History of Black History Month

Take a journey into the past focusing on African and Caribbean people within Britain

1914-1918

Our first stop goes back to over 100 years ago when World War I was taking place. With Britain having various colonies in places including Africa and the Caribbean – the involvement of black soldiers contributed to a victory for Britain.

After the war, the Social Status of Black people within Britain still hadn’t changed meaning a lot of people faced adversity. But with the help of resilient figures and political movements, changes started to be made.

1931

During 1930s Britain, there was a clear separation between races. At the time there was a small minority of black people who lived a middle class life. Identifying the inequalities between the black and white people in Britain, Jamaican born ‘London based private doctor’ Harold Moody formed ‘The League of Colour People’. The group aimed to improve race relations and protect social and educational rights of black individuals.

Despite many organisations like The League of Colour People, discrimination against African and Caribbean people was still happening publically and privately.

1965

A time for change. Almost three decades later, The Race Relations Act was introduced by the government as there was a massive increase in number of people who had moved to the UK from other commonwealth countries. The legislation was passed to help ensure the safety of all the race’s within Britain which would immensely help those of colour.

Before the race relations act, discrimination towards African and Caribbean people were very common. In the novel ‘Small Island by Andrea Levy’ pinpoints life of black people before laws like the ‘Race Relations act’ was created.

1966

A celebration of culture. The Notting Hill carnival, now a worldwide-known event, welcomes over two million attendees per year. The carnival started in 1966 always aims to celebrate the African and Caribbean culture with traditional music genres such as soca, calypso, reggae and afro beats. The carnival is now the second biggest carnival after the Rio de Janeiro’s carnival and takes place in the heart of Britain – London every single year.

1975

David Pitt, a Labour life peer from 1975, was a GP and politician. A prominent politician in Trinidad and the Caribbean before coming to Britain in 1949. He was the first black person to be ever given such an honour and was seen as a new fresh perspective on many issues that had been taking place in Britain for the past few decades. He would often speak on issues of equality, race and housing.

The appointing of David Pitt, marked an important part in history for African and Caribbean wanting to get involved in politics. As the first Black person being appointed to such a beginning this was just the beginning.

1987

In 1987 Britain elected its first Black MPs. Their names were Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, this was ground-breaking and changed the face of parliament forever, and it also paved the way for many new voices and opinions in Parliament which had remained largely unchanged for centuries.

1987

In 1987 the first Black History Month was held in London which focused on the contributions Black individuals had made to Britain and their impacts. Now in its 30th year, Black History Month is a mainstream celebration recognised across the country.

Moving forward to the 21st Century, black history is celebrated and has become acknowledged in Britain’s society today.

2000-present

The UK has seen an up rise in African and Caribbean foods as restaurants selling traditional dishes have become increasingly popular and enjoyed by all backgrounds. As well as this popular ingredients used to make authentic African and Caribbean dishes can be found in top British retailers such Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s etc.

 Apart from the annual the infamous Notting hill festival, we have seen an increase in the celebration of African and Caribbean culture. Within university’s all over the U.K. ACS (African and Caribbean society) has been created to create awareness, educate and celebrate black history within and outside of the UK. On a wider scale, Viva Hall Party – which celebrates the independence days for countries ruled under colonial rule began in Leicester, UK, now has moved to London which celebrates the independence of these countries while celebrating culture; traditional wear, music and food is a part of the celebration. Annual pageant shows such as ‘Ms Ghana UK’ (as well as other countries) are being held annually giving the chance for people of their diaspora to still represent their countries despite living in Britain.

Want to find out more about the history of Black History Month in the UK? Pop into the Campus Centre throughout October and find our gallery to explore more Black history in Britain!