A display from Manchester Museum's 2009 exhibition Revealing Histories: Myths About Race exhibition

Do we still need Black History Month?

Rebecca Atkinson, 01.10.2013
Vote in the MJ poll and have your say
This October local authorities across the UK are putting on a range of events to mark the 25 years of Black History Month.

The event has been celebrated in the UK since 1987, when it was introduced by the former Greater London Council. It was later taken up by councils outside of the capital, including Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

This year, Hackney Museum in London will explore the story of Black History Month in Britain, with an exhibition Sankofa, the truth behind Black History Month 1926-2013 (until 16 November).

Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “In Hackney we celebrate black culture and achievements all year round, along with those of the many diverse communities in our borough. This season of events is not only challenging and educational, but will also seek to explore and debate how we can work together to build a future without racism or discrimination.”

Is Black History Month still relevant? Should museums and other organisations put their efforts into representing and celebrating black culture throughout the year and in permanent displays – or is a month-long event still necessary?

Vote in the Museums Journal poll and have your say.


Do we still need Black History Month?


Sort by: Most recent - Most liked
17.10.2013, 09:58
The fact that we must as ask this question illuminates how we must continue to have Black History Month. Mainstream society has seen fit to ignore the culture and contributions of the Black. Therefore ,we must constantly fill the whole , that has tended stuffed with negative stereotypes, with innovative and positive exhibitions and programming.

Putting”racism” aside there is a wealth of wonderful information and beautiful images that must come out of the attics, museum storage caves and the memory of our elderly.
Not only does it infuse a since of pride in black youth but beneficial for all young people to experience what their parents and grandparents missed out on learning.
Finally we must insure that Blacks have the opportunity and the support to tell their own stories, from their perspective. cheryl ann bolden artist/curator museum precious cargo Paris, France.
10.10.2013, 09:57
We will need Black History Month until museums integrate the stories of Black and Ethnic Minorities into its exhibitions and education work.
Marika Sherwood
Hon. Sr Research Fellow, University of London
08.10.2013, 08:58
Too many people, including school teachers, follow Maggie Thatcher's dictum that 'we are all homogeneous Anglo-Saxons'. Until it is recognised by the public/media/academia/school teachers/publishers/museums/archives/libraries that Africans have lived here for some 2000 years, we need Black History Month.
07.10.2013, 23:23
While ever black history in britain remains hidden and the majority of people in Britain have little or no idea about the contributions of African /Caribbean peoples. then We shall need black history month.
04.10.2013, 22:18
I have mixed thoughts on this as I am as uneasy with the idea of 'black history' as I am with the notion of 'white history', but the argument is that history is assumed to be white so needs a counterbalance.

I find hard to understand the sector's willingness to accept women's history while struggling to draw parallels with other excluded narratives. It largely seems to depend on recruitment of museum professionals, who are overwhelmingly female so fine to address sexism but not other excluded identifies? It all comes down to recruitment and the effort to employ staff from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds in senior positions in museums. Trouble is that too many museums lost credibility by launching entirely shallow initiatives (mainly the vanity projects of senior white middle class staff) that segregated people by race and just seemed to distort history and the 'here and now' rather than focussing on their core curatorial and research work, which would have better served history and us all a lot better.
03.10.2013, 22:28
Until we have proper recognition of black history integrated into our education in this country (something beyond slavery..not that this is even taught sufficiently) then yes, it is vitally important. I also recommend that black people are consulted, by and large the views of white people on black history month are at best irrelevant.
Rebecca Atkinson
MA Member
Online Publications Editor, Museums Association
02.10.2013, 16:05
There have been quite a few comments about this on Twitter, which I thought I'd share here:

@hgt0 - So-called "black history month" perpetuates Eurocentric racist abomination! Who are or what define 'blacks'

@MirandaKaufmann - At least #blackhistorymonth prompts these discussions. Hopefully it's a staging post to a better future.

@MUSE_UIC - Yes, we do! Black history is our history, but black people and histories are still marginalized.

MA Member
02.10.2013, 14:10
There was never a need for Black History Month. The event is a legacy of hard-left local government militants from the 1980s, and is not the only legacy of that decade we would do well to disown! Its aims were always political and never historical. As an academic historian I do not recognise the existence of a distinct 'black history' (as opposed to a myriad of black...and white... histories). I particularly abhor the inaccurate and misguided attempt to over-emphasise the alleged cultural diversity of this country's past. This is a disservice to all modern British people, whatever their skin colour or ethnic origin.
MA Member
01.10.2013, 15:43
Ive never understood it. But feel i have to remain anonymous ...why???...sometimes i feel uncomfortable expressing what i feel...why???? ...i dont think we should single out any particular ethnicity, sexuality, religion..Im a gay man, and dont see the relevance of a 'Gay' history month should one exist....in my experience (13 yrs) in museums the events have always been badly attended and a complete waste of money/resources....