What is Black History Month?
Black History Month began as ‘Negro History Week’ in 1926 in America. It took place in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (the US president whose Emancipation Proclamation helped to achieve the abolition of slavery) and Frederick Douglass (an escaped slave who became a famous activist and public speaker) on 12 and 14 February.
The celebration was not officially recognised in America until 1976, although black communities had already celebrated these dates and figures since the late 19 th century. Today, this US celebration of black history and positive contribution has been extended throughout February and is more commonly known as African American History Month.
Black History Month (BHM) was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987. It began in London, and aimed to enable people in the local community to challenge racism and to educate themselves and others about the British history that was not being taught in schools. BHM was organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a co-ordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council. Today, BHM has expanded beyond its original Afro-Caribbean focus to celebrate the history of all black people.
Why is Black History Month important?
BHM is about recognising and celebrating the culture, history and the many positive and significant contributions and achievements that black people have made, both within the UK and across the globe.
Black history is an integral part of British and world history. For black people in the UK, the quest for inclusion and diversity, and the ongoing pursuit of racial equality in the workplace and worldwide, it is important that past, present and future black excellence is recognised, accepted and appreciated.
What are we doing to celebrate Black History Month at OAS?
This is the first time OAS has dedicated space and resources to BHM after the training centre opened in September 2019. We’ll be running information and education activities throughout October, sharing details about the origins and significance of BHM itself, as well as celebrating the achievements of inspirational black figures. We’ll also be talking about what the month means to OAS, and sharing examples of how we’re living and breathing BHM in our training centre. Keep an eye on our social media channels to see what we’ve got in store.
Our celebration of BHM is part of our new focus on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) at OAS, following on from the appointment of our new ED&I Partner earlier this summer and our National Inclusion Week activities in September. Over the coming months, we’ll be recognising more key events in the ED&I calendar, as we engage with stakeholders throughout our local communities through a broader programme to raise our ED&I profile, improve awareness, and increase diversity in apprenticeships.