Black History Month is celebrated or observed annually in the month of October in the Netherlands, The Republic of Ireland as well as here in the UK. In the United States of America and Canada it is celebrated in the month of February.
Its roots actually originate in the United States of America and in its original incarnation it was called “Negro History Week”. It was first created in 1926 by historian Carter G Woodson and The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to remember important people and events in the history of The African Diaspora. The celebrations originally took place in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass. These birthdays were something that had been celebrated together by the black community since the late 19th century.
Black History month in its present form was first proposed, by amongst others, the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first actual celebration took place at the same university between the months of January and February 1970. Within the space of 6 years Black History Month was something that became a nationwide celebration and was something that was recognised by President Gerald Ford during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged the US “to seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.”
Here in the UK Black History Month was first celebrated in 1987 largely through the efforts of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo who was the coordinator of special projects for the now defunct Greater London Council (GLC). It was therefore first celebrated in London.
However, 1987 was also the year that the African Jubilee Declaration was launched. The declaration called for both local and national government to recognise African contributions to the cultural, economic and political life of the UK. It also asked for local and national authorities to implement their duties under the Race Relations Act 1976.
It was primarily these activities which were the catalyst for many local authorities to formally institute October as Black History Month in the UK.
In the present day there are literally thousands of events across the country celebrating Black History Month.
What Black History Month has also undoubtedly done is both influence and inspire communities of other equality strands like disability and LGBT+ to organise a month to expose the hidden and excluded histories of their contribution to life both in the UK and globally.