October is Black History Month, where everyone, regardless of race, is invited to come together to celebrate and remember some of the accomplishments of Black people from all over the world, whose inventions and achievements have not necessarily received the due respect and admiration that they deserve. As the history books in the past have tended to favour the exploits of Caucasian men, that doesn’t mean that everything was achieved by them, and Black History Month aims to redress the balance and to shine the light of understanding on these achievements and reflect them back to today’s young people.
How did it all begin?
Black History Month began in the United States, and Canada and the UK quickly joined in. It’s held annually across the world from the 1st to the 31st October, and like all history, it serves to act as a reminder of things past, as well as being a lesson for the future. During the month, people are encouraged to celebrate the “outstanding contributions that Black people have made to society across the globe, both today and historically”.
The theme for this year is “Black Health and Wellness” to highlight the actions of Black medical professionals throughout history
Black History Month is a time for reflection and positive changes for the future. During the event, people can celebrate the outstanding contributions that Black people have made to society across the globe throughout history, as well as shining a light on what can be done in today’s society to reduce inequalities in access to health care that some Black people are still facing today. Within the theme for this year, there is also the opportunity to focus on Black health more generally. The COVID pandemic disproportionately affected Black people and other minority groups, so this month will be a good opportunity to encourage a reconnection to healthcare to ensure that everyone gets the care they deserve.
Celebrating Black History Month in your setting
A search of the internet will bring a plethora of resources that you can use in your setting, from stories about historically important Black figures, inventions and technical achievements of Black people, to arts and crafts activities you can do with everyone. There really are a lot of resources that you can use and adapt for every budget and we’ve put together a list of some of the best ones on offer, as well as some ideas of our own to help you make the most of the month.
Free internet resources
The following websites have some free resources and ideas that you can use in your setting, many of which are specific for early years:
Black History Month website – www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk
My Bright Wheel blog – www.mybrightwheel.com
Black Heroes Foundation - https://www.blackheroesfoundation.org/
BBC Bitesize - https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z2mcvwx
Paid resources (small fee payable)
You can also find many resources on Twinkl and TES, some of which are free, and some of which you have to pay a small fee for.
Famous and not-so-famous Black people
There are lots of ideas on the various websites for introducing famous and not-so-famous Black people to the children in your setting. How about introducing them to the stories of some of the following people:
Claudia Jones – a Trinidadian born, US immigrant, political activist, and journalist. Her political ideas saw her become a victim of the purges of the McCarthy era in the USA and she was deported to England in the early 1960s, but brought her culture and her courage with her. She founded Britain’s first major Black newspaper and became known as the mother of the Caribbean Carnival in London, which today has developed into to the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival.
John Archer – The life story of John Archer has been made into an exhibition and a short play this year, featuring and all Black cast. John Archer was born in 1863 and became Mayor of Battersea in 1913, successfully campaigning for a minimum wage of 32 shillings a week for council workers. He was the first Black Mayor of London.
Nelson Mandela – from political activist and prisoner, Nelson Mandela inspired a generation and whole country as he became the first Black President of South Africa after fighting against apartheid for many years.
Barack Obama – became the first Black President of the USA in 2008 and served his 2 terms as president, introducing legislation making health care more accessible and affordable to everyone in the USA.
Serena Williams – one of the most famous tennis stars in history, she recently retired from the game after winning 23 Grand Slam titles. She was ranked world No. 1 in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association for 319 weeks, and also had a famous tennis-playing sister, called Venus.
Rosa Parks - Rosa was an ordinary US citizen in the 1950s living under rules which required segregation of whites and Blacks in various institutions and on transport. When she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger in 1955, she was arrested and tried for civil disobedience. Her act of defiance inspired others and the case resulted in segregation being labelled as unconstitutional.
Mary Jane Seacole was a British-Jamaican businesswoman and nurse who set up the “British Hotel” behind the lines during the Crimean War, although history chose to report the endeavours of one, Florence Nightingale . Mary used herbal remedies to nurse soldiers back to health and was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1871. Her autobiography, entitled “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands” was published in 1857, and is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman.
These are just some of the people that you could talk about in your setting, but there are probably lots of local Black heroes that you could find in your own community. Why not invite them in to share their story and inspire the children? And they don’t have to be famous either – just a local person who is doing their bit for their community.