Imperial War Museum North is showing the exhibition Afrikan Heroes as part of Black History Month. Photograph © Andrew Chirenje
Black History Month (BHM), celebrated every year in October all over the UK, is about to begin with countless events in museums, galleries and libraries throughout the coming weeks.
The month aims to promote awareness of black cultural heritage and educate about the contribution of people of African and Caribbean origin to British society. It also puts a focus on the experiences of black people in this country.
“Black History Month allows us all to participate in what is a valuable source of British pride, irrespective of ethnicity; the many important and positive contributions made over the years by the black and minority ethnic community to the rich fabric of British society,” says Culture Minister David Lammy.
“These contributions are many, from medicine to sport, to journalism, to government. October is now firmly rooted in the national consciousness as the month to learn more about ourselves and each other.”
Norfolk's Black History Month website has a host of information and events listings. Courtesy Norfolk Black History Month
The festival goes back about 30 years, unofficially, with forerunners to the country-wide celebrations including Caribbean Weeks in Manchester and London.
The first month-long series of events was established in London in 1987, and the occasion has grown since then. (1987 was declared African Jubilee Year by the Greater London Council in recognition of the centenary of Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey’s birth, the 25th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity and the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of the Caribbean.)
This year, thousands of events from African drum-making workshops to lectures and black art exhibitions will be held. In addition, untoldLondon is holding a BHM journalism competition for anyone who would like to report on an aspect of black history in the capital city that has not received much publicity before.
An invoice from a linen drapers shop called the Blackamoor's Head, dated 1739. Courtesy the Museum of London.
Among the highlights of BHM is Afrikan Heroes at Manchester’s Imperial War Museum North, with moving portraits of black veterans of World War Two (throughout October). Nearby, Urbis looks at what ‘Black is…’ in another photographic exhibition, illustrating the lives of black Mancunians. (October 7-30).
Made In Africa at Norwich Castle Museum takes visitors all the way back to the roots of mankind with the oldest objects belonging to the British Museum, on loan throughout October. The prehistoric stone tools or hand axes, from Tanzania, are some of the most amazing finds of the 20th century, reminding us that human life, technology and art began on the African continent.
For more about BHM events in Norfolk, see the informative website www.norfolkblackhistorymonth.org.uk.
Early hand axes found in Tanzania gave credence to the theory that modern man originated in Africa. Courtesy Norwich Castle
The Museum of London is giving visitors a taste of a Cameroonian village from October 7-14, with costumes, dancing and Cameroonian chiefs explaining the traditional festival of Ngondo – see the museum’s listing for times and details.
Children can try some crafts from Africa at the recently reopened Cuming Museum in London. Make Amazonian headdresses on October 24 and African drums on October 25 (2pm on both days).
London probably has the greatest concentration of BHM activities going on. Search the London Museums Archives and Libraries database of events (a date search works best if you don’t have something specific in mind), or have a look at your local council and museum websites to find out what’s on around town.
18th century Jamaican scholar Francis Williams. Courtesy the V&A
Birmingham has its own Black History Month website, with much more than just listings: birminghamblackhistory.com.
The hidden history of Liverpool’s black community at Merseyside Maritime Museum is just one of the talks, debates and events at Liverpool Museums especially for BHM. More events can be found on the National Museums Liverpool site.
For more regional listings, either type Black History Month into the 24 Hour Museum search box or go to the official BHM website.