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.

News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
Sport
Chelsea
football
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: Junior Developer / J...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Sales Executive

£18 - 24k OTE + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Executive ...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public