- What is UK Black History Month 2022 about?
- Who are some Black UK historical figures I can tell my child about?
- What can I do with children for UK Black History Month?
- Eat at a black-owned UK restaurant
- Watch films or TV shows highlighting UK Black experiences
- Read books by British black authors and illustrators
- Go on a UK Black History walking tour or join an event
- How is UK Black History Month different from the US celebration?
- UK Black History Month FAQs
UK Black History Month is here again and we have lots of ideas to help you learn about, understand and celebrate all the contributions black Britons have been making to the country for hundreds of years.
What is UK Black History Month 2022 about?
Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK since October 1987. It was started by Ghanaian journalist, activist, and analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who worked for the Greater London Council. Addai-Sebbo had been impressed by how Black History Month had boosted the self-esteem of African American children and when he moved to the UK he decided to set up a similar event to highlight the many contributions black people have made to British society.
Today, Black History Month is a firm fixture on the UK calendar and in other countries including Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and Italy.
The event is intended to celebrate and promote awareness of the lives and achievements of black Britons who may have been traditionally ignored by history. The month also opens up opportunities for conversations and learning opportunities about tackling racism and increasing equality.
Each year, organisers choose a theme for Black History Month UK. This year the theme is “Sharing Journeys” and focuses on the stories of black people who migrated to the UK and enriched the nation’s culture, economy and history and founded some of the many thriving black communities around the country today.
Events will be held to explore and remember the legacies of the Africa-American soldiers who arrived in the UK to fight in World War II, the struggles of African students who helped end British imperialism in Africa and the impact of Caribbean artists in the 1960s and 1970s. Black people around the country are being encouraged to use the hashtag #bhmfamilies to document their own families’ journeys on social media.
Lots of organisations, companies, and schools, will be celebrating the month in their own unique ways.
Who are some Black UK historical figures I can tell my child about?
When it comes to people who have helped make black history in the UK, there's a lot to explore!
For example, check out Transport for London’s (TfL) UK Black History Month tube map.
TfL has designed a special version of the iconic map with the 272 stations renamed in honour of black people who have made their mark on the nation.
Notable names include Olympic runner Harry Edward, John Archer, the first black mayor in London, novelist Andrea Levy, and Ivory Bangle Lady, a high-status North African woman who lived in York in Roman times.
Here are some more remarkable people you and your child can learn more about for Black History Month UK:
While Florence Nightingale has been a household name for over 150 years, it has taken almost as long for Mary Seacole to find her place in history. Seacole travelled to the Crimean peninsula off her own bat to provide food, medicine and care to the wounded during the Crimean War. She was a trained Jamaican “doctress” and used her skills to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield and in the “British Hotel” she set up. After the war, she returned to Britain almost penniless, but service personnel arranged a four-day fundraising event for her that attracted around 40,000 people.
Claudia Jones was an activist and feminist, who was born in Trinidad but came to the UK in 1955 after she was exiled from the US for being a member of the Communist Party. She spent much of her life taking part in the struggle for racial equality and civil rights. Jones set up the first black British newspaper and arranged the country’s first Caribbean carnival which went on to become the Notting Hill Carnival.
Walter Tull was born in Kent in 1888. After growing up in an orphanage he became a professional football player for Tottenham Hotspurs. However, the First World War intervened and he ended up becoming one of the first black infantry officers in the British army and the first black man to lead white soldiers into battle. He was killed in 1918 when he led a charge against the German forces.
After 30 years with Lewisham Fire Brigade, Rosalie Jones retired in 2021 making her the UK’s longest-serving black female firefighter. When Jones joined in 1989 at the age of 22, it was rare to see female or black firefighters. Even today only 1.3 percent of all firefighters are black only 7 percent are women. Jones worked all over London, rose through the ranks from firefighter to sub-officer and founded the Brigade for Black and Ethnic Minority while also raising her two daughters as a single mother.
These are just some of the many black people who have made history and enriched UK culture. Why not use the TfL UK Black History Month tube map as a guide to research others with your child?
What can I do with children for UK Black History Month?
There are a host of events celebrating UK Black History Month all around the country. Every event is an opportunity for you and your child to learn more about the history of Black Britons who have made the UK the vibrant multi-cultural society it is today. Here are a few ideas for things to do:
Eat at a black-owned UK restaurant
Eating at a restaurant owned by black people is not just a way to celebrate black food culture, it’s also a way to meaningfully support the black business community and there are so many delicious options to choose from.
Blue Nile Restaurant- Birmingham
In the West Midlands? Try some scrumptious East African fried fish, salad and chicken dishes at the Blue Nile restaurant in Birmingham.
Caribbean Croft – Bristol
If you’re in the South West and fancy trying some traditional Caribbean food head down to this black-owned restaurant in Bristol. This cosy eatery offers generous portions of fare like curried goat, coconut steak and jerk salmon. There are some yummy desserts for little ones and a selection of Caribbean cocktails for the grown-ups.
Chukus – London
Chuku’s may be a tapas restaurant, but it’s not Spanish, it’s Nigerian! Order a selection of small dishes from the menu to sample a variety of traditional West African cuisine like Adalu, Dodo and Egusi. All dishes are halal and many are gluten-free. Phone ahead if you’re bringing a pram or need a high chair.
Dougy’s – Manchester
This family-owned Caribbean delicatessen has been serving up home-style cooking to South Manchester since 1991. Pop along to try some of their authentic Caribbean dishes like salt fish, jerk lamb, and curried chicken.
