A Guide To UK Black History Month 2023

By Olivia Emily

9 months ago

Here's how to get involved


October marks Black History Month, the annual celebration of the history, contributions and achievements of Black people in the UK. Every year, numerous events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures take place across the country. Here’s everything you need to know in 2023, plus how to get involved.

A Guide To Black History Month

Having originated in the States, Black History Month is an annual observance remembering and highlighting important people and events in the African diaspora. In the US and Canada, it takes place annually in February, while October is Black History Month in the UK and Ireland.

The History

It dates back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) proposed the second week of February would be ‘Negro History Week’. Woodson chose this week as it covered the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and it wasn’t until 1976 that the week grew into a month-long celebration, with President Gerald Ford looking to ‘honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history’.

Celebrating the rich cultural heritage and triumphs of Black people and remembering the adversities they’ve faced throughout the US’s history, the annual month was adopted by the UK for the first time in 1987 and includes events, exhibits, talks and programmes. While the first UK Black History Month explored Black American history, the UK is, of course, not the same as US – facing its own multifarious challenges – and the month-long celebration has since evolved on British shores to look at fostering an understanding of Black history in general, with a specific focus on the contributions of people with African and Caribbean heritage to British society. In recent years, the event has also lobbied the government to incorporate Black history and Britain’s colonial history more thoroughly in the school curriculum.

UK Black History Month 2023

UK Black History Month grows every year. For 2023, the theme is ‘Saluting our Sisters’, paying ‘homage to Black women who had contributions ignored, ideas appropriated, and voices silenced’. As Cherron Inko-Tariah MBE writes:

I cannot tell you the number of questions and queries this raised; Why black women?

I could say that by highlighting the achievements and contributions of black women throughout history does not mean we are ignoring black men.

I could say that for centuries the voices of black women have been suppressed, silenced and sidelined.

I could say that the application of adultification bias results in the rights of black girls being diminished or ignored. #ChildQ

I could say that a black woman is 5 times more likely to die during childbirth

Or that black women are deemed unprofessional when we wear our hair in its natural condition or protective styles (but these hairstyles are accepted when donned by women of other ethnicities!)

Maybe I could talk about Black femicide and how this is not given the attention it deserves and there is an insidious minimisation of violence against black women that can’t be ignored.

I might even say that it’s because our bodies have been ridiculed (Sarah Bartman), used for medical experiments or cells removed from our bodies without permission (Henrietta Lacks)

I could say all of this but my response to: Why black women? Is a simple one.

Why not, black women?

When Is It?

Black History Month takes place every October in the UK, running for the entire month.

How To Get Involved

Explorers Family Festival: Black Natural History

Sunday 8 October 2023 at the Natural History Museum (Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD)

The Natural History Museum will bring together scientists and educators for a day of free activities, workshops and tours to explore the contributions Black historians, scientists and communities have made to the study of Natural History. Book your space here.

Read Brilliant Black British History

Children’s author Atinuke has teamed up with illustrator Kingsley Nebechi and Bloomsbury to publish Brilliant Black British History, an enlightening journey through the history of Britain, focusing on what is typically left out of the history books: Black British history. Ranging from science to sport, the book celebrates the hard work of brilliant Black people from different backgrounds that have helped build Britain. Plus, there’s a complementary exhibition to explore at Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives (1 Windrush Square, Brixton SW2 1EF), running until 28 January 2024. Learn more at bcaexhibits.org

Explore The Black Cultural Archives

The fun doesn’t stop at the Brilliant Black British History exhibition: The Black Cultural Archives is the UK’s largest archive dedicated to preserving and celebrating the lives of Black people in the UK. It was founded in 1981 by Len Garrison and aims to inspire and give strength to individuals, communities and society. The BCA hosts events throughout the year, with special events in Black History Month, including talks and exhibitions. Or just pop by to explore the incredible archives. blackculturalarchives.org

See The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022)

From 14 October 2023 at Gladstone Park (Neasden, London)

A new garden will be unveiled at Gladstone Park on 14 October: The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022), a landscaped garden made up of three flower beds in the shape of an anchor, an African drum and a ship, to commemorate the legacy of Black Britons and celebrate the achievements of one of the largest and most overlooked communities within the UK. Created by Black British artist Harun Morrison, it’ll be one of the first works unveiled in London with the purpose of commemorating the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Rhythm In Resilience

5–27 October 2023 at the Royal Opera House

Especially for Black History Month, Joseph Toonga has curated a new festival for The Royal Ballet entitled Rhythm in Resilience, which celebrates Black excellence within the Company over the years, including workshops, performances and online events. roh.org.uk

 

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Windrush Portraits

In February 2023 (Black History Month in Jamaica), UK-based artist Mary Evans and Jamaica-based artist Michael Elliott joined forces to present a series of artworks on digital billboards across the island of Jamaica, highlighting the legacy of the Windrush generation and migration. They then embarked on exchange visits, meeting Caribbean communities in Southampton and Windrush returnees in Kingston, inspiring new artworks that are now on show in Southampton across empty shop units and in front of the John Hansard Gallery.

Donate To Charity

There are a number of British charities directly supporting Black communities, including:

Instagram Accounts To Follow

The importance of Black history doesn’t end with October. Here are the amazing Black people the C&TH team loves to follow on Instagram.

Aja Barber

 

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Riaz Phillips

 

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Bonus

In celebration of the launch of his new book East Winds: Recipes, History and Tales from the Hidden Caribbean, Riaz Phillips has teamed up with Bodega Rita’s to create Bodega Roti’s, a two-week London pop-up running from 18–28 October 2023. Visit to tuck into dishes from the book’s recipes, such as Buss-up Shot Roti, a Trinidadian version of the flatbread, known for its flaky layers and paired with a rich and savoury curry goat.

Details: Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am–4pm at 91 Cowcross St, London EC1M 6BH.

Mikaela Loach

 

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Benjy Kusi

 

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Stephanie Yeboah

 

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Learn more at blackhistorymonth.org.uk