Month 2023

Black History Month is an annual celebration that champions and commemorates the contribution of African and Caribbean communities to culture and society. It is marked in both the United States and the United Kingdom, though in different months.

Black History Month has been recognised in the USA for nearly 100 years, while in the UK, it has only been formally celebrated since the 1980s. Let’s look more closely at how the event has developed and its significance.

When is Black History Month?

In the USA, Black History Month is held every February, but in the UK it takes place in October.

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

The precursor to Black History Month in the USA began in 1926. Historian Carter G Woodson conceived a week dedicated to the teaching of black American history in public schools and widening understanding of the black experience. He chose the second week in February as it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Douglass’ birthday on the 14th had been celebrated among black communities since the 19th century. In 1970, this week was expanded to a month of celebration and awareness.

Black History Month in the UK takes a lot of inspiration from the American movement, but there is a clear distinction as it focuses solely on the black British experience. It was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987, on the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation. Ghanaian analyst and council employee Akyaaba Addai-Sebo was the event organiser and it quickly spread beyond London to the whole of the UK.

What is the theme for Black History Month 2023?

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is 'Saluting Our Sisters', which will highlight the achievements and contributions of black women throughout history. It will shine a light on the women who have courageously battled oppression and advocated for change but have regularly had their work ignored or forgotten.

By commemorating the trailblazing women from literature, music, fashion, sport, business, politics, academia, social and health care, and more, Black History Month will hope to inspire the next generation to pursue their dreams. There's also a focus on themes like resilience, determination, self-care, and well-being so women can help their communities and, most importantly, themselves.

Why celebrate Black History Month?

Studies consistently show that black professionals are still experiencing racism in the workplace and are consistently held at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers. Black people also face assumptions about their abilities, skills, and character due to their race, and these are all inequalities no one should be happy to accept.

UK Black History Month has evolved to be fully focused on black British history and leading figures from British history and society. People such as:

  • Walter Tull, the first black officer to command white troops in the British Army and one of the first black English footballers
  • Malorie Blackman, a bestselling and award-winning author, and the first black Children’s Laureate
  • Lewis Hamilton, one of the most successful and well-known Formula 1 competitors and the only black driver
  • Diane Abbott, one of the first female black British MPs with over 30 years campaigning behind her

How to get involved with Black History Month

Black History Month is a national event in the UK and something everyone can get involved with. There are many ways you can celebrate including:

1. Downloading and Utilising the Black History Month Resource Pack

The official campaign directors put together a resource pack every year, and it gives you some basic resources to share in your workplace or community. They also publish a magazine that anybody can order and distribute.

2. Donate or campaign for a charity

There are hundreds of black-owned and black-focused charities in the UK, giving you the chance to contribute in a meaningful way. If you’re planning to organise something through your workplace then consider events or sponsorship ideas for everyone.

Charities such as Black Minds Matter, UK Black Pride, and The Anthony Walker Foundation are just three organisations you could consider.

3. Champion diversity in the workplace

We’ve already highlighted the workplace as an environment where black people experience racism, so why not do something about it? Take a stand and make changes in the workplace, be that through diversity training or awareness events.

4. Embrace and celebrate diversity

The significance of Black History Month only increases year on year and exploring its history and the history of black people in the UK is a pivotal part of the celebration.

For more articles about Black History, check out Sky HISTORY's Black History Month hub.