England has been celebrating Black History Month (BHM) for 29 years. It was a GLC project led by Akyaaba Sebbo in 1987. However, it is adopted from America where it was initiated by the black historian Carter G Woodson. It began life as Negro History Week (1926). What started as a week of black history became a month by order of the President in 1976. In Britain, August to November has become the Black Heritage Season. Although BHM is a celebration of black culture, it’s also a symbol of white supremacy. As official history operates with the support of government agency it is edited and authorised. That makes it biased and pro-white. Until society can be honest about history, Black History Month is essential. It serves as a testimonial to black achievement, struggles, challenges and perseverance.
The Importance Of Black History Month
It was in the interests of white power brokers to deny and disavow black history. It justified slavery and colonialism. Hegel’s book ‘The Philosophy of History’ claimed: “Africa … is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit.” Sadly, his philosophy still holds sway.
British history miseducates black and white people. Too often black history begins with the Transatlantic Slave Trade: the demolition and depopulation of Africa by Europeans. Black people’s achievements are denied. Yet, it was the African who was the first to organise fishing 90,000 years ago, that pioneered arithmetic 25,000 years ago, and carved the first ever colossal sculpture 7,000 years ago.
Those and a myriad of other historical achievements give confidence and pride to the black diaspora. Woodson understood the importance of that. So BHM is a primary source of cultural awareness for black peoples. Also, dissemination of positive black contributions to Britain and the world, gives white people a new awareness. Thus BHM works to counteract the harmful misrepresentations in white history for all.
It’s Not Just About Heroes
Male figures such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X dominate the event but BHM is not just about heroes. It is so much more than the regurgitation of the biographies of the famous. It is a celebration of black communities, historically, in the present and the future. It’s about black British women like Olive Morris (1952 to 1979). She was a community activist. In her short life she co-founded The Brixton Law Centre, Brixton Black Women’s Group, Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative, and Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent.
February and October
Woodson selected the month of February for black history week because it marks the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Both of whom influenced black America. President Ford extended the week into a month. He said America had to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In Britain, it is held in October to coincide with Marcus Garvey‘s birthday and the school term.
Black History Month A Testimonial
Black History Month is a symbol that we live in a racist system. A system that suggests that one history is superior to the other; that pretends that it is possible to separate black history from white, as if they could live independently. BHM must not be an excuse to continue to ignore the contributions and culture of black people for the rest of the year.
BHM is about discovering the flipside of the same story to get the whole picture. Otherwise, black children are present in the classroom but are absent in history with the exception of slavery. For black history, an inconvenient truth, is erased. Such as the existence of high ranking black Romans like Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and The Ivory Bangle Lady. The continued removal of black people from history is an efficient way to mask white supremacy. BHM works to counteract these ills while serving as a testimonial to black achievement, struggles, challenges and the perseverance of black peoples.
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