Thought for the Week – What is Black History Month?

Ben Mariam, St James’s Honorary Treasurer, asks what is Black History Month? What is the theme for 2022? And how can we celebrate it this year?

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What are the origins of Black History Month?

The month originated as a week of commemoration in 1926 founded by Carter G Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. This was first commemorated in the second week of February, coinciding with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and Frederick Douglass birthday on February 14. Both dates had been previously celebrated by African Americans since the late 19th century, for the strides the two men made towards liberating black communities in the United States. The week-long commemoration pushed for education in schools on African American history, as well as celebrating pioneers and key historical figures. A month commemorating African American history was then suggested in February 1969 by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University. Governments around the world have officially recognised the observance, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada and the country of origin – the United States. In the UK, Black History Month was first commemorated in October 1987. Today, the month has become an important one for schools, colleges, workplaces and more to educate and celebrate the achievements of black people throughout history.


Why it’s important to celebrate Black History Month UK 2022?

People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. However, campaigners believe their value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted.

Most schools still teach a history curriculum which focuses on traditional events and the achievements of white figures. Black History Month gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture. More recently, greater attention has been paid to the importance of the Windrush generation and the Black Lives Matter movement, especially since the death of George Floyd in May 2020.


What is the theme of Black History Month UK 2022?

The theme of Black History Month UK 2022 is ‘Sharing Journeys’. This October the group International Black History Month (IBHM) Black History Month UK  will be exploring the lives and stories of the people who came to Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries and helped laid the foundations of today’s diverse Black British Community. Throughout the month they’ll be taking a look at the lives of African-American soldiers who came to the UK during the Second World War, examining the impact of West African students on Black Britain and their part in campaigning for the end of colonial rule in Africa, and the highly influential Caribbean Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

They’ll also be shining a spotlight on notable Black Britons with heritages ranging from West Africa, the Caribbean, South and North America, and East Africa; including Amanda Alridge, Ottobah Cugoano, John La Rose, and Kathleen Wrasama. Not forgetting that Black History Month is also about documenting history in the making. They’ll be asking the UK Black Community to commemorate the month by sharing their own family journeys using the hashtag #bhmfamilies

Amanda Alridge

Ottobah Cugoano

John La Rose

Kathleen Wrasama

How can I celebrate Black History Month UK 2022?

Black History Month is an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to educate themselves on Black Britain’s history and familiarise themselves with the lesser-known Black Britons who have made a difference to the country. There are a variety of ways you can observe the month:

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This blog was written by Ben Mariam, honorary Treasurer at St James’ Church Piccadilly.