Has 'Black History Month' failed us?

Should we really relegate the entirety of black history just to one month, asks Magdalene Abraha

It’s October again. Black History Month. When educational institutions embellish corridors and rooms with posters of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

When the actions of the civil rights activists are admired and revered. Names such as Chuka Umunna and Doreen Laurence are frequently mentioned and debates surrounding the courage of Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole take place. To put it simply, for one month we learn and appreciate black culture and history.

“I’m delighted to support this year’s Black History Month – now in its 26th year of celebrating the achievements, culture and history of African-Caribbean people in the UK,” - David Cameron

Black history gives the country a chance to praise and commend the achievements of the black community. The focus on this celebratory cause is often supported by high profile figures and allows society to shed light on elements of history that are often disregarded.

Cultural festivals in primary schools spring to mind; schools encouraging African and Caribbean parents to bring in different foods for the children to try, in the hope of developing their appreciation for other cultures. By the time pupils are in secondary school, they are probably sat watching "Roots" and may have a light-hearted discussion about it afterwards.

"I always wondered why the history of black people had to be confined to a single month instead of being inside the history books along with the rest," - Stacy Washington,  Project 21 National Advisory Council of the National Centre for Public Policy Research 

Whilst these activities are sometimes informative and well meant, it does not seem right that only 31 days are dedicated to a whole history of a people. Black history month appears to be, if anything, a time of transitory reflection saturated in political correctness. A month where the focus on black icons seems somewhat superficial, with the ideals of black history month being presented to us in the form of politically correct speeches, newspaper editorials and cultural festivals.

Dare I say it, Halloween seems more effectively celebrated in October. This is rather shocking when exploring the essence of black history – ultimately, the genesis of all life is African. Therefore, the assertion that "black history is world history" holds true in the most literal sense. 

"Is it helpful for children to learn about history in a segregated way?" BBC Radio 4 , 'Black History month & The Usual Suspects'

All the way from Chuka Umanna's entry into parliament to Doreen Laurence's inspirational battle for justice, black history month certainly reveres black achievers, but it encourages a segregated history. Having a month for black history allows its focus to be pushed to the back shelf for the rest of the year. It is wrong that a student can spend years in the education system and not learn about African or Caribbean history, in the same way that they would about Roman, Greek or British history.

What would be far more socially beneficial would be a greater focus on black history into the wider stream – perhaps more black history in the national curriculum. It is worth remembering that the national curriculum states "it should develop [pupils] knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their own and different beliefs and cultures, and how these influence individuals and societies".

Black History Month has failed us. Celebrating the history of black people for a short period of time allows it to be forgotten quickly. What is needed is educational integration; black history deserves to be put side by side with the history of other groups in our history textbooks. "Black History Month" should not be celebrated, but rather black history itself should.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Learning Support Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experienced Learning Sup...


£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a flexible inspira...

Graduate Accountant - Banking - Bristol - £140pd

£100 - £140 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Graduate Accountant - Banking - Bri...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little