ENISH – London
This chain has black-owned restaurants across London and they even have a branch in Dubai. With great food and friendly staff, Enish specialises in authentic Nigerian food like suya, ogbono and pepper soup. Vegetarian-friendly and vegan options are available.
Issa Vibe – London
This family-run Peckham restaurant offers soul food, Caribbean urban food and a modern American and British fusion grilled menu. The great food is accompanied by great service. Try the jerk burger and tiger prawns!
Watch films or TV shows highlighting UK Black experiences
Watching films and series made by black creators is a great way to learn more about the UK black experience in history and in the present day. Here is a selection of worthwhile shows ready to stream for UK Black History Month:
Desmonds is a classic British sitcom that depicted the life of Jamaican-born barber Desmond, his wife Shirley and their British kids, Sean and Gloria. The show celebrates black British Caribbean culture with its likeable characters and some hilarious escapades.
The Boy That Harnessed The Wind
Based on a fascinating true story, this touching film follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba, who uses a science textbook to construct a wind turbine to save his community from starvation.
Gone too far!
In this culture clash comedy drama British teenager Yemi and his long-lost Nigerian brother Ikudaisy spend a day getting to know each other. Will the brothers overcome their differences and learn to be family?
A United Kingdom
Based on the real-life story of the first president of Botswana, the film tells the story of a handsome prince who falls in love with a white British clerk while studying in the UK. Can the couple’s romance survive not just the disapproval of their families but also their governments?
Read books by British black authors and illustrators
Books are one of the best learning tools around and there are so many experiences to be had in the humble printed page. Take a deep dive into the stories behind UK Black History Month by checking some of these picks out of your local library:
Hey You! by Dapo Adeola & various illustrators
Hey You! is aimed at kids between 3 and 7. It’s packed with fantastic illustrations from 18 break-out black artists and explores what it means to grow up black.
My Skin, Your Skin by Laura Henry-Allain MBE & Onyinye Iwu
My Skin, Your Skin is intended to help kids between 4 and 7 start to understand the difficult topics of race and racism.
Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door by Lola Morayo & Cory Reid
Kids aged between 6 and 8 will be charmed by this first entry in a five-book magical adventure series.
Never Teach a Stegosaurus to Do Sums by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Diane Ewen
Three-year-olds and up can enjoy reading and learning about maths at the same time with this colourful adventure.
Nubia: Real One by L. L. McKinney & Robyn Smith
Older kids and superhero fans will love this wonderfully illustrated graphic novel featuring the super-powered Nubia dealing with questions of equality and identity.
Go on a UK Black History walking tour or join an event
How about immersing yourself in UK Black History with a guided walking tour? These walks back in time take you through the stories of black communities hidden in plain sight throughout British cities. Educational walking tours are a fun day out and are guaranteed to help you see your surroundings in a whole new light! In London, you can even take a black history river cruise!
Here are some other events you can take part in throughout October:
01st Oct Big Fat UK Black History Quiz
The Big Fat Uk Black History Quiz allows you to test your knowledge of black British History, black music, and general knowledge and win prizes! The quiz is online and admission is free but you need to register.
17th Oct Treasure Hunt
Enjoy a tour of London’s landmarks and hidden black past with the Black History Month UK treasure hunt. The first person or group to solve all the clues and get to the final destination will win a prize!
29-31st Oct Black History Month UK Movie Watch Party
Grab some popcorn and prepare to enjoy three nights of fun watching three classic black British movies. The event is online and you can tweet along with the films and be in with the chance to win prizes for the most-liked tweet and the funniest tweet. Admission is free.
We’re sharing these ideas for celebrating UK Black History Month, but of course, there’s no reason you can’t try out most of these activities all year round!
How is UK Black History Month different from the US celebration?
In the US Black History Month started in 1970 and is held in February. It grew out of "Negro History Week" which began in 1926 and was celebrated in February in honour of the birthdays of the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, two men who did a great deal to end slavery in the US.
The month allows people to remember and celebrate the accomplishments of the many important African American figures like civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, or black NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.
When Addai-Sebo started the event in the UK in 1987, he chose October because it is an important month in the African calendar and it is the start of the academic year for university students. The difference in dates is also a useful way to differentiate the way the month is celebrated in the two countries.
While US Black History Month is centred on the experiences of African American descendants of slaves, black people in the UK come from a wider variety of backgrounds with different cultures, experiences and identities. Some communities have been here for hundreds of years, others came from the Caribbean with the Windrush generation and others have strong and recent connections with Africa.
UK Black History Month FAQs
Who started UK Black History Month?
Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo started UK Black History Month while working as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council in 1987. He wanted to inspire pride in black history among British young people in the same way he had witnessed Black History Month do in the US.
Why celebrate UK Black History Month?
Some people may wonder why we need a special month set aside just for black history and others think black history should be a bigger part of our lives all year long.
The fact is that black people have been living in the British Isles for centuries but traditional history and culture have almost always focused on the stories of the majority. The contributions of minority black communities have long been neglected, suppressed or overlooked because of racism or ignorance.
Thanks to Black History Month UK citizens of all races and ages can learn about the heritage of black British people and everyone can celebrate black culture together. And just like a birthday party, it’s much more fun if you can share the experience with lots of people at the same time!
What if I am not comfortable talking about UK Black History Month topics?
Issues of race and racism can be sensitive topics to navigate with your child, but it’s OK, you don’t need to have all the answers! Try out some of our suggestions above with your child and have fun learning and growing together.
The most important thing to do is to share reliable information and historical facts with your child from sites like BlackHistoryMonth.org.uk and IBHM Heritage International. Make sure they know that UK Black History is more than just one month and is being written by black people all over the country every day!