Why is #BlackHistoryMonth so important?

By Alice Sleightholme, first year Geography student

What may appear on the surface to be no more than a Twitter hashtag and a part of social media rhetoric, that circulates annually in October for the UK and February for the US, is so much more. In this post I aim to disclose why Black History Month is important for both sides of the pond, and perhaps why we should celebrate it every month.

Firstly, celebrating it allows us to honour and thank historic leaders of the black community:

Heroes like Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Mae Jemison, to name only a few, deserve to be honoured for the sacrifices they made, for the hopes and dreams they fuelled, for their contribution to society and the hate they endured for the sake of racial equality. 

To Tisby, celebrating Black History Month allows us to pause and remember, so we can commemorate their achievements. 

Celebrating helps us to remember things we must never forget or allow to be repeated: 

What author and academic, Tisby, noted after teaching for several years, is that “if we don’t tell the old, old stories, then the next generation, and we ourselves, will forget them.”

these things should never be allowed to happen again

By shining a light on all the wonderful things that the black community have done for society, but also recognising the enduring racial hatred they faced, we remind ourselves that these things should never be allowed to happen again.

Thus, the struggles of the past teach us about the present; even 90 years after Black History Month launched, this remains true.

Celebrating allows us to have an opportunity to highlight the best of black history and culture, recognising all it has done for society, and what it continues to do:

Black History Month provides the chance to focus on different aspects of our history – today we can applaud Madam C. J. Walker as the first self-made female millionaire. We can lovingly read the verses of poetry by Phyllis Wheatley, the first African poet and woman to publish a book. Girls everywhere can dream that an out of this world experience could become a reality, thanks to Mae Jemison, the first black woman to go to space.

Black History Month spurs us to seek out and lift up the best of black achievements.

Finally, the month undoubtedly inspires and educates everyone:

To me, the purpose of this month is, firstly, to battle a sense of historical ignorance, as it reminds all people that black citizens have long been a contributing part of the UK.

For Lonnie Bunch, founding director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, both months in the UK and US are ways to combat “the invisibility of black people and to challenge the negative imagery and stereotypes that were often the only manner black people were depicted in popular culture and in the media.”

By emphasising stories of black achievement and resilience, the month shifts attention to positive aspects of black life that are rarely visible. Ultimately, October and February are about showcasing black history and excellence, something that should never go unnoticed in society.

I’m Alice, and I’m a current first year geography undergrad student! Contrary to popular belief my degree isn’t just colouring in but I do spend a lot of time outdoors as one of my favourite activities is hiking! You’ll more often than not find me with a cup of tea in my hand laughing about stuff I really shouldn’t be! But when I mean business, as well as being part of a few college clubs like football and running, I’m also part of the FairTrade working group which I love! Also I tutor a-level through the SCA so I’m always happy to help anyone with subject related issues or if they just want a chat about anything but I do love talking about feminism, climate change, football and tea!!

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