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The US inspired Black History Month in the UK

The month of October marks the celebration of Black History Month in the UK. In the US, the same celebration takes place in February.

However, some people don’t know that Black History Month began as a celebration in the United States and then inspired people in the UK to celebrate the contributions of Black people to their history. 

It all began with a trip made by Ansel Wong to the United States.

It all began with Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo visiting America in the 1970s.

Addai Sebo was a special projects officer at the Greater London Council (GLC) at the time.

He noticed that Black History Month was celebrated in the United States because the birthdays of former US President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass fell within the month. 

It was called Negro History Week and became official when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be Negro History Week. 

Scholars acknowledge that importance and recognition were the primary reasons for the week’s implementation. One would allow the general movement to officialize, becoming more common throughout the states. 

The first Negro History Week was relatively well-received (fair for its day) and gained the cooperation of the Departments of Education in several states.

Black History Month was proposed by black teachers and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first Black History Month celebration occurred at Kent State one year later.

Six years later, Black History Month was celebrated throughout the country in educational facilities, centers of Black culture, and community centers. 

In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, issuing a Message on the Observance of Black History Week.

Ten years later, Congress would pass public law designating February 1986 as “National Black (Afro-American) History Month”. 

Ansel Wong led an anti-racist initiative in the mid-1980s. Ansel Wong CBE is a cultural-political activist, educational and academic working at senior levels in many organizations. 

The reasons why October was chosen as the month for Black History Month in the UK are:

  • October is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their difference. As a Ghanaian-born British, Akyaaba chose to reconnect with African roots through cultural tradition this month.
  • Many believe October would give Black children a sense of pride and identity at the beginning of the new academic year.

He chaired the West Indian Students Union in the early 1970s and pushed for celebrating Black History Month in the UK after witnessing the precedent set by the United States.

Thus, Black History Month in the UK was born in 1987.

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