Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises to check your understanding.
The history of our world is a story of migration, diversity, empire and belonging. But these topics are not often taught in schools. Black History Month is about teaching ourselves fully and fairly about our history, and not just looking at it from one point of view. Black History Month challenges racism and promotes understanding by making sure that black people's achievements and stories are not forgotten.
How did Black History Month begin?
It started in the USA with the work of Carter G Woodson. He was a brilliant historian and in 1912 he became the second African American to get a doctorate from Harvard University.
His parents had been enslaved and taken from Africa to America. But he saw that American history lessons did not include the history of people like his parents. He started 'Negro History Week' to teach people about black history. He wanted to give African Americans a sense of pride and identity and to protect them within wider society.
When did it come to the UK?
This was in 1987. It was organised by community activist and London council worker Akyaaba Addai Sebo after a colleague told him that her son had asked her, 'Mum, why can't I be white?' Addai Sebo was sad to learn of the young boy's lack of self-esteem and identity. So he helped organise an event to promote self-pride in African and Afro-Caribbean people through positive teaching of their histories and culture.
What's happened recently?
After the killing of George Floyd in the USA in 2020, there has been huge international support for the Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice. People want to talk about racism in schools, workplaces, sports and other parts of society – and how we can stop it.
This includes thinking about how we learn about history. In 2020, anti-racism protesters in the UK took down the statue of Edward Colston – a man who bought and sold enslaved people – and pushed it into the water in Bristol Harbour. Some people say acts such as these destroy our history. Others argue that the protesters have actually helped to teach history – the ugly story of a man who transported 84,000 enslaved individuals from Africa to the Americas, 19,000 of them dying on his ships. The debate about what to do with statues like this continues.
Is one month enough?
The Black Curriculum is a group of young people who want black British history to be taught in UK schools. They say that learning about empire, movement and migration helps young people build a sense of identity and improves social cohesion. Black history is an important part of British history, and learning about it is necessary for understanding diversity and fighting racism. The Black Curriculum and groups like it are asking the UK government to include black history in lessons all year round, not just in October. This will make sure students get lessons that are relevant to them and that give them a positive sense of belonging.
Worksheets and downloads
What do you learn about in your history lessons in school